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: November 26, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Isfahan University of Medical Sciences

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 26, 2023, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences expelled Zoha Abdi, a final year Ph.D. student in pharmaceutical sciences because of her support for a protester involved in “Women, Life, Freedom” demonstrations.

Abdi announced her expulsion on Instagram, stating that it was a consequence of helping a protester injured during nationwide protests in October 2022, first at her home, and later by transferring the individual to her family’s hospital in Isfahan.

Security forces arrested Abdi on October 26, 2022, and subsequently released her as part of nationwide “amnesty” orders emitted in early 2023.

Abdi’s expulsion leaves her unable to defend her Ph.D. thesis and complete her graduation.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a higher education institution dismissing a student in apparent retaliation for exercising her right to freedom of expression. Higher education officials should respect students’ exercise of such rights and refrain from disciplinary actions that punish or deter nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions intended to deter or punish support for ongoing protests undermine academic freedom and and harms related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.