World News

Iran protests: University tracks fate of detained students

Posted January 6, 2018 4:20 a.m. EST

— The University of Tehran is working to track and secure the release of its students who were arrested for taking part in recent anti-government protests in Iran, according to the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency.

"A committee has been established to follow up on and track Tehran University's detained students' situation. Our aim is to work with relevant authorities and facilitate the quickest release and return of those students to their studies and family embrace," Dr. Majid Sarsanghi, Tehran University's Deputy Chancellor for Cultural Affairs, is quoted as saying by ISNA.

It's not clear how many students have been arrested in connection with the protests, which broke out late last month. At least 21 people were killed, many in clashes with security forces trying to quell the rallies.

Authorities in Iran have said 450 people have been detained. The US State Department has put the number held at 1,000. It is unclear how many of the detained have since been released.

Rights group Amnesty International accused Iran of having an "appalling" track record of carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

"Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Four UN human rights experts on Friday urged Iran to respect protesters' rights and allow freedom of expression and assembly.

The protests, the most powerful challenge to the regime in years, appeared to have fizzled Thursday, after a claim by Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari that the unrest was officially over.

Mass pro-government rallies have taken their place in many Iranian cities. Government supporters turned out in force in Tehran and elsewhere on Friday.

Russia, US clash at UN Security Council

Russia and the United States clashed Friday at an emergency UN Security Council session called by the United States to discuss recent events in Iran.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the protests "something the world must take note of" and a "powerful exhibition of brave people" risking their lives to exercise their right to speak.

But Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia slammed the United States for using the meeting to bring up the Iranian protests under a "bogus pretext."

"Let Iran deal with its own problems," said Nebenzia, who once again raised the idea of the Security Council meeting about protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Occupy Wall Street demonstrations as the Russian mission to the UN did in a tweet on Tuesday.

Iran's ambassador to the UN said the United States had abused its power by calling for the meeting, saying the protests in his country fell outside the scope of the Security Council mandate.

"There is a long history of US bullying at the UN, but this is a preposterous example -- the purely internal affairs of a nation," Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo told the council.

Shadow of the Green Movement

Many in Iran still feel the shadow of the crackdown that followed the so-called Green Movement protests over Iran's disputed 2009 election.

Some 4,000 people -- including former lawmakers, journalists, students and foreign nationals -- were arrested in connection with those protests. While many were released, hundreds appeared in mass trials and were convicted of conspiring against Iran's government. An unknown number were sentenced to death.

Tehran Gov. Mohammad Hossein Moghimi indicated he did not want to see a repeat of the kind of detentions that occurred following the Green Movement protests.

"Care will certainly be taken in order to avoid a repetition of prisoner and detainee abuses that occurred a few years ago," Moghimi said, as quoted by the semi-official ILNA news agency.

A parliamentary report detailed the "harsh corporal punishment, humiliating and insulting techniques" used against prisoners held at the Kahrizak Detention Center in 2009, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported at the time.

"The deaths of some detainees were a result of beatings and neglect of the physical condition of the injured by the detention center's officials," an excerpt of the parliamentary report read.