London, 31 Dec – In Tehran on Saturday hundreds of university students joined together in outrage about a bus crash that killed and injured dozens of their peers on December 25th.
IRNA, the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran says that “hundreds of students” are protesting and their numbers are growing. Family members of the students who were killed in the crash are also on campus this weekend. Photos and videos show a large crowd.
The Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, called the protest “spontaneous”. In the parking area for university buses, the students gathered holding banners, and protesting against the university’s transport system, as well as other grievances about the management of Azad University.
Social media reports claim that the protest was organized by the cStudent Basij, and that the protesters are demanding the removal of a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Azad University’s president, Ali Akbar Velayati. However, the role of the Student Basij in the protest is unclear and many angry students have joined the gathering.
Five officials have already been fired for their role in for the state of student buses, but according to IRNA, protesting students call this a tactic for senior officials to avoid their own share of responsibility.
The bus was carrying 30 students from the Sciences and Research faculty along a mountainous road within the science research campus of Islamic Azad University in northwestern Tehran when it came off the road and hit a concrete post on Tuesday. Nine students and the bus driver were killed, and 28 others were injured when a bus lost control and crashed.
University officials initially blamed the driver for the crash, claiming that he had a heart attack. Later, safety officials said that the brakes on the bus failed. An announcement by a traffic police officer was issued saying that the bus was listed as a salvage vehicle six years ago. Apparently the transportation contractor managed to use it as part of the university fleet.
The presence of a high-level university official at the gathering is being demanded by the students, who are threatening to continue their protest until this demand is met. As well, Fars news agency reports that the mother of one of the students killed in the accident spoke at the rally, saying, “I am sorry I live in a country where the life of a human being has no value.”