On January 26, 2023, the Hakim Sabzevari University Students Union Council announced that Hassan Bagherinia, a professor of psychology, had been suspended for publicly expressing support for student protesters over social media.
Starting on September 17, protests spread across Iran, including at various universities, following the death-in-custody of Jina Amini (also known as Mahsa Amini) after so-called “morality police” detained her. Police and security forces have responded to the protests with violence and arrests.
The university administration reportedly removed Bagherinia’s name from the list of courses offered in the upcoming semester and did not officially inform him of the suspension or of any rationale behind the decision.
Following the suspension, on February 23, students published a statement signed by 496 students calling for the cancellation of Bagherinia’s suspension.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a higher education institution dismissing faculty for exercising their right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Higher education officials should respect scholars’ exercise of such rights and refrain from disciplinary actions that punish or deter nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, disciplinary actions intended to deter or punish support for student protests on campus undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.