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 01, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Lankaran State University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Azerbaijan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On 1 February 2021, police detained four student activists protesting in front of Lankaran State University (LSU) over complaints about alleged exam score irregularities.

A student activist group known as the “Student Power Center” reported hearing complaints from LSU students who claimed that they had received exam scores lower than what the faculty had told them to anticipate.

Reports indicate that students Ahmad Mammadli, chair of the Student Power Center, Jalil Zabidov, Orkhan Iskenderli, and Samir Akhundzadeh gathered outside of LSU to read a statement in support of the students who had requested a hearing about the alleged exam irregularities.

According to Radio Free Europe, police arrived before the students could read the statement and detained the students, who were taken to Lankaran City Police Department. Mammadli reported that while in detention, the protesters were charged with violating social distancing protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mammadli denied the charge to Radio Free Europe, stating that the group of students, only three people large at the time of detainment, had properly social-distanced. 

On February 2, after being kept in jail overnight and interrogated by police, the students appeared in Lankaran District Court. Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry press service commented on the incident, stating that the students “tried to disrupt public order,” and were released after a judge at the district court issued the students a warning.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of students peacefully exercising the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — 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 Azerbaijan is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against expressive activities and assemblies so long as they are peaceful and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions in response to peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.


*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).