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: February 04, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Tehran

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On February 4, 2020, an Iranian court convicted and sentenced University of Tehran student Ali Nanvaei to six months imprisonment in connection with his alleged participation in protests in November 2019.

Starting on November 15, 2019, students, activists, and citizens held nationwide protests calling for an overhaul of the political system and government, sparked by a hike in fuel prices. Security forces reportedly used violent force, including firearms, tear gas, batons, and water cannons against protesters.

On November 18, UT students reportedly gathered on campus to join a demonstration with protesters and students from other universities. When the students attempted to leave campus, they were reportedly confronted by paramilitary forces who apparently prevented them from doing so. They arrested several students, including Nanvaei (see report). Nanvaei told Ensaf News that plainclothes officers later beat him.

On February 4, 2020, a preliminary court examined Nanvaei’s case and convicted him of “disruption of public order.” The court sentenced him to six months in prison, suspended for two years, 74 lashes, and transcribing three books designated by the court.

On May 30, it was reported that a Tehran Appeals Court upheld the sentence without a hearing.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest, conviction, and sentencing of, and violence against a student in apparent retaliation for his alleged exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. State authorities are obligated to refrain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent expression and assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, prosecutions and violence intended to punish expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.