Iranian art school students beaten and arrested for defying headscarf rules

Source: France24

A group of Iranian students, incensed at rules imposed on June 12 requiring female students to wear a maqna’a – a conservative Islamic headscarf in black that covers the head, neck and shoulders – began a sit-in in protest. They also wrote an open letter to the university administration, which said: “We have nothing to say to you except ‘no’.” A number of students were beaten and arrested for taking part in the protest, while also being threatened with suspension and even death. Thousands of people have posted “no” on their social media accounts in solidarity and students at dozens of other universities have published open letters in support of the Tehran art students.

Students at Tehran University of Art protested against headscarf rules imposed by the school on June 12 and 17. © Observers

by: Alijani Ershad

It all started on Monday, June 12, when students at Tehran University of Art received a text message: “Female students must wear a maqna’a starting June 17 if they want to attend university classes.”

The new rule was imposed just days before final exams and the end of the semester. One student we spoke to said students who still refused to wear a headscarf felt “taken hostage” by the strict imposition at exam time. Students began a sit-in and protested against the rule.

Some students at Tehran University of Art began a sit-in in protest of mandatory headscarf rules imposed on June 12.

Many of the art university students were beaten and arrested on June 17, outside of the university. © .

The message was a shock to a number of students at the university, a prestigious art school known to be a relatively liberal institution in the Islamic Republic. Since the widespread “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests began in September 2022, many Iranian women have refused to wear any type of Islamic headscarf.

Many students at the Tehran University of Art were active participants in the protest movement, even posting several “revolutionary music clips” on social media during the first days of the protests last September, some of which became anthems of resistance.

“Rise for Woman Life Freedom” a song made by students at the Tehran University of Art became an anthem of the protests.

‘This is our only answer to your restrictions, violence and threats: “no”

“V” is a student at the Art University of Tehran who participated in the sit-in against headscarf rules.


Our university, unlike other universities in Iran, has no security checks at the gates. Students can wear the clothes they want to wear, more so than in other universities. When universities reopened after the Covid era, a security check at the main gate was introduced, but there were no real checks or harassment of students for how they dress.


However, a few weeks ago, suddenly more security guards were deployed, including some women who checked the hijab of the female students at the entrance, and the harassment started. When we received the text message that the girls had to wear maqna’a, we understood that the university administration had decided to change the rules. As we learned in the meetings with the university administration, the special representative of the Supreme Leader at our university proposed this change [Editor’s note: Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, has a representative in all university administrations].


Cover of “Another brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd in Persian in support of the art students’ strike.



Therefore, we have decided to start a sit-in as a peaceful form of resistance. We believe that this is our university and that we will stay here and no one can force us to leave. That night, they started threatening the students who were protesting, then university staff blocked our access to water and toilets. They even took away the food we had ordered online and would not let us eat or drink.

They threatened to kill us with the “Dushka” [Editor’s note: a couple of other students confirmed the administration threatening to use this Soviet-era machine gun that the Islamic Republic has been known to have used against demonstrators] if the strike continues! We ended the strike at 4am the next morning.


According to Iranian activists, dozens of students who had participated in the protest were arrested at home or near the university, and many students were beaten by security forces at the university gates on Saturday.

Security forces in front of the Tehran University of Art on June 17.

“V” continues:


That is why we have written this open letter. This is our only answer to your restrictions, violence and threats: ‘no’. This ‘no’ became so popular on social media and received so much attention because I think it’s a simple answer that almost everyone in Iran shares against the state. No matter what you say, what you do or how loud you are, we have only one answer for you: ‘no’.


Many Iranians on social media shared a “no” on their social media as a sign of support of Tehran University of Art students.


So far we have been successful. The students are still going to university without headscarves and we are going to our final exams. I am sure if they really want to insist on wearing maqna’a, the students will strike again because we are all determined and united.


All the students arrested so far were released and the students who were beaten were also able to leave the hospital. However, according to our sources in the university, security forces are making a new attempt to intimidate the students by making threatening calls and summoning them for interrogation.