Dozens of Tehran University professors appealed to Iran’s Supreme Leader to halt the ongoing violence against opposition protesters, a pro-reform website reported on Monday.

The letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — signed by 88 professors — was the latest daring challenge to the Iran’s clerical leadership.

The letter, posted on the Greenroad website, called the attacks a sign of weakness in the ruling system and demanded punishment for those who beat up students. It also urged Ayatollah Khamenei to order arrests over the hard-line crackdown, which intensified after protesters, began chanting slogans against Supreme Leader.

At least eight people died in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters across Iran late last month, including a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

It was the worst bloodshed since the height of the unrest immediately after disputed June presidential election.

“Night time attacks on defenceless student dormitories and daytime assaults on students at university campuses, venues of education and learning, is not a sign of strength. ... Nor is beating up students and their mass imprisonment,” the letter read.

The letter referred to attacks by pro-government paramilitary Basij forces on pro-opposition students inside Tehran University campus last month. The attacks were launched after students took to the streets on December 7 on more than a dozen campuses in the biggest anti-government protests in months.

The professors said none of the attackers, who chanted slogans in support of Ayatollah Khamenei while beating students, have been punished. They demanded Ayatollah Khamenei also order that all students arrested in the protests be released.

“Unfortunately, all these [attacks] were carried out under the pretext of protecting Islam” and the position of Supreme Leader, the professors said.

Iranian students were the driving force of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and they led anti-government protests last month that revitalised the opposition movement, even as opposition leaders struggle to dent the power of the ruling establishment.

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