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Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 18:53 UK

'Harassed' Iran student arrested

By Frances Harrison
BBC News

Student protests at an Iranian university (file picture)
Iran's universities have often been the site of major protests
A female student in the Iranian city of Zanjan who alleged she was sexually harassed by a senior male lecturer - triggering a massive demonstration by her fellow students - has herself been arrested.

The nature of the charge against the woman - who said she was molested by the vice-chancellor of the university - is unclear, but the local prosecutor is reported to have said that publicising certain crimes is worse than the crimes themselves.

Thousands of students took control of the campus after the allegation came to light, staging a sit-in and catching hold of the official and handing him to authorities.

The situation has since been calmed after the authorities promised to suspend the accused official from his post and take action.

'Both accused'

The woman alleges that the vice-chancellor of the university, in the north-west of the country, harassed her after she went to discuss a problem with him.

Her fellow students have said they have an audio recording of the lecturer sexually propositioning the girl. They have demanded that he be punished and that the university's board of directors resign.

Video of their seizing the vice-chancellor has since been posted on the YouTube website. Pictures of a sit-in to demand action have also been posted online.

But the situation calmed once the university authorities suspended the man and agreed to form a joint committee with students to look into the issue.

The Fars news agency has reported that what they call "both accused" are in custody - by which they mean the alleged victim and perpetrator.

Reporters have quoted the prosecutor saying people should be aware that if they go ahead and publicise crime there will be no more security in society.

In previous years there has been unrest in the universities spearheaded by reformist students, but so far the protests in Zanjan do not seem to have been overtly political.

This in a strictly segregated society where men and women are not supposed even to shake hands and women must hide their bodies from men they are not related to.


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