Welcome to this edition of the NCRI Women’s Committee podcast. Every year, December 7 marks the Students Day in Iran.
On December 7, 1953, three students were killed by military forces on the campus of Tehran University’s College of Engineering. Since then, this day has been known as Students’ Day in Iran, honoring the struggles of Iranian university students.
Iranian universities have long served as hubs of knowledge. Alongside knowledge, there emerges a deep longing for freedom. Consequently, many leaders of opposition movements in Iran have risen from universities, drawing from the most informed sectors of Iranian intellectuals.
During the Shah’s dictatorship in Iran, freedom-seeking students organized protests, birthing leading opposition groups within Iranian universities. Despite severe crackdowns under the mullahs’ regime, these institutions persist as centers of protest, often leading to widespread arrests and imprisonment of students.
The 2022 uprising in Iran witnessed an unprecedented level of student participation, spanning over 100 universities across the country. This surge of engagement caused significant concern for the clerical regime. In response, the regime resorted once again to military force on campuses, exacting a heavy toll on Iranian students who bravely stood up to demand their rights and freedoms.
On the occasion of Students Day in Iran, we explore the pivotal role of female students within universities and their involvement in the 2022-2023 uprising in Iran.
Iranian universities played a pivotal role in the nationwide protests that unfolded in the final three months of 2022 and continued into the first quarter of 2023. Throughout this uprising, young women took the lead in university protests and were actively engaged beyond campus boundaries.
What’s striking is the persistent activism despite the heavy crackdown by security forces. Notably, there was scarcely a day of silence within the universities. Each day brought forth new acts of defiance, fresh protests, and innovative slogans that ignited the entire nation.
In attempts to suppress student protests, plainclothes agents resorted to opening fire on students, even within university premises. Furthermore, they conducted abductions from dormitories without legal warrants, often in the late hours of the night or early morning as students were leaving the premises.
On this Students Day in Iran, it’s fitting to remember dozens of young women who paid the ultimate price during the 2022 protests.
Let’s remember Donya Farhadi, a 22-year-old student of Architecture at Azad University of Ahvaz, in the southwest Khuzestan province. Donya had been missing since December 7 after she had an argument with Basij militia members on the campus that day. Her body was found on the 15th of December on the banks of Karun River in Ahvaz. Her chest had been pierced by three bullets. However, the regime initially claimed that she had jumped down from the Karun bridge and committed suicide.
We also had the case of Nasrin Qaderi from Marivan, Kurdistan. She was 38 years old and a student of Ph.D. in philosophy. Security forces hit her on the head during a protest in Tehran on the 4th of November. She slipped into a coma and died the next day in a hospital. Again, the state media claimed that she had died due to a chronic disease.
There was also Negin Abdolmaleki who was only 21. She came from Qorveh, Kurdistan, but studied medical engineering at the Industrial University of Hamedan. She was repeatedly hit on the head by batons during a protest on October 11 in the city. She was severely injured. When she returned to the dormitory, she died due to severe bleeding. The authorities claimed that she had been intoxicated by expired canned fish!!
Let us also remember Behnaz Afshari, a 23-year-old woman from Pakdasht, in Tehran Province. She left home on the 26th of October to participate in protests in Tehran but never returned home. Her body was found after five days in forensics medicine.