April 16, 2019 | New York, NY — Scholars at Risk (SAR), in cooperation with the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham, has filed a submission with the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review, highlighting attacks and pressures on higher education in Iran. Drawing on data collected by SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project between October 2014 and March 2019, the submission identifies major trends involving violations of the rights of scholars, students, and other members of the higher education community, including:
- Wrongful imprisonment and prosecution of academics in retaliation for their scholarly work or nonviolent exercise of the right to free expression. Iranian authorities have detained and prosecuted a number of scholars and students on national security-related grounds with little or no publicly-released evidentiary support. One scholar was sentenced to death, another died in prison, and many others have suffered from significant health complications while detained.
- Restrictions on student expression including the use of violent force, arrests, prosecutions, and administrative and disciplinary proceedings. Following the outbreak of nationwide protests in December 2017 and January 2018, more than 40 university students were reportedly arrested and 150 to 200 students were disciplined by or expelled from their universities for their involvement in the protests.
- Discrimination against members of the Baha’i faith in higher education through both administrative and criminal penalties. Iranian law continues to prohibit members of the Baha’i faith from enrolling in universities. During this review period, scores of Baha’i students were expelled from universities, and at least two Baha’i teachers were convicted and sentenced to prison on national security-related charges, in connection with their roles as educators.
SAR urges UN member states to call on Iranian authorities to reaffirm their commitment to academic freedom by, among other things: unconditionally releasing scholars and students held for their nonviolent academic activity, expression, association, or religious identity, and refraining from future arrest and prosecution of such scholars and students; revising national statutes, decrees and practices to comply with international standards relating to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association; repealing policies that discriminate against minorities, including the Baha’i community, in higher education; and committing to protect higher education by publicly endorsing the Principles of State Responsibility to Protect Higher Education from Attack. SAR stands ready to engage international actors in dialogue about trends, incidents, and recommendations included in the submission.