Students challenge gender segregation rules at Iranian universities

Disregard for a rule that requires male and female students to eat separately in canteens is spreading through Iranian universities as civil disobedience to gender apartheid.

On October 4, a few brave female students from the Faculty of Literature and Languages ​​of Allameh Tabatabi University in Tehran took off their headscarves, entered the boys’ canteen and sat down to eat after protesting and chanting outside for hours. . Other students joined them.

This decision was greeted by everyone, who chanted “Women, life, freedom” and applauded as a short video posted on Twitter show. Students have been eating there together since the taboo was broken, despite threats of disciplinary action and even expulsion.

Students from many other universities followed suit as canteens were “recovered”, as the students say. But in some universities there have been clashes with authorities and extremist students who often belong to the student wing of the Revolutionary Guards’ Basij militia.

Wherever students are not allowed to dine together, they stage protests in front of buildings and chant slogans, waving their headscarves above their heads.

In some universities, students take their trays of food outside to eat together in the open air or arrange the trays in a row on the floor and refuse to eat the food while chanting and protesting.

For four decades, authorities imposed gender segregation in universities. Male and female students are required by unwritten law to sit in two separate parts of classrooms and lecture halls, to eat in separate canteens or in the same canteen but at different times, to exercise and compete in separate sports facilities and live in separate dormitories. unless they reside in dormitories reserved for married students.

In the religious city of Qom, which is also home to many seminaries, students’ insistence on breaking the taboo of segregation ended on Tuesday in a standoff with school security, who locked the door of the canteen to prevent boys and girls from entering together.

After some chanting, the students tried to force their way in but the security used violence against the students who didn’t give up and eventually came in to buy their food. They took out their trays and had a huge picnic outside, defying segregation.

At the Sharif Industrial University in Tehran on Monday, chairs, tables and cafeteria windows were smashed in a clash between protesters and Basij members. protest students said on social media later that they had tidied up the place after the stalemate and set up a fund to replace damaged furniture.

Meanwhile, Basij students went to the memorial of the unknown soldiers buried inside the university and mourned what they considered sacrilege against the martyrs of Islam and Islamic laws.

Photos posted on Twitter show several Basij students laying their heads on the grave of an unknown soldier and crying. The remains of three unknown soldiers from the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) were buried on campus in 2006 despite the opposition of more than 80% of students who voted against in a poll. Opponents argued that the extremists’ insistence on burying the Unknown Soldiers inside campus was a symbol of their political dominance.

Videos posted to social media on Tuesday showed TV football commentator and producer Adel Ferdosipour, who also teaches English at Sharif Industrial University, join the student sit-in/picnic in front of the canteen in a show of support and solidarity, which the students warmly welcomed. Ferdosipour, who enjoys popularity among Iranians for his honesty and outspoken criticism of the hardline establishment, was included in Newsweek’s list of the 20 most powerful Iranians in 2009.