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: July 13, 2022

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Allameh Tabataba’i University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 13, 2022, Iranian security forces arrested Melika Gharegozlou (also written as Qaragozlu and Garagozlu), a journalism student at Allameh Tabataba’i University and well known student activist.

Gharegozlou’s arrest took place after she posted a video of herself not wearing a hijab in protest of the mandatory religious head covering law. On August 24, 2022, Gharegozlou was released on bail; but on September 20, 2022, the Tehran Revolutionary Court reportedly sentenced Gharegozlou to three years and eight months in prison for “assembling and colluding to act against national security” under Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code (IPC) and an additional eight months in prison for “propaganda against the state” under Article 500 of the IPC.

On October 2, 2022, Iranian security forces broke into Gharegozlou’s home and arrested her for the second time for unknown reasons. She was taken to Gharchak prison. At the time of this second arrest, Gharegozlou remained out of prison on bail, waiting for the results of her appeal of the September 2022 court sentence. It has been reported the break in and arrest in October could be related to Gharegozlou’s prison sentence from September or to her video without her hijab from July.

In November 2022, Gharegozlou was taken to the Aminabad psychiatric hospital where she was reportedly tortured. Gharegozlou went on hunger strike to protest her ill-treatment. In late December, her sentence was suspended and she was released from Gharchak Prison.

Gharegozlou had previously been arrested in 2018 for protesting the government.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a student in apparent retaliation for her peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression – conduct which 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 Iran is party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions intended to deter or punish organized student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.