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: June 01, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In June 2020, the Revolutionary Court of Karaj convicted and sentenced historian Touraj Amini to one year imprisonment, apparently for his research and publications.

Amini is a historian of the Qajar dynasty era and the Iranian Constitutional movement, and the experiences of religious minorities during these periods. He has published works on the history of religious minorities, including Interaction of Religious Minorities and the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and Iranian Baha’i Documents. Amini is also a member of the Baha’i religious community, a minority community that has faced widespread discrimination and persecution in Iran, including denied access to higher education the confiscation of property, and arrest, since the revolution of 1979.

According to Human Rights Watch, Iranian authorities searched Amini’s home in August 2019, confiscating his books and laptops and subsequently summoning him for investigation. In June 2020, he was convicted of “spreading propaganda against the state” based on his research and writings. Considering the charge, it warrants mentioning here that Amini’s research does not extend into the establishment of the Islamic Republic following the 1979 revolution. He was sentenced to one year imprisonment and two years in exile. Amini began serving his sentence in January 2021 after an appeals court reduced it to six months’.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution and imprisonment of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to academic freedom — 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. State authorities have a responsibility to abstain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent academic work. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.