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: April 10, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Sharif University of Technology

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 10, 2020, alleged agents from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) reportedly arrested Sharif University of Technology (SUT) students, Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi.

As of this report, there are few public details regarding the circumstances of the students’ arrests. According to accounts from family members, roughly a dozen IRGC agents apprehended Younesi at an unknown location, beat him, and brought him to his home, where they conducted a warrantless raid. The agents then reportedly confiscated Younesi’s phone and computer, and took him to an undisclosed location. Younesi’s brother has reported that their parents were also taken into custody, questioned, and released after about four hours. Authorities also reportedly arrested Moradi, confiscated his phone and computer, and brought him to an undisclosed location. Younesi’s brother reports that Younesi and Moradi were later transported to Evin Prison. Sources close to the students allege that they do not have access to a lawyer.

Younesi and Moradi are reportedly both award-winning students at SUT. Younesi, a computer engineering student, has won recent gold medals in the Iranian National Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad and the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics. Moradi, a physics student, has also medaled in the Iranian National Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad.

On May 5, Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, a spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary, accused Younesi and Moradi of being affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an exiled political opposition group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by the government of Iran. Esmaili alleged that the students were in contact with MEK and claimed that authorities found explosives in their homes. Iranian authorities have not disclosed evidence supporting these allegations.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and alleged beating of students. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from such actions, and to ensure detainees’ well-being while in custody, as well as to protect the rights of detainees to due process and access to legal counsel. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, arbitrary arrests, detention, and related attacks on students undermine democratic society generally and, if in connection with academic activity, may undermine academic freedom.

UPDATE: On November 11, 2021, Amnesty International reported that Ministry of intelligence agents had beaten both Younesi and Moradi and held them in prolonged solitary confinement to extract forced “confessions.”

UPDATE: On April 25, 2022, the Tehran Revolutionary Court informed Younesi and Moradi’s lawyers that both students have been sentenced to 16 years in prison on national security charges. The charges include “sabotaged public facilities,” “spread propaganda against the system,” and attempted to “cooperate with opposition groups.” The lawyers reported to AP News that the students would appeal the verdict.