On May 28, 2023, the Tehran University of Art’s security office reportedly banned 40 female students from campus for their “failure to fully observe” the Islamic dress code.
The ban applied to all female students who refused to wear the maghna’eh, a black cloth covering their head, forehead, chin, and chest, or who wore it “improperly.” The National Student Guild Councils first reported in a May 28, 2023 Telegram post that 40 female students had been conditionally prevented from entering campus without their maghna’eh. The group later reported on June 12, 2023 that the university’s security forces had stated that if the female students decided to flout the ban and appear at campus without their maghna’eh, their suspensions would take full effect. This comes after several attempts over the past decade by the university to make the maghna’eh mandatory for students.
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.