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: November 22, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Sulaimani

Region & Country:Western Asia | Iraq

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 22, 2021, police reportedly used force against University of Sulaimani (UoS) students participating in a protest calling for the reinstatement of student allowances.

On November 21, students began a series of protests demanding that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reinstate student allowances that had been canceled in 2014, due to funding shortfalls caused by low oil prices and a need for funds to fight ISIL. The allowances allotted 60,000 to 100,000 dinars (about $40 to $70 USD) to each student on a monthly basis. The students argued that with ISIL mostly defeated and the price of oil recovering, allowances should be resumed.

On November 22, hundreds of students gathered in front of UoS, blocking the main road to the campus. Police reportedly used electric batons and fired tear gas at students, injuring several students and journalists.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force by police in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a party. State authorities have an obligation to ensure the security of higher education communities and to refrain from violent or disproportionate actions in response to student protests. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.