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: September 29, 2022

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Azad University of Tehran

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 29, 2022, state security forces arrested student activist Shahriyar Shams for his social activism related to prisoners’ rights and the women’s rights protests that had recently begun in Iran.

Security forces arrested Shams during a raid on his house. According to Shams, security forces locked him in a five-person cell at Evin prison and interrogated him. He was charged with “gathering and colluding to act against national security,” for “propaganda against the state” and “spreading disinformation” because of book clubs he had facilitated and information that he shared on social media. Shams was released on bail after a prison riot on October 16 and faces up to five years in prison.

At the time of his arrest, Shams was on furlough from another prison sentence after originally being arrested at 18 years of age in December 2017. After that arrest, the Tehran Revolutionary Council sentenced Shams to six years in prison for “gathering and colluding to act against national security” and for “propaganda activities against the state.” At the time of his sentence, he was also charged with “distributing public opinion” and banned from participating in social groups. He was granted a medical furlough in 2022 after one year in prison.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a student in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly – 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 a signatory. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.