Claims of student massacre in Tehran spread

Tehran University looked as calm as any summer campus. So much for the latest rumours of a bloodbath. Another piece of Iranian fiction, served up on YouTube. Scarved female students were moving through the university's great black iron gates. I asked my driver, Ali, to drop me off at the corner so I could prowl the college bookshops on Engelob Street, I was looking for a volume of modern Persian poetry for a friend. I did not at first hear the man at the cash desk, motioning out the door.

I peered out. The gates of the university were now shut. Behind them was a crowd of hundreds of young men and women, many wearing scarves over their mouths. I crossed the road. And the banners behind those forbidding gates told a frightening story. "Today is a day of mourning," one of them read. "Dignified students are mourners today." "Police, shame on you, shame on you." "Tell my mother – she doesn't have a son any more."

I walked up to the gate. Young female students were crying. So were some of the young men. "We don't want a government by coup," another poster read. "Tehran University dormitory has been coloured with students' blood," another said.

It was difficult to hear over the cries and screaming. But a student began shouting at me in English through those grim black gates. "There was a massacre," he bellowed. "The Basiji and the police came into our student dorms. It all started after the violence last Saturday. The people in the street had been throwing stones, so many of us fled from the campus to our homes. We came back yesterday and it seemed quiet. Then all these armed men burst into the dorms, shooting."

One girl spoke of five dead, another of seven. A student suggested the dead men were not students. Were they hiding on campus? It wasn't clear. Within hours, photographs of blood appeared on the internet. Who were these mysterious victims – for dead men there surely were. The crowds began to run in panic and behind them I spotted the familiar glint of steel helmets. I've now learned how to deal with these gentlemen. You never, ever run. You saunter towards them and if a single one moves his baton towards you, you click your finger so that he thinks that you have a right to be there. Then you stand just behind them, nodding in a friendly way when they look at you.

One of the cops turned round with a cynical smile. "Welcome to our country," he said. A couple of officers waved me away but I waved back my press card and they lost interest.

Did these cops know what had happened here? Did they have any idea how much these students hated them? A big plain-clothes man walked up and pointed his finger across the road. More of the same kind were waiting on the other pavement. "Papers?" one asked. He spent five minutes staring at my press card. Behind him I could see the cops had climbed into the campus.

Two had seized a young man, struggling between them, terrified, before the first baton came down on his head. I didn't hear the crack as the stick hit the student.

My driver was petrified. He has no journalistic papers. He had to be protected. So we left. As usual, the SMS system was down, the mobile phones were cut, the internet took half an hour to send a single message. No calls to London or New York or Paris... Whenever the communications collapse here, you know that something is afoot. Could it be that the police know when they are doing something wrong?

Campus power: Student demonstrations hold key

By Adrian Hamilton

*A co-ordinated series of demonstrations by students in all the major cities of Iran throughout 1978 were instrumental in bringing down the Shah in early 1979.

It is difficult to know whether they will be able to keep up their resistance this time, but their position could prove pivotal. Iran is a young country with half its population under 25. It is also unique in its proportion of women in higher education, at 60 per cent.

For the last four years, it has been Iran's campuses that have raised the standard of rebellion, demanding freedom of expression and relief from conservative rules on dress and behaviour, only to be put down with increasing severity and considerable bloodshed. Demonstrations were held in 20 centres last summer, while Tehran students held a series of protests directly attacking President Ahmadinejad as a "tyrant" last autumn in which there were several deaths.

The protests have already started again in Tehran's huge campus, but the authorities will be especially concerned if this starts spreading – as it seemed to be doing last summer – at which time Isfahan and Ahwaz were particular hotspots.

If rumours of student deaths and violent suppression start spreading, an uprising could be difficult to control.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living