Iran protests: Security forces beat, shot and detained students from elite Tehran university as crackdown on protests escalates

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When Farid’s friend called for help on Sunday, he jumped on his bike and sped off to Tehran’s Sharif University.

“Please come and save us. We are stuck here. They are shooting at us,” said his friend.

Scenes of violence and “savagery” greeted him when he arrived at the elite university’s campus, he said, where hundreds of students had been captured in the parking lot by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, according to videos CNN confirmed from social media.

“They had guns, they had paintball guns, they had sticks,” said Farid, whose name has been changed for his safety.

“They used gases… [that are] banned internationally… it was a war zone… there was blood everywhere.”

In a video posted on social media from the scene, police can be seen detaining people and carrying them on motorcycles. In another, loud bangs are heard.

It was the first day of school, but many students had refused to attend classes. Instead, they protested the regime in a nationwide movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Aminia 22-year-old who died last month in a hospital after being apprehended by Iran’s morality police and sent to a “re-education center” for failing to comply with the state’s hijab lion.

For more than two weeks, protests have taken place in more than 45 cities across Iran, including the capital, with dozens of people reportedly killed in clashes with security forces.

CNN cannot independently verify claims of arrests or detentions, as an exact number of protesters arrested or detained is impossible for those outside Iran’s government to confirm. The number varies depending on whether they come from opposition groups, international rights organizations or local journalists. State media, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) reported that at least 41 people have died in Iran in recent protests. According to Amnesty International, the attack has killed at least 52 people and injured hundreds more.

While the rallies started with calls for justice for Amini’s death, they have since morphed into a larger movement uniting a range of social factions and classes.

Farid said Sunday’s incident began after a group of students were reprimanded by campus security – who called in reinforcements – for staging a walkout and engaging in anti-regime chants.

“It started with the students refusing to go to class. And then (the professor) of science came to talk to them because they were singing things… the students were taken out by the university security forces and then they were stopped by Sepahs (IRGC forces), wearing ordinary people’s clothes.” Farid told CNN.

“They told them that ‘if you go near the metro station we will start shooting, go back to the university’. And then after half of the students had re-entered the university, they closed the others into the parking lot. And after that they started shooting them with paintballs and taking them into custody in a very, very wild way,” he added.

The university’s official newspaper, Sharif Daily, also reported that security forces fired less-than-lethal shots at large groups of students in the campus parking lot as they tried to flee from security forces on Sunday. Social media videos reviewed by CNN captured the incident.

The “three main dormitories” at Sharif University were also “shot at” by security forces, according to Farid, who claimed that there are still students hiding in the university after Sunday’s events.

“As we speak, there are still students hiding in the university in the parking lots or in the professors’ rooms,” he told CNN.

“We don’t have an inventory [of detainees] yet. The student council tried to make an estimate, but we won’t know for sure for five or six hours.”

Citing a university source, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said on Monday that 30 of the 37 students arrested during the protests had been released.

CNN cannot independently confirm what happened during the confrontations at Sharif University or the number of students detained in the aftermath. Representatives from Sharif University could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement on Monday, the Sharif University Students Islamic Association urged all “professors and students of Sharif University not to attend classes until all arrested students are released,” while calling on students and professors across Iran to pause classes in solidarity .

Snippets of the ongoing solidarity have already been seen in the Iranian capital, where video posted on social media shows a number of cars blocking the streets near Sharif University on Sunday night in support of the students.

The nationwide protests – which bring together a combination of grievances over a floundering economy, limited civil rights and the marginalization of ethnic minorities – are the biggest domestic threat the Iranian regime has faced in years.

Today’s protests also bring together younger Iranians with Internet access who have not known Iran before the Islamic Republic.

The government – which has blamed Western media for inciting the protests – is unlikely to make concessions, analysts say, with an end to the demonstrations more likely to come through the use of brute force.

But Farid insists he and his contemporaries are not afraid, saying they have nothing to lose.

“This is far from over. We’re not afraid. We’re outraged. We’re furious. You know, these people think we’re the previous generation—that if they do this, we’ll just stop. We won’t stop,” he said.

“These children are our future,” Farid added. “We will not stand for this.”

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