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: September 03, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Iran Academia

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 3, 2018, authorities reportedly arrested Rezvaneh Mohammadi, a graduate student at Iran Academia, an online university, in apparent retaliation for her work promoting gender equality.

Mohammadi is pursuing a master’s degree in women’s studies at Iran Academia. She is active in promoting gender equality online, and has participated in gender equality workshops. Two days before Mohammadi’s arrest, Iranian authorities reportedly arrested two gender equality workshop leaders (see report). Mohammadi had previously been detained overnight in the city of Gorgon, Golestan, in March, 2018, for allegedly not wearing a compulsory hijab; she was later acquitted by the city court.

On September 3, 2018, agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrested Mohammadi in Tehran without a warrant. Mohammadi was allegedly taken to Esteghlal Hotel, where she was questioned for several hours. Security forces reportedly searched her home and confiscated her birth certificate, passport, laptop, books, and undergraduate certificate from Golestan University, as well as mobile phones belonging to both her and her sister.

Mohammadi was reportedly held in solitary confinement and interrogated for 26 days in Ward 209 of Evin prison, during which she was denied family visits. On September 29, she was reportedly transferred to a women’s dormitory ward in Evin prison before being released on bail on October 20. 

On February 17, 2019, a branch of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran tried Mohammadi in absentia on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security by seeking to normalize homosexual relations”. Authorities have not publicly disclosed why Mohammadi was not present at the trial. Mohammadi’s lawyer was reportedly denied access to the case file and not permitted to defend her in court.s .

Sources indicate that the charge against Mohammadi was based on her research focused on gender equality issues, and her attendance at related workshops. The evidence presented at her trial reportedly included evidence of her attendance at two gender equality conferences abroad, as well as her thesis research. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the imprisonment and prosecution of a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and academic freedom, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. State authorities must refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, such incidents are harmful to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.