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: June 16, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Tehran University of Art

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 16, 2023, state security forces violently attacked students peacefully protesting Tehran University of Art’s policy mandating that female students wear the maghna’eh, a black cloth that covers their head, face, and chest. Security forces detained 10 student protesters.

The detentions followed several days of protest that began on June 14, and a series of escalating responses by security forces. On June 14, during the early hours of the sit-in, the university’s security guards reportedly threatened the students. The Student Union Council also reported that the university cut off access to food and water and refused to allow those protesting to use the university’s toilets. The protest continued the following day, on June 15, when security guards clashed with student demonstrators, sending some to the hospital. On June 16, Iranian security forces again beat students, arresting 10 protesters and taking them away in a van and holding them in detention for several hours. In the following days, security forces reportedly made threatening calls to students who had participated in the protests and summoned some for interrogation.

The protests were a reaction to multiple attempts by the university to mandate a dress code for females that includes the maghna’eh. Most recently, on May 28, university authorities barred around 40 female students from attending classes for not fully complying with the dress code (see report). Two weeks later, on June 12, students received a text message stating “Female students must wear a magna’eh starting June 17 if they want to attend university classes.”

These tensions occurred in the context of the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement that spread across Iran, including at universities, after the September 2022 death of Mahsa Jina Amini while in custody of the so-called “morality police.” Police and security forces have responded to the protests with violence and arrests.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence by state security forces, and the arbitrary arrest of students peacefully exercising of the right to freedom of expression and association – 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 use of violence and arbitrary arrests undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.