On February 10, 2020, Iranian state authorities reportedly arrested Bahareh Hedayat, a student at the University of Tehran and a well known human rights activist, after she was summoned by campus security.
Hedayat’s arrest occurred amidst an apparent government crackdown on activists and journalists ahead of parliamentary elections that were to take place later in February. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), at least ten journalists were the subject of summonses and search warrants issued by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from late January to early February 2020. Sources indicate that those targeted by the IRGC have been accused of expression critical of the authorities response to protesters denouncing dire economic conditions in November 2019 and demonstrators decrying the government’s apparent lack of transparency around the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner over Tehran in January 2020. State security forces reportedly used lethal and otherwise violent force against protesters during those months, with some sources estimating over one thousand fatalities.
Hedayat, who has previously served time in prison for her activism, was reportedly arrested after being summoned to her university’s security office on February 10; university security officials have denied any role in her arrest. On February 16, she was transferred to Qarchak Prison, a women’s prison located in southern Iran, according to Radio Farda. While in state custody, Hedayat reportedly began a hunger strike to protest beatings that she allegedly suffered. On February 18, authorities released Hedayat on bail.
As of this report, the evidentiary basis for Hedayat’s arrest remains undisclosed and it is unclear whether she faces charges.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the arbitrary arrest of a student in apparent connection with the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected by 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. SAR is further concerned by allegations that a student was beaten in custody. Authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such activity, and to ensure the well-being of detainees. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, the use of arbitrary detentions and the apparent use of university personnel to carry out arrests to restrict or retaliate against expressive activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.