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University Students in Iran Protest Hijab Enforcement, Boycott Classes

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Many students at Amir Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran embarked on a strike on Sunday, after morality police banned over 200 students from entering the campus.

The protest was announced through the university students’ independent newsletter on Telegram. It serves as a stand against suppression and in solidarity with peers denied entry to the university for non-compliance with mandatory hijab regulations.

A few months after nationwide protests in 2022-2023, the Iranian government led by religious hardliners resumed harsh enforcement of mandatory hijab. The protests were triggered by the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in morality police custody after she was arrested for “improper hijab.”

Issued by student groups, the strike call underscores the imperative of safeguarding students’ fundamental rights. It underscores the university’s failure to acknowledge these rights, particularly regarding hijab policies, with students contending that the institution’s identity hinges on the presence and liberty of its student body.

Reports from Iran International on Saturday documented incidents where security personnel at Amir Kabir University obstructed both male and female students from entering based on their attire. Female students were reportedly compelled to wear chadors (long black veils), while male students faced restrictions on donning T-shirts, short-sleeved garments, or sports attire.

Images circulating on social media depicted students gathered outside Rasht Gate, the university’s northern entrance. The students’ newsletter referenced the images, reporting that at least 20 students were barred from entry due to insufficient hijab compliance at Rasht Gate, with similar incidents reported at other entrances.

In their announcement, students held the University’s executive board and Hafez Shahbazi, head of Amir Kabir University’s security, directly accountable for the crackdown referring to him as a “mercenary”. Students from diverse faculties, including computer engineering, energy engineering, and industrial engineering, rallied behind the call to boycott classes, with reports indicating low attendance on Sunday.

This protest forms part of a broader movement against mandatory hijab enforcement in Iran. Since the introduction of Project Noor to enforce mandatory hijab laws on Saturday, 13 April, there has been a conspicuous escalation in the presence of police forces, Basij, and plainclothes officers tasked with enforcing hijab regulations.

Furthermore, in a bid to enforce hijab regulations, certain universities such as Alzahra University in Tehran have equipped gates with facial recognition technology, with entry denied if their appearance fails to adhere to intensified hijab laws.

Additionally, similar crackdowns on students have been reported in recent days at the University of Kurdistan, the largest university in Kurdistan province in Iran, located in Sanandaj. According to the human rights organization Hengaw, security officers at this university have warned of disciplinary action against students with student cards being confiscations as a result of having an “improper” hijab.

Despite authorities’ efforts to quell civil disobedience, and security pressure on students many women persist in challenging the mandate, often enduring violence and intimidation. The students’ strike at Amir Kabir University represents a growing discontent with the restrictive policies imposed by the Iranian government.