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The BBC's James Robbins
Watch the news report from 13 July 1999
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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Six days that shook Iran
Street battle, Tehran - 13 July 1999
Rioting continued despite an official ban
The attack on a student dormitory in Tehran in July 1999 sparked six days of demonstrations and rioting in which at least three people were killed and more than 200 injured.

The riots were the worst in Iran since the revolution of 1979. Thousands of students took to the streets, pelting stones at security forces and setting fire to pictures of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The disturbances left a trail of burned-out vehicles and smashed shop fronts.

Students demonstrate in the street
The rioters demanded press freedom
The unrest started with peaceful demonstrations following new parliamentary legislation to curb press freedom and the banning of a leading pro-reformist newspaper, Salam, on 7 July.

But on the night of 8 July, riot police attacked a hostel where students had gathered. One student was killed; the demonstrations escalated into violence.

There was national outcry at the hostel attack. The Minister of Higher Education, Mostafa Moin, and the Chancellor of Tehran University both resigned, saying the security action was unacceptable.

Street battles

Over the next few days at least two more people were killed and hundreds injured as rioting escalated.

Violence in Iran
7 July: Courts close Salam newspaper
8 July: Student protests begin - police storm Tehran hostel
10 July: Protests spread to other cities
11 July: Student killed in Tabriz
12 July: Fifth day of protests - ban announced
13 July: Protests continue despite ban
The students' resolve hardened. Their original demands had been for the lifting of the ban on Salam and for protection of press freedom. But they broadened their demands by calling for more wide-ranging reforms and the resignation of powerful hard-liners in the Islamic government.

It was a direct challenge to the conservative clerical establishment that President Mohammad Khatami was struggling against. He had come into power two years previously with plans for democratic reform, openness and improved human rights.

Iranian students had played a major role in overthrowing the monarchy in 1979 and now became a powerful force in favour of Mr Khatami's programme. But many wanted a faster pace than he was able to deliver.

When the riots spilled into the streets, the pro-Khatami student leaders distanced themselves and public opinion turned away from the students.

The president turned against the protesting students, and denounced the riots.

"They were against the interest of the nation, and against the policies of the government. This event is just the opposite of the political development advocated by the government," he said.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
President Khatami condemned the violence
Despite appeals for calm, violence spread to other cities. On 11 July a theology student was shot dead in Tabriz, in north-west Iran.

On 12 July a ban was announced on rallies, and the following day, after a sixth day of unrest in Tehran President Khatami threatened tough action to restore order.

Several thousand students had taken to the streets of Tehran, where there were running street battles in several areas. Plain-clothed security forces used tear gas and fired shots into the air to disperse the crowds.

Following the violence many rioters were jailed and three alleged ring leaders were sentenced to death.

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23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's youth: Force for change
12 Sep 99 | Middle East
Iran death sentences
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