One Month of Iran Protests — Evin in Flames, Students and Children Under Attack
Sunday the 16th of October marked one month into the nationwide anti-government protests in Iran. Since September 16th, Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the government murder of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini, the 22 year old Kurdish woman from Saqqez. Zhina died in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police, who arrested and beat her for “bad hijab” to the point of a coma she never woke up from again.
Zhina’s death has sparked nationwide outrage spreading to nearly all of Iran’s 31 provinces. On Saturday October 15th, Iranians in cities spanning across the country continued in protest. Reports and videos shared show significant crowds and clashes between security forces and the people in Yazd, Rasht, Shiraz, Shahin Shahr, Mashhad, Kermanshah, Marivan, Mahabad, Bukan, Urmia and Ardabil.
According to Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO), 215 people have been killed so far, including 27 children since the start of the protests.
In solidarity with the Iran protests, shops and markets in the cities of Saqqez and Sanandaj in Iran’s Kurdistan closed their doors for the fifth time since the start of the uprising.
In spite of the brutal government crackdown on university students seen across the country and the attack on Sharif University earlier this month, students have continued to play an active part in the protests.
Over the weekend, students at the Razi and medical universities of Kermanshah revolted and coalesced on their campuses in chant of “Azadi, azadi!” (“Freedom, freedom!”).
On October 17th, students of the Social Science department at Tehran University held a rally at their faculty which was quickly met by the university’s “herasat”, an internal security branch, and a large group of security forces that beat and threatened the students. Eyewitnesses report that some of these security forces covered their faces with masks.
Videos circulating on social media platforms online show dismal scenes of the inhumane treatment of protestors by Basiji guards and other security forces. A video from Mashhad shows undercover “plainclothes” officers aggressively shoving a protestor into the trunk of a car. A scene similar to another video of a woman in Karaj’s Gohardasht neighbourhood being dragged and pushed into a car by undercover officers. A man who is trying to save her is pushed away as two other undercover officers grab and point their guns towards the people watching and screaming in fear.
Authorities continue to respond to protestors with violence and threats, creating an environment of fear across the nation.
Evin Prison in Flames
Videos of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison up in smoke and flames emerged on the evening of Friday, October 15th. Although several details regarding the cause and impact of the fire and explosion recorded on camera are unknown, Zamaneh has been able to verify some details through cross-checking information shared on social networks and through informed sources such as the families of political prisoners at Evin.
Since the start of the nationwide protests, families of protestors arrested and taken to Evin detention center have gathered outside the premises day and night, seeking information about their loved ones.
On the night of the 15th, Evin prison caught fire, with the first sounds of explosions being heard between 8:30 to 9 pm. Gunfire and screams shortly followed as the sky overhead filled with smoke and flames. In the distance, luminous objections flying in the direction of the prison were captured on camera by people living nearby.
One video shows a smoke filled sky above Evin when suddenly two objects are shot towards the prison after which a loud explosion is heard. Families standing in front of the prison watch in panic as the sound of the alarm sets off. The phone lines of the prison are disconnected, leaving families in the dark about the state of their loved ones inside.
At midnight, the phone lines turn back on and several prisoners manage to call their families. At this moment, it is reported that the prisoners in Ward 209, Ward 4 and the Women’s Ward are doing okay. Relatives of prisoners, journalists and Iranian civil right activists and ex-prisoners like Atena Daemi, who spent 6 years of her life in Evin waiting patiently to hear more about the safety of some of the “brightest minds” and “bravest hearts” trapped inside the prison.
The government’s version of the story claims that a conflict in Ward 7 and 8 led the prisoners to set fire to the prison’s sewing workshop. According to Iran’s Tasnim newspaper, a conflict in Ward 6 was met by a large group of security forces. Another Iran newspaper, Fars News agency reported that on the night of the 15th, a group of prisoners, in an escape attempt, ran into a minefield on the northern side of the prison’s premises.
As the news of Evin spreads and takes over social media, families and worried citizens rush to the prison. Videos show roads packed full of cars on the roads towards the prison. In efforts to manage the crowds, security forces block the roads leading up to Evin. Anti-riot police begin to attack crowds with tear gas and plastic bullets.
Although the Islamic Republic has made numerous efforts to distort the narrative of the Evin fire and its cause, Oslo based human rights organization, Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO), has confirmed 8 people killed so far, with an expectation of a higher actual death toll.
Evin Prison has been a site of repression for the Islamic Republic since 1972, nicknamed “Evin University” for the number of prisoners of conscience held in this detention centre. Several Iranian politicians, lawyers, artists, writers and activists are currently being held at Evin. Since the start of the protests against the government murder of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini, several protestors as well as influential supporters have been detained or summoned to Evin.
Elnaz Rekabi, the Iranian sports climber who competed at the Asian Championships in Seoul without hijab has reportedly been summoned to Evin upon her return to Iran. Some sources online claim that Elnaz has been missing since the competition, while others claim she has been kidnapped and is being taken directly to Evin by the Islamic Republic authorities.
Zamaneh cannot confirm these claims, however, an Instagram story shared by Elnaz on October 18th suggests that she is under pressure by the authorities. In what appears to be a forced apology, the post states that Elnaz’s lack of hijab was unintentional and was a result of “existing sensitivities in the final round of Asian championship”, “inappropriate timing” and “being called unexpectedly.” It also adds that she will be returning to Iran with her team.
Attack on Ardabil School Girls
On October 13th, a girl’s high school was attacked by undercover “plainclothes” officers in Ardabil. According to reports, at least 10 students were transferred to Fatemi hospital, 1 of which died due to internal bleeding as a result of severe beating. Another 7 students were arrested, their whereabouts and conditions are unknown.
As reported by The “Coordinating Council of Educators’ Trade Union Organization and other sources, the school principal cooperated with the authorities on the day of the attack. Further claims state that the families of the girls have been threatened against speaking to the media “if they ever want to see their children again.”
In the past month, videos and photos of school girls across the country have taken the internet by storm. In one video, a group of school girls rip out pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei, stomping over them in chant, “Death to the dictator!”. Other famous images show hijabless school girls with their hair flowing and their backs to the camera as they give the middle finger to the picture of the supreme leaders. The government has responded to these protests with attacks, threats and propaganda tactics to force students to march with them in pro-government demonstrations.
To protest the violent crackdown on the school girls, people in Ardabil came to the streets on October 16th, which resulted in at least 50 arrests. Security forces responded violently, attacking protestors and as seen in one video, attempted to run over protestors with a special unit car.
The protests in Iran continue nationwide despite internet disruptions that have created complications and delays in obtaining information and updates.