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: December 12, 2023

Attack Types: Prosecution | Loss of Position

Institution(s):Babol University of Medical Sciences

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 12, 2023, Dr. Fatemeh Rajaei-Rad, a maxillofacial surgeon who teaches at Babol University of Medical Sciences, reported on her Instagram page that she had been fired from her teaching position due to her vocal opposition to the mandatory hijab in Iran. Local authorities also filed a legal case against her.

On October 26, Rajaei-Rad attended a ceremony at which she received a certificate of appreciation for her outstanding contributions to her field as an exemplary surgeon, appearing without the mandatory hijab.

On November 28, authorities sealed Rajei-Rad’s office in Amol and filed a legal case against her. Local figures, including the Imam of Amol and the city’s army commander, reportedly exerted pressure leading to the legal case. Dr. Rajaei-Rad was later dismissed from her teaching position.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal and prosecution of an academic in apparent retaliation for exercising her right to freedom of expression – conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is a party. Higher education and government authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Dismissals and prosecution aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.