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 21, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Sharif University of Technology

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 21, 2022, it became public that Sharif University of Technology had refused to extend the contract of well-known philosopher Arash Abazari, apparently on political grounds.

Abazari, who completed his PhD at John Hopkins University and wrote the well-received book, Hegel’s Ontology of Power: The Structure of Social Domination in Capitalism, had been teaching at Sharif University for three years. Ibrahim Azadegan – the head of the university’s philosophy of science department – was quoted as saying that students had been satisfied with Abazari’s teaching throughout that time, but that the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology had opposed his relationship with the university since the initial hiring process. Azadegan also reportedly told Ensaf News that the dismissal was the result of pressure from a former member of the Iranian Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution and related to false allegations that Abazari had signed an open letter in 2010 that reportedly protested the 2009 Iranian presidential election results. Sharif University issued a statement denying that the decision to not extend Abazari’s contract was politically motivated.

Abazari’s dismissal has been linked to the controversial dismissals of two other prominent Iranian professors – Mohammad Fazeli and Reza Omidi – and widely condemned by the academic community. In a March 2021 letter, the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association expressed concern over all three dismissals and called for their 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.