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: December 18, 2018

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Sina Higher Education Institute

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In December 2018, Sina Higher Education Institute reportedly expelled Sepehr Shahidi Ghamsari, a civil engineering student and a member of the Bahá’í faith, apparently on the basis of his religious beliefs.

According to a source affiliated with the student’s family, Ghamsari had reportedly completed five semesters of study when he found himself unable to logging into the university website. University administrators allegedly told Ghamsari two weeks later that state authorities “had come to this university and had demanded that the issue of religion in his file be clarified.”

As of this report, there is no public information available indicating whether Ghamsari has attempted to appeal his expulsion.

The university’s decision follows a pattern in which Bahá’í students in Iran are arbitrarily expelled and denied admission to university programs in retaliation for their religious identities. According to Article 1 of Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council’s Student Qualification Regulations, members of the Bahá’í community are restricted from enrolling in universities and are to be expelled from university programs if they are identified as Bahá’í after enrolling.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary expulsion of a student on the basis of religious beliefs — conduct which 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 signatory. University authorities have an obligation to refrain from expulsions and other disciplinary measures based on students’ religious beliefs. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents undermine the right to education, academic freedom, and undermine democratic society generally.