As women burn headscarves and cut off their hair in nationwide protests, an Iranian official on Tuesday said that school students participating in street protests are being detained and taken to mental health institutions.
In an interview with an independent reformist Iranian newspaper, Iran’s Education Minister Yousef Nouri confirmed that some school students have indeed been detained and referred to what he called “psychological institutions.”
The establishments holding the students, he said, are meant to reform and reeducate the students to prevent “anti-social” behavior.
“It is possible these students have become ‘anti-social characters’ and we want to reform them,” he told the Shargh newspaper, adding that the students “can return to class after they’ve been reformed.”
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Nearly a month ago, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being taken to a “reeducation center” by state “morality police” for not abiding by the state’s conservative dress code. Amini’s death has sparked weeks of anti-government protests that have spread across the country.
The education minister could not put an exact figure on the number of detained students, saying “the number is not a lot and there are not many.”
Girls and women across Iran have played a vital role in the demonstrations, and in recent weeks have protested at schools, university campuses and out on the streets.
Footage circulated across social media has showed Iranian women and girls chanting “death to the dictator” as they take off their headscarves; on one occasion, CNN witnessed girls from a vocational high school in Tehran protesting on a street near their school and chanting, “woman, life, freedom.”
The demonstrations have, at times, turned dangerous. Police fired tear gas on protesters in Tehran on Wednesday, and book shops and offices near Tehran University shut their doors as anti-riot police chased and fired rubber bullets on demonstrators, an eyewitness said. In Kaj Square, members of Iran’s Basij paramilitary organization ordered people to move along and stopped others from standing on the streets, according to the eyewitness.
Videos obtained by the pro-reform activist outlet IranWire posted on social media on Wednesday showed demonstrations across Tehran and other Iranian cities.
Police and Basij members fired tear gas at the gathering of Iranian lawyers in Tehran, while uniformed and plainclothes police were seen firing weapons in the air in West Tehran, dispersing people from the scene. In one of the busiest shopping streets in the city, riot police were seen gathering. In another, protesters chanted “Mullahs, get lost.”
Footage from Rasht, northwest of Tehran, showed police wearing riot gear beating people with batons and pulling them from the sidewalk
On Tuesday, the United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF called for the protection of children and adolescents amid public unrest in Iran, which is now in its third week.
“We are extremely concerned by continuing reports of children and adolescents being killed, injured and detained amid the ongoing public unrest in Iran,” read the UNICEF statement.