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: October 08, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Sharif University of Technology

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 8, 2023, Sharif University of Technology permanently banned Ali Sharifi Zarchi, a professor in the Computer Engineering Department, from teaching at the institution.

Zarchi had previously expressed support for students involved in the “Women, Life, Freedom” protest movement and at one point threatened to suspend his classes unless detained student protesters were released.

On August 26, 2023, Zarchi announced on social media that he had been dismissed from his position. He reported that the university’s administration had notified him of his dismissal in a letter that accused him of failing to submit a request for a contract extension, however Zarchi posted evidence on X/Twitter proving that he had submitted multiple requests in 2023. The letter also cited his failure to “complete part of the educational tasks of postgraduate research studies,” but did not name specific unfulfilled obligations.

Following Zarchi’s announcement, student and academic leaders called for his reinstatement. On September 1, Sharif University’s Computer Engineering Department published a statement calling for a reversal of the dismissal. The backlash led to a further review of the case by the university’s Executive Board of Recruitment. However, on October 8, 2023, Zarchi shared that the Executive Board had decided he must be permanently barred from teaching at the institution.

Observers have reported that the pace at which professors have been dismissed from their positions accelerated in August 2023, ahead of the start of the new school year.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a higher education institution dismissing a member of the faculty in apparent retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression. 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 and harms related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.