On January 11, 2020 police reportedly fired tear gas at student demonstrators from Amirkabir University of Technology protesting the role of the Iranian military in shooting down an airliner on January 8.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed shortly after takeoff on January 8, leaving 176 passengers and crewmembers dead. The crash occurred hours after the Iranian military fired a series of ballistic missiles at US military sites in Iraq, in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the US on January 3. On the morning of January 11, Iranian state officials announced that its military had unintentionally shot down Flight 752, having mistaken it for a hostile target. The Iranian government had previously rejected allegations that the plane had been shot down, claiming mechanical issues instead.
Within hours of the government’s announcement, hundreds of students held a vigil outside Amirkabir University of Technology to honor the lives of those killed in the plane crash. Later in the day, tensions and anger towards the government grew, transforming the vigil into a protest over the state’s role in the crash and its lack of transparency. While students protested peacefully, blocking roads and chanting slogans, riot police deployed to the scene reportedly fired tear gas at them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of tear gas against students peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting expressive activity, so long as it is peaceful and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force against student protesters undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.