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Iran's Academic Crackdown Continues

Students at the women-only Al-Zahra University in Tehran were among those to stage sit-in strikes. Photo credit: BBC

September 17, 2023 marked the first anniversary of Iran's anti-establishment Women, Life, Freedom protests, with no letup in the Iranian government's brutal crackdown with the authorities relentlessly targeting academics, intellectuals, journalists, and universities, resulting in the expulsion of an increasing number of scholars.

In August 2023, at least five prominent academics faced forced expulsion from leading universities across the country, intensifying the mounting pressure on higher education institutions. Among those affected were renowned historian Daryoush Rahmanian from the University of Tehran, Ali Sharifi Zarchi, an esteemed professor specializing in bioinformatics and artificial intelligence at Sharif University of Technology, along with sociology lecturer Mahdi Khoei and psychology lecturers Amaneh Aali and Hamideh Khademi from Tehran's Allameh Tabatabaei University. It is crucial to recognize that these five dismissals are not isolated incidents but rather emblematic of a broader and deeply concerning trend.

According to reports from local media outlets, since President Ebrahim Raisi took office two years ago, over 50 academics have been summarily dismissed or expelled from their positions, often without substantiated reasons. As of October 2023, the outlook for academic freedom and autonomy in higher education in Iran has prompted a wave of mass emigration. Although reliable official statistics are unavailable, many university students have left the country to pursue education and life elsewhere. The Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has commented on this new wave of emigration, noting that "most of the emigrants are gifted and expert individuals." According to Shahin Akhundzadeh, a professor at Tehran University's school of medicine, at least 50 students who were enrolled in the past five years left the country, during the government crackdown on the protests.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) vehemently condemns these unjustified dismissals, detentions, persecutions, convictions, and mistreatments endured by Iranian academics, students, and researchers. We fervently call for their immediate release, reinstatement, and exoneration. At ESW, we stand unwaveringly in solidarity with those who courageously advocate for their rights. We further implore the international community to exert as much pressure as possible on the Iranian government, compelling it to uphold its commitments under international human rights law and agreements.

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