Activists share video detailing security forces' attack on Iran's Sharif University

Activists share video detailing security forces' attack on Iran's Sharif University
A video reconstructed the details of a raid on students who protested on the Sharif University campus in Tehran on 22 October, during the days when anti-establishment demonstrations engulfed all Iranian cities.
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An Iranian student holds up a sign reading in Farsi "referendum" during a protest at Tehran's Sharif university 18 November 2002. [Getty]

A group of anonymous Iranian activists has produced a video reconstructing the crackdown carried out by the security forces, the paramilitary Basij members and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) plainclothes officers during the 22 October 2022 raid on the Sharif University campus in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Under the title, "The Siege of Sharif University", the video was created based on the testimonies of eyewitnesses, photos and videos posted on Faris social media, and maps of the university campus, providing an accurate image of what happened on that night.

The video mapped when and where the first sit-in was organised on campus, how the Basij paramilitaries were deployed and entered the campus, what happened at the university's parking lot when plainclothes officers on motorbikes attacked and how ordinary citizens gathered outside the campus to support the besieged students.

The attack on the Sharif University campus was one of the most brutal crackdowns on the student movement that gained new momentum in 2022. Protests in Iranian universities began as soon as the higher education centres reopened in late September after the summer holiday. 

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The 2022 academic year in Iran started when anti-establishment demonstrations rocked all cities in the country in protest of the death of Mahsa Amini in Islamic Morality police custody.

Immediately after the beginning of the academic year, the university campuses became a new battleground between student activists and the security forces. However, in Iran, the police and military forces are banned from entering the campuses. 

With this regulation, student activists enjoyed considerable liberty to stand at the forefront of the anti-establishment demonstrations. But that freedom was short-lived as the authorities deployed the plainclothes IRGC units and the Basij paramilitaries to enter the Sharif University campus.

According to the video, the first encounter between the students and the Basij paramilitaries happened at the universities main entrance when students participated in a sit-in. Later, when the students intended to leave the campus from another gate, they were arrested and shot at by the plainclothes. 

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A Sharif University student who spoke to The New Arab on condition of anonymity confirmed the accuracy of the information provided in this video.

"The video shows how the raid was well-organised and planned days before 22 October," this source told TNA.

"It was not a raid out of the blue. The security forces wanted to set an example for other students in all Iranian universities. So first, they gave us enough space to bring together all student activists on the campus and then, with the backup of the police, they surrounded the entire campus and set up a total siege on us," the Sharif University student added.

In the absence of democratic elections, freedom of speech and free political parties, the student movement has played a vital role in Iran's modern history of struggle against authoritarianism. 

The university campuses have been targeted several times before and after the 1979 revolution to contain the pro-democracy movements, and student activists have paid a high price for challenging the authorities.

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The most brutal attack on students happened in December 1953, when Shah's army entered the Tehran University campus and killed three students who demonstrated against then-US vice president Richard Nixon's visit to Iran.

After the 1979 revolution, the 1999 Kuye Daneshgah Disaster was the deadliest attack on students by the Basij paramilitaries. In that raid, which happened after midnight in Tehran University dormitories, at least one student was killed.

On June 2003, a similar attack was carried out on the Allameh Tabatabae'i dormitory in Tehran, where several students were injured and arrested.

One of the activists who participated in creating the video that reconstructed the raid on the Sharif University campus told TNA that documenting the brutality of security forces in clamping down on students was one of the main goals for rebuilding the incidents that happened on 22 October in Tehran.

"Several deadly attacks by the establishment against the protestors have remained undocumented. But there was sufficient information available to document the attack on the Sharif University campus to show how the establishment treats the country's most talented university students," said the activist.

"We don't know what exactly happened to Mahsa Amini in police custody, what happened in Izeh when the security forces killed Kian Pirfalak, or how prisoners were killed in the Evin prison clashes. We hope we can find enough details to reconstruct all those incidents," the activist added.