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: January 05, 2019

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Islamic Azad University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 5, 2019, the Islamic Azad University’s Shahryar campus expelled architecture student Sama Nazifi, apparently on the basis of her religious beliefs.

Ms. Nazifi, a member of the Bahá’í faith community, has been described as a top student who received an honors title and a letter of congratulations from the university in 2018. On January 5, 2019, however, university officials reportedly informed her that she had been expelled from the university just prior to her final exams.

Given the university’s public and positive recognition of Ms. Nazifi’s performance and absent evidence suggesting other disciplinary or administrative issues, her expulsion appears to be a part of a pattern, in which Bahá’í students 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 that violates 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. 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 democratic society generally.