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: April 06, 2024

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Isfahan

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 6, 2024, Iranian police arrested Fahimeh Soltani–a University of Isfahan law student who has been a supporter of Iran’s Women, Life, Freedom movement–from her home.

This marks the second time since the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising began in September 2022 that police have arrested and detained Soltani in connection to her advocacy efforts. She was initially arrested in November 2022 and released three months later as part of the Iranian judiciary’s “Amnesty” decree in February.

In June 2023, the University of Isfahan’s Disciplinary Committee banned Soltani from studying for two and a half semesters for her activities related to the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. Soltani appealed the suspension arguing university security personnel had fabricated the claims underlying her suspension.

Late in the evening on April 2, 2024, a university administrator called Soltani and informed her that she had been suspended for an additional two semesters, a total of 4 semesters of suspension. University officials summoned Soltani to further discuss her suspension on April 4; however she did not attend the meeting.

On April 6, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) raided Soltani’s home and arrested her. Security personnel, reportedly dressed as postal workers, confiscated Soltani’s phone and computer. Her family appeared to connect her failure to attend the meeting discussing her suspension to her arrest, saying, “she was summoned by university officials via phone. Since the request was made outside of office hours, she did not go there. Subsequently, the IRGC’s Intelligence in Isfahan summoned and arrested her upon her appearance.”

At the time of this report in July 2024, Soltani’s whereabouts were unknown. Her family has not had contact with Soltani since her arrest.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary imprisonment and suspension of a student in apparent retaliation 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 undermine democratic society generally.