The biggest nationwide demonstrations and strikes since 2019 are happening now in Iran. The trigger was the violent death of the 22 year old Iranian Kurd Jina Mahsa Amini. She died in custody after being seriously abused by the ‘morality police’ in Teheran during and after her arrest. This because she did not meet the strict rules about wearing headscarves. According to independent observers, leaked medical scans show a skull fracture, brain haemorrhage, and brain oedema. The involvement of the morality police in Mahsa’s death is still being denied by the Iranian authorities.
Since Mahsa’s death, brave women and men from all Iran’s population groups and provinces are risking their lives to demonstrate for their basic human rights. In one of the main slogans of the protests, ‘woman, life, freedom’, demonstrators are calling not only for physical integrity and women’s rights, but for a better life for society as a whole, free of inequality, poverty, discrimination and political repression. The large scale demonstrations and strikes are being put down forcefully by the security apparatus of the Islamic Republic. Demonstrators are being arrested, assaulted, tortured and murdered en masse. The current number of dead is estimated at between 130 to 150 and the number arrested in the thousands.
More civic involvement is needed in the Netherlands
The academic community in Iran too is actively involved in the demonstrations and is a victim of the current situation. Students at several universities have issued statements calling on the boycotting of lessons, attending demonstrations and releasing all the student activists in custody. Several professors, university staff members and educational unions support these statements and boycotts. The universities are now the main target of repression by the regime. On Sunday 2 October, the riot police used force to end a student protest at the prestigious Sharif University of Technology. Students are being surrounded, assaulted, shot and arrested. Messages emerged on Monday 3 October about a similar attack on students at Tabriz University.
Given the current situation, I am extremely worried about the safety of the academic community in Iran. Iranians are sharing information, mostly through social media, putting their own lives at risk. The Iranian authorities are hijacking this information flow. At the beginning of the protests they just about shut down the internet. They are thus trying to block communication among the demonstrators and prevent the mobilisation of more demonstrators, and to avoid the world witnessing the scale of abuse by the Government and its security services.
More civic involvement is needed in the Netherlands to put more pressure on the regime and show Iranian teachers and students that they are not alone in their struggle, and to maintain a connection with the Iranian diaspora. To my surprise and disappointment, I have not seen a statement of support from the Executive Board at TU Delft for the academic community in Iran. So I am requesting the Executive Board to do the following.
- Denounce the violence against staff members and academic staff members by the Iranian regime, show solidarity with the Iranian people and ask for the release of all arrested students.
- Create space to give shelter to teachers and students who have risked their own lives to speak out against the regime in the form of temporary and/or permanent work and study places.
- Take care of Iranian students and staff members at TU Delft who are currently living in fear and uncertainty.
Pedram Soltani is a PhD candidate in the Design and Construction Management Department at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.