SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 11, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Tehran

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Three students from the University of Tehran (UT)  have reportedly been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to six years, in connection with their participation in widespread protests that started in December 2017.

Starting in late December, a growing number of Iranians began holding demonstrations across the country to protest economic conditions and government corruption. At least 22 people were killed during the protests, which were frequently the sites of intense clashes between riot police and demonstrators. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), more than 40 Iranian university students were arrested between December 30, 2017 and January 4, 2018. According to two reformist members of Iran’s Parliament, most of the student arrests and detentions were preventative.

Among the UT students arrested during the demonstrations were Mohsen Haghshenas, Sina Rabeiei, and Leila Hosseinzadeh. On March 11, 2018, it was reported that Mr. Haghshenas, a theater student, was sentenced to two years in prison. Mr. Rabeiei, a social sciences student, was sentenced to one year in prison and banned from leaving the country for two years. Ms. Hosseinzadeh, an anthropology student, was reportedly sentenced to six years in prison and a two-year ban on traveling abroad. They were all reportedly convicted on charges of “propaganda against the regime,” “action against national security,” and “disturbing peace and public order through their participation in protests.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of students in apparent retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and academic freedom – conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such rights and to refrain from arbitrary actions intended to restrict them.  In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom, due process and undermine democratic society generally.