On September 3, 2023, Behrouz (also written as “Behrooz”) Chamanara announced on Instagram that the University of Kurdistan (UOK) had terminated his position as a professor in the Kurdish Language and Literature Department.
According to Chamanara, university authorities informed him of his dismissal during a phone call. Chamanara had submitted the paperwork required for a contract extension to UOK’s recruitment committee at the end of the previous Iranian calendar year. The Student Guild Councils of Iran reported on Telegram that the Kurdistan Intelligence Office had rejected Chamanara’s teaching qualifications, leading UOK to terminate his position. Chamanara wrote that his dismissal was related to security and politics, rather than academics.
Iranian security forces had previously arrested Chamanara on November 26, 2022 shortly after the professor had met with UOK’s president to discuss the student protests taking place at the university following the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini was killed while in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” in September 2022. Her death launched the “Women, Life, Freedom” protest movement. Chamanara was released after around eight days. He reported being interrogated while blindfolded and being refused access to a lawyer.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a higher education institution dismissing a member of the faculty in apparent retaliation for exercising his right to freedom of expression and under apparent pressure from state intelligence forces. Higher education officials should respect scholars’ exercise of such rights and refrain from disciplinary actions that punish or deter nonviolent expressive activity. Government authorities should refrain from interfering in the functioning of higher education. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions intended to deter or punish support for student protests on campus undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.