Eye witness provides details of December 30, 2009 attack on Mashad University
A student activist and eye witness has provided details to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the paramilitary forces’ attack on Mashad Azad Univesity students on December 30, 2009. He talks about arrests and sentences that have followed the incident. He says the gathering was a memorial gathering to pay respect to Ashura. This eye witness says about 1,000 Azad University students were having a respectful silent gathering when they were attacked by pro-government plainclothes forces and a group referred to as Ansar. Ansar members attacked the students and some university employees with arms such as knives, daggers, sticks, and pepper spray. He believes the way in which the students were attacked and the attackers’ possession of cold arms demonstrates that this was a pre-planned attack. He believes this was done to intimidate the students in order to make them stop student gatherings. Similar gatherings were held on the days following this incident at Mashad’s Azad, Ferdowsi, Sajjad, and Khayyam universities.
Campaign: There was news that several students were injured and killed. Do you confirm this news?
Eye Witness: The December 30th attack of pro-government forces was so savage, but the dimensions of it were never reported. The number of injured and beaten students was very high, maybe 40 or even more. At least seven students in critical shape were driven away to unknown hospitals in security forces’ ambulances. Two of the students who were bleeding severely and were unconscious were dragged on the ground by plainclothes men and were moved to an unknown location–a female student who had been stabbed in the neck with a knife and a male student who had been hit in the head and was also unconscious. Lack of information about these two students led to circulation of rumors in Mashad about their deaths. With the severe security atmosphere ruling the university right now, we cannot confirm or refute the deaths of these two students. Mashad security forces have put the families of detained and injured students under pressure, keeping them from disseminating information. When the new term starts in the coming days, we can verify this news.
Campaign: What was the university atmosphere like on that day?
Eye Witness: As is now standard practice, the university was surrounded by police and plainclothes forces. But the difference on this particular day was that several hundred people who belong to a group referred to as Ansar and who had attacked Ferdowsi University in a more limited way the week prior to attacking us, had been stationed at the University mosque. It is interesting to note that this was exactly what was done at Ferdowsi University, where simultaneous with the memorial services planned for Ayatollah Montazeri at the University mosque, the forces had occupied the building. We were continuing our silent gathering when Ansar came closer to us. We turned our backs on them and raised our hands in V signs, and then they attacked us. We dispersed and ran toward the doors, but the University Security forces had locked the doors, telling us that they were keeping the doors closed to keep the other Ansar members from entering the mosque. We went to the Architecture and Technical College building then. We were on the second floor when one of the Ansar members raise his knife (his picture was put on the internet later) and told us “This is my signed order,” sticking the knife in the side of one of the students. The main scuffle started here.
Campaign: How did the police and university security react to Ansar’s attack?
Eye Witness: Students who were able to escape the building were arrested. I didn’t see anything else directly. I jumped over the fence while several plainclothes men were running after me, but I was able to escape. The next day, on December 31st, when thousands had gathered to protest the prior day’s attacks on the university and students, they surrounded the university again. Again, like the previous day, police and plainclothes officers arrested the students and I was also arrested on this day. During the two day protests on December 30th and 31st, 210 Mashad Azad University students were arrested by plainclothes and police officers. Over the following days, there were gatherings at Ferdowsi, Sajjad, and Khayyam Universities as well and another 60 students were arrested in those universities. They took everyone to the police headquarters. Several student activists were also arrested in their homes.
Campaign: Were the Ansar forces confronted by the police?
Eye Witness: In the statements issued by Azad University management and the Mashad Prosecutor’s office, the students were condemned and they were promised a firm punishment, but Ansar were never confronted.
Campaign: How many students were arrested in all? Where were they held? What were their charges? How were they treated? Who was the judge? What happened in the end?
Eye Witness: Over 250 students were arrested. First, everyone was transported to police headquarters. Investigators Mansouri and Heydari were in charge of the cases. In order to intimidate us, they kept us in detention cells next to murder and sodomy suspects. We were ready to be interrogated by the police and investigators. But the investigators had a very abusive interaction with us, especially Mansouri, who also disrespected students’ family members, calling them by profanities. Several people were released there and the rest were transported to the Mashad Information Ministry’s detention center. Apparently, torture at the Information Ministry’s detention center has been limited to ten or fifteen people who are held in solitary confinement. A few people were beaten, too. It was in the news that 15 students have been suspended and one has been exiled.