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Iranian University Officials Crackdown on Academics and Students

Students of Art University in Tehran. Photo credits: NCRI Women’s Committee

As the Women, Life, Freedom protests enters into its ninth month, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a US-based non-governmental organization, has reported on the details of the renewed crackdown on those peacefully protesting the government’s restrictive policies at higher education institutions. Ever since the Women, Life, Freedom protests started in September 2022, the Iranian Islamic Republic (IRI) authorities have increased pressure on students, scholars, and higher education institutions, arbitrarily arresting over 720 students, most detained without access to legal representation. University officials and committees are now operating as an extension of the repressive Iranian regime to suppress peacefully protesting students and academic staff.

Students who attended the protests or displayed sympathy with the protestors were academically penalized by restricting access to university campuses, by issuing failing grades in their coursework, in addition to suspensions. The CHRI also notes a new trend in the use of banishments for the student protestors by university committees. In addition to suspensions and other academic punitive measures, many students are also “banished.” Banishments are used by the Iranian courts to exile an individual to a remote village in order to isolate them from their community and family. The disciplinary hearings set up by the university committees have ruled unfairly by not allowing students and staff to speak or defend their case. In some cases, rulings against students have been issued in absentia.

The universities have also begun to reinforce religious dress codes. Since March 2023, Tehran University of Science and Technology has scheduled disciplinary hearings for 21 students who violated the dress code. Moreover, 11 professors have been scheduled for disciplinary hearings for signing a statement against the policing of female students on campus. Officials at Al-Zahra University have suspended 35 women who refused to wear the hijab. On June 17th, 10 individuals from a group of students who had gathered for a peaceful sit-in to protest this renewed enforcement on the wearing of the hijab were detained arbitrarily by state security at Art University of Tehran. Subsequently, students throughout Iran have issued statements in support of the detainees, condemning the state’s actions, and continuing to oppose the state’s restrictive policies.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide stands in solidarity with those who strive for freedom and safety across the world and now especially with the protestors in Iran. We condemn the Iranian government’s systematic and recurrent breaches of international human rights law and the ill-treatment of protesters. We call upon all international organizations and academic and professional associations devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to join us in urging the Iranian government to end this ideologically motivated and inhumane crackdown on university campuses, disproportionately targeting women and young girls. We ask for the international community’s full attention and to make all efforts to get the Iranian government to honor their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights treaties, including to ensuring free and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need, and the revoking of the death sentences, which have been issued following illegitimate trials.

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