Iranian high schoolers join anti-regime protests as they return to school

Girls wearing Iranian high school uniforms tear up photographs of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Girls wearing Iranian high school uniforms tear up photographs of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. © Observers

The explosive protests that have spread around Iran have made their way into universities and even high schools following the start of the school year in October. Videos shared online show crowds of students protesting, many of them girls and young women. They have been filmed chanting slogans, marching through the streets and taking off their headscarves in school courtyards – acts of defiance that are often met with harsh retaliation by security forces.


Chanting “Death to the dictator!” and “Woman! Life! Freedom!”, young women and girls have been at the forefront of protests around Iran since September 16. With the start of the Iranian school year on October 2, the unrest has moved from the streets to the schoolyard.

At a high school in a city near Tehran, an official from the Ministry of Education came to talk to students about the importance of wearing the Islamic headscarf on October 3. But a group of young girls yelled at him “Shame on you!”, threw objects at him and then chased him out of the school. 

In a similar scene, a representative from the paramilitary Basij forces, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, came to speak to a group of high school girls in a city in central Iran. The students responded by taking off their headscarves and waving them in the air while chanting “Get lost, Basiji!”

“Get lost, Basiji!” yelled students at a representative of the Basij security forces during a speech on October 4, 2022 in central Iran.

This wave of demonstrations began as a movement against mandatory veiling laws and their brutal enforcement by Iran’s “morality police”. A 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died after being arrested by the morality police for wearing “improper clothing”.

>> Read more on The Observers: ‘I will never wear a headscarf again’: Outrage in Iran after woman dies in custody

But the protests have quickly evolved to include wider calls for change and longstanding anti-regime sentiments. High school students were seen stomping on photos of Iran’s current and former Supreme Leaders in a school in Razavi Khorasan province. Others ripped up photos of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or held up their middle fingers to images of him in their classroom. Others gathered in school courtyards to chant “Death to the dictator!”

At a school in northeastern Iran, students stepped on photographs of the current and former Supreme Leaders on October 4, 2022.
Students in a school courtyard chanted “Death to the dictator!” on October 3, 2022.

Students also took to the streets to march, chant and dance in protest. 

Students in a town outside of the capital Tehran took to the streets on October 4, 2022.
Students in a town outside of Tehran took to the streets on October 4, 2022, chanting “I will kill whoever killed my sister!”
Students in a town outside of Tehran took off their headscarves and waved them in the air in protest on October 4, 2022.

However, these acts of defiance can have grave consequences. Iranian security forces, including the infamously brutal Basij forces, have been violently crushing protests, using live ammunition, tear gas and batons. Women and girls have been particularly targeted by this harsh suppression

>> Read more on The Observers: Iranians fight back as police violently repress protests over death of Mahsa Amini

And protesting can be deadly, even for teenagers. A 16-year-old girl, Nika Shahkarami, went missing on September 20 after going to join the demonstrations in Tehran. She was found dead ten days later, according to BBC Persian, which also reported that authorities buried her secretly to avoid inciting more protests.

According to Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based independent monitor, at least 154 protesters have been killed in the crackdown.