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, Shirin Bani Nejad, a student at Islamic Azad University’s Sama Andisheh campus, learned that she had been expelled from the university, apparently on the basis of her religious beliefs.

University officials reportedly called Ms. Bani Nejad, a computer science student and a member of the Bahá’í faith, to report to the university, where they informed her that she had been expelled. Several days later, when Ms. Bani Nejad and her parents returned to the university, ostensibly to seek an explanation, university officials reportedly denied being involved in her expulsion and instructed them to inquire with the Ministry of Intelligence. It is unknown whether Ms. Bani Nejad has contacted or heard from the ministry. Sources indicate that Ms. Bani Nejad had already paid her tuition and only needed to pass three more exams in order to graduate.

Ms. Bani Nejad’s 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 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.