On March 7, 2023, Allameh Tabataba’i University reportedly banned more than 30 students from entering the campus.
The banned students had participated in nationwide protests against the Iranian government’s response to alleged poisonings at girls’ schools across the country. In November 2022, girls began to be hospitalized for symptoms including nausea, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, numbness and hand or leg pain. The symptoms began after they had eaten in school or university canteens. The Iranian education department rejected the claims of poisoning, saying those who were hospitalized—mostly young women—were suffering from “mass hysteria.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned by a university banning students for their peaceful exercise of their rights 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 to. Higher education authorities should refrain from such disciplinary actions and respect students’ exercise of the rights to freedom of expression. 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.