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: January 24, 2024

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Shahid Beheshti University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 24, 2024, Mostafa Azarakhshi publicly announced on Instagram that Beheshti University had dismissed him from his teaching position in the Faculty of Theology.

Beheshti University initially suspended Azarakshi in October 2023, after he, along with a group of professors, signed a statement in favor of the release of students detained during the protests.

The dismissal of Azarakhshi mirrors a broader trend of punitive actions taken against professors who have shown support for protesters. Notable examples include Hassan Bagherinia, a former professor of psychology and educational sciences at Hakim Sabzevari University (see report), and Alireza Azad, a professor of theology at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (see report), both of whom have faced forced retirement or dismissal in recent months.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of a scholar in apparent retaliation for exercising his 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 Iran is a party. Higher education authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Dismissals aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.