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: September 14, 2023

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Kharazmi University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 14, 2023, security forces arrested Samaneh Asghari, prominent children’s rights activist and industrial engineering student at Kharazmi University, for her participation in the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests. Asghari was later sentenced to one year in prison.

Security forces arrested Asghari at her residence in Tehran on September 14, later releasing her on bail from Qarchak Prison on October 4, 2023.

At a hearing on February 10, 2024, Branch 29 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court initially charged Asghari with “assembly and collusion to commit a crime against internal/external security,” “disturbance of public order,” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” sentencing her to one year in prison. Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals confirmed her sentence that same day.

Asghari had previously faced detention in connection with nationwide protests in October 2022. However, she was released from Qarchak Prison in April 2023 as part of nationwide “amnesty” orders emitted by Supreme leader Ali Khamenei in March 2023 to pardon some 20,000 detained anti-government protesters.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary imprisonment and prosecution of a students in apparent retalitiation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly — 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and and harms related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.