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Academic Crackdown Intensifies in Iran as Conservative Cleric is Appointed

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Photo courtesy of Mostafa Meraji / Pixabay.

As the anti-government protests in Iran chanting “Women, Life, Freedom” have entered their sixth month, the Islamic Republic continues to increase the pressure on any form of dissent and resistance. Iranian media outlets reported that on January 28, 2023, nine professors employed at Tehran Azad University (TAU) were forced out of their positions after publicly criticizing the Islamic Republic in the wake of the Women, Life, Freedom protests. The forced retirement of the professors is only the latest in a series of attempts by the Iranian regime to quell political dissent. A previous article posted by Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) reported on a list of other dismissed or suspended academics, many of whom were targeted in retaliation for not disclosing the identities of student protestors to Iranian authorities.

Iranian officials have staunchly refuted the claims that these and other previous academic dismissals were carried out for political reasons. In the instance of the professors expelled from Tehran Azad University, officials claimed their decisions were based on “the pretext of [the professors] reaching the retirement age,” thus driving them into early retirement.

These rationales, however, are clearly false. Susan Safaverdi, one of the TAU professors whose employment was terminated, disclosed that she and the eight other academics had been characterized as “anti-establishment” figures. She also reported that the head of the faculty at TAU had reiterated the sentiment that only those who outwardly support the Islamic Republic’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should be permitted to teach.

While Iranian professors expressing concern for the violation of human rights and academic freedom continue to face retaliation, Iranian scientists too remain worried about the potential political pressures exacerbated by the recent appointment of Abdolhossein Khosropanah as the new Secretary of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Khosropanah, whose responsibilities include overseeing the development of science, academic life, and culture in Iran, has been described as a “hardline conservative cleric” and is assumed that he will stifle scientific progress. He has also supported the use of the death penalty for protestors imprisoned during demonstrations on behalf of Mahsa Amini.

ESW forcefully condemns the continued coordinated punishments of Iranian academics who continue to protest the injustices perpetrated by the Iranian regime in the wake of the Women, Life, Freedom revolution and remains concerned for the status of academic freedom in Iran. We continue to support the Iranian protestors, including students, academics, and civilians, who for decades have been living under systematic discrimination, abuse, and oppression by Iran’s Islamic Republic. We call upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights and academic freedom to strongly protest and condemn the inhumane actions of the Iranian government and security forces; to ask for the unconditional release of all arrested student protestors and a halt to all executions; to demand the reinstatement of all unlawfully dismissed Iranian academics and those who have been forced into early retirement; and to support the local protests on behalf of Mahsa Amini and the Iranian students, who continue to advocate for justice and freedom.

Please send appeals to the following:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

The Office of the Supreme Leader

Jomhouri Street


Islamic Republic of Iran

Fax: +98 21 644 11



President Raisi

The Office of the President

Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection


Islamic Republic of Iran

Javad Zarif

Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Minister’s Office

Imam Khomeini Square


Islamic Republic of Iran

Fax: +98 21 66743149



Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland



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