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: November 15, 2019

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Razi University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 15, 2019, it was reported that Razi University had expelled graduate student Siavash Hayati, apparently on the basis of his religious beliefs.

Siavash Hayati is a member of the Yarsan religious minority in Iran and the spokesperson of a civil society organization advocating for Yarsan rights. Yarsan students have sometimes been denied access to higher education in Iran because Yarsanism is not officially recognized by the Iranian Constitution.

Hayati entered a graduate program at Razi University in 2016. In August 2019, university administrators reportedly barred him from defending his thesis and refused to provide him with a written explanation for their actions. Hayati claims that administrators told him that he did not have the right to continue his studies under Iranian law because he had declared Yarsanism as his religion in university registration forms. He has further stated that administrators informed him that they could not help him unless he changed his religious identity from Yarsan to Muslim on his documents. By November, Hayati reported that he had been expelled from Razi University.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary expulsion of a student on the basis of his 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.