Students are at the centre of protests
Iran doesn't have a Generation Z but rather a Generation R
The death of 22-year-old Zhina Mahsa Amini has sparked a revolution in Iran. The Iranian youth and students are leading this revolution, as they have been doing throughout Iran’s history. This is why it’s important to support protesters in Iran, especially if you’re a student or academic.
As early as the 1950s, organised student activists in Iran and abroad were opposing the Shah by exposing his state violence and other atrocities. The student movements initiated the fall of the monarchy in 1979, although they were met with threats and violence inside Iran and abroad by the secret intelligence of the Shah (known as SavakAVAK).
After the revolution, the Shah was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini and the SavakAVAK was replaced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Given the role of students and universities during the 1979 revolution, Khomeini had his first targets already in sight. By combining the so-called Islamisation of the curriculum and the mass executions of thousands of politically active students who were against the regime, he found a strategy to silence and suppress the Iranian youth and its brightest minds.
Even though it wasn’t always quiet amongst the academic community in Iran, 1999 marked a turning point in Khomeini’s strategy. Peaceful student protests against the closing of a newspaper were responded to with violent attacks on protestors and dormitories by the IRGC. Massive student protests arose in Tehran, which led to innocent students being kidnapped out of their dormitories and literally thrown out the windows. The anniversary of the 1999 protests played a fundamental role during the 2009 Green Movement, as the commemoration aligned with the protests.
There is a reason why Hossein Salami, chief of the IRGC, specifically called on the Iranian youth to stop protesting now. Massive strikes and protests at Iran’s universities have been happening since the beginning of this revolution. Out of fear that they will be overthrown, as was the case with the Shah in 1979, the Iranian regime is barbarically murdering its youth, academics and students.
“Rooze Khoonin”, translated to “A Bloody Day”, refers to the violent crackdown of protests at the Technical University of Sharif on October 2. Many students were attacked, killed, or kidnapped and their whereabouts are still unknown. Even after this horror, there were still massive protests at the university.
On October 26, the 40th day after Zhina’s death, multiple universities in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad and Kerman stood up. Regardless of the warning from Salami on October 29, students refused to back down and on October 29 and 30, the protests spread to even more universities. Our generation of academics and students is unstoppable.
Despite the death toll of 400 and rising and all the horrors that have already taken place against Iran’s academic communities, Iranian students are stronger than ever. They are vowing never to give up, as the revolution has been coursing through their veins for decades. They are aware of the power of our generation. And, dear reader, I’m calling on you to be aware of your powers as well. Statements and solidarity have enormous effects. Support and protect your equals who have been and still are fearlessly sacrificing their lives.
Raha Heshmatikhah (25) is a Master’s student in Clinical Psychology. As the daughter of political refugees, she's been a human rights activist for Iran for as long as she can remember.
Have you noticed a canvas full of black hands at the University Library in the Utrecht Science Park? The hands are from UU students but each one of them represents a young person who was killed in the protests in Iran. Raha is one of the students behind the initiative.