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 09, 2019

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Islamic Azad University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 9, 2019, authorities reportedly expelled Islamic Azad University (IAU) student Badi Safajou, apparently on the basis of his identity as a member of the Baha’i faith.

Mr. Safajou was reportedly barred from studying at a state university in 2016, because of his faith. That same year, he entered IAU, a semi-private university, where he began studying chemical engineering. Mr. Safajou, described as good student with a high GPA, was expected to graduate in the spring semester. On January 9, while taking a final exam, IAU authorities escorted Mr. Safajou out of the exam room and informed him he was being expelled.

For years, members of Iran’s Bahá’í community have experienced various forms of systemic discrimination, including within the education sector. 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 democratic society generally.