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 22, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Tehran

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 22, 2021, an Iranian court convicted and sentenced University of Tehran student Leila Hosseinzadeh to five years’ imprisonment and a two-year ban on internet activities, in apparent retaliation for her nonviolent activism.

Hosseinzadeh is a student union activist who has previously faced arrest and prosecution for her protest activities.

In this latest case, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran charged Hosseinzadeh with “assembly and collusion to act against national security.” The charges are reportedly based on her participation in a demonstration celebrating the birthday of imprisoned student-activist Mohammad Sharifi Mogadam. Authorities alleged that demonstrators, who protested peacefully outside the Sharif University of Technology, in Iran, chanted anthems of the banned communist party.

According to a social media post by her lawyer, Hosseinzadeh will appeal the court’s ruling.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution and imprisonment of a student for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on campus — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights law 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 an obligation from taking legal action against such conduct, so long as it is peaceful and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, prosecutions and imprisonment intended to restrict or retaliate against student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.