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: January 03, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Tehran

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 3, 2022, the University of Tehran voted not to extend the contract of social policy expert Reza Omidi, apparently on political or ideological grounds.

According to Radio Farda, Omidi is a member of the Iranian Sociological Association’s Board of Directors and held an associate professor position with the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tehran prior to his dismissal. He researches and advocates for social policies to combat poverty and inequities in Iran.

The head of the faculty, Dr. Gholamreza Jamshidiha, stated in an interview that Omidi had been under a year-long contract that was extended for three months, but did not receive the necessary vote in an admissions board meeting held on January 3 to extend his role further. His dismissal was announced publicly later that month. According to Ensaf News, Jamshidiha specifically cited concerns from security agencies as a reason Omidi’s contract was not renewed; however, the legitimacy of this claim has been disputed after inquiries with Iranian security bodies allegedly revealed there were no concerns to preclude Omidi from maintaining his role.

Academics in Iran and around the world have expressed concern that Omidi’s dismissal, along with other recent dismissals of prominent Iranian academics, is an unjustified attack on academic freedom based on political or ideological concerns, similar to widespread dismissals seen under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the end of January, 870 academics, students, and other university staff wrote to the University of Tehran’s chancellor and condemned Omidi’s dismissal. In the letter, the signatories also stated that Omidi “has never put personal interests before scientific, social and national interests” (translated from Persian by Iran Front Page). The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association similarly expressed concern over Omidi’s dismissal despite “an outstanding record of scholarship, teaching, and service” and called for his immediate reinstatement.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the dismissal of an academic, apparently due to political or ideological considerations. State authorities and university leadership have an obligation to refrain from coercive actions that punish, restrict, or chill academic activity or viewpoints. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, politically or ideologically motivated dismissals of academics undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.