Clashes between Iranian students and security forces intensified with the beginning of the academic year as university campuses witnessed unprecedented deployment of Basij forces.
Violence started in the northwestern city of Rasht when security personnel at the Free University prevented male students from entering the campus for wearing a short-sleeved shirt as well as female students for not covering their head properly.
The incidents triggered protests by the students and clashes with security forces ensued. Students were beaten by Iran paramilitary forces the Basij, whose members played a major role in crushing opposition during the political unrest that followed the 2009 presidential elections.
Attacks on students were reportedly ordered by the university’s Protection Department, whose agents have been lately accused of collaborating with the Basij against the students and facilitating the entrance of security forces into campuses with clubs and tear gas.
Students from other universities voiced their indignation at the violent treatment of students and threatened to stage expansive demonstrations all over the country’s university campuses in solidarity with their colleagues in Rasht.
According to eyewitnesses, university campuses have been witnessing an unprecedented deployment of Basij forces since the beginning of the academic year, especially in Tehran. The regime, they added, fear further student protests.
However, this is not the first time that the government allows Basij forces to enter universities and beat students.
Last year, Basij forces attacked students that accused the government of rigging the 2009 elections in the University of Mashhad, Islamic Azad University of Karaj, and Shahrekord University and dozens of students were injured and arrested.
Reformist leader and former president Mohamed Khatami praised the students’ perseverance and slammed arrests of students and university professors.
In the meantime, Basij forces attacked the family of Mehdi Bakeri, the late leading figure in Iran Revolutionary Guard and whose family supported reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
Bakeri’s daughter Asia was arrested with her brother when they tried to defy the blockade imposed on Mousavi.
Arresting members of Bakeri’s family is seen by observers as a stark indication of the divisions from which Iran is suffering since Bakeri is considered one of the heroes of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and of the Iraq-Iran war in which he was killed.
Iran sentences blogger to 19 years in prison
An Iranian court sentenced the founder of one of the first Farsi-language blogs, credited with sparking the boom in Iranian reform bloggers, to more than 19 years in prison for his writings, a news web site reported Tuesday.
Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan, 35, was a controversial figure among Iran's blogging community. Writing his blog from Canada, he was initially a critic of Iran's clerical leadership, and in 2006 he visited Israel -- Iran's archenemy -- saying he wanted to act as a bridge between the two countries' peoples.
But he later became a vocal supporter of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, praising him for standing up to the West and criticizing regime opponents. Derakhshan then visited Iran in 2008 and was arrested. Over the next two years, he was often held without communication with family or lawyers, according to rights groups.
Mashreghnews.ir, which is close to Iran's presidential office, reported on Tuesday that Derakhshan was convicted on charges of cooperation with hostile countries -- a reference to the Israel visit -- spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promotion of counterrevolutionary groups and insulting Islamic thought and religious figures.
The court sentenced him to 19 1/2 years in prison, the report said, adding that Derakhshan can appeal. It was unclear if he would benefit from time served.
Derakhshan helped ignite blogging in Iran by posting simple instructions online on how to create sites in Farsi in 2001. The flourishing of blogs by Iranians at home and abroad that resulted gave the country's reform movement an online platform that has helped it survive heavy crackdowns at home -- though authorities tried to block many, including Derakhshan's.
His later embrace of Ahmadinejad angered many reform bloggers. Before returning to Iran, Derakhshan on his blog dismissed worries he could be arrested for his previous writings.
The Iranian government has stepped up its crackdown on opponents since Ahmadinejad's 2009 re-election, which opponents say he won by fraud, a claim the president denies.
Authorities shut down two pro-reform newspapers -- Andisheh-e No daily and Bahar Zanjan -- for publishing articles in which they had insulted officials, another newspaper, Shargh, reported Tuesday. They were the latest in a string of newspapers to be banned since the election.
Iran bans two newspapers for insulting political figures
Iran has banned two newspapers for insulting political and religious figures, in a continued crackdown on dissent more than a year after a disputed presidential election.
The news came a day after a court ordered the dissolution of two leading reformist political parties and at a time when leading opposition figures say their houses are coming under sporadic attack.
"Bahar Zanjan (weekly) has been banned for publishing articles insulting the country's officials and some which are contrary to public morals," Deputy Culture Minister Mohammad Ali Ramin was quoted as saying in Sharq daily.
Andishe-ye No, a pro-reform daily, was also closed under a law that prohibits insulting Iran's supreme leader or other senior clerics with the revered status of "source of emulation".
The managing director of Bahar Zanjan plans to appeal the ban which he said was based on "a clear lie and false accusation", according to reformist website Kalame.
At least a dozen pro-reform publications and most opposition websites have been blocked since protests broke out after the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud.
Ahmadinejad in June 2009, making it difficult for opposition leaders to communicate with the public.
Earlier this month, security forces entered the office of the main opposition leader, Mirhossein Mousavi, and seized his computers, reformist websites reported. The home of another pro-reform leader Mehdi Karoubi was also attacked.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)