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
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones