Iran protests: University tracks fate of detained students

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 semiofficial Iranian Students’ 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,” Majid Sarsanghi, the University of Tehran’s deputy chancellor for cultural affairs, is quoted by the news agency.

It’s not clear how many students have been arrested in connection with the protests, which broke out more than a week ago. 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. Tehran public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said Sunday that about 70 defendants had been released on bail in the last 48 hours, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Reformist Iranian lawmaker Mahmood Sadeqi told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency that he holds details on detained students. But he said he does not know the whereabouts of 10 of the 90 who he believes were detained from across the country.

“On the basis of our figures, at least 58 students from different Tehran universities have been detained so far and the strange point is that many of them are not involved in any political activities at all,” he said. Sadeqi told ILNA he had spoken to the Ministry of Intelligence and hoped that most of the students would be released soon.

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 Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari asserted 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 Friday.

Russia, US clash at UN Security Council

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

Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, 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 Russia’s UN envoy, 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 again raised the idea of a Security Council meeting about protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, as the Russian mission to the United Nations did in a tweet earlier this week.

Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States had abused its power by calling for the meeting, saying the Iranian protests 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,” 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.

Mohammad Hossein Moghimi, governor of Tehran province, indicated he did not want to see a repeat of the kind of detentions that followed 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 Iranian Labor News Agency.

A parliamentary report detailed the “harsh corporal punishment, humiliating and insulting techniques” used against prisoners held at the Kahrizak Detention Center in southern Tehran in 2009, the semiofficial 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.