Students Deserve Right to Education not Detention
(26 November 2008) The health and safety of four students detained after staging a sit-in protest against their suspension from Alameh Tabataba’i University are at risk, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Mahdieh Golroo, Sadiq Shojai, Saeed Feyzallahzadeh, and Majid Dari started a sit-in on 22 November. In the early hours of 25 November, security forces violently attacked them and other students who had gathered in their support and detained the four suspended students.
“We are worried that the students may be subjected to beatings and torture,” stated Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign.
“Detentions, suspensions, and expulsions are not an answer to students who seek their most basic rights. These actions are a gross violation of their right to education,” he added.
On 22 November 2008, the four detained students began a sit-in at the College of Humanities and Literature. At midnight, about 25 security agents attacked them as they were sleeping on the grounds of the campus. The agents beat the students and threw them outside of the university gates. The protesting students continued their sit-in on the sidewalk in front of the gate. The next day, they were joined by their families.
At 1:30 am, on 24 November, security forces began to detain protesting students without any arrest warrants. They transferred Mehdieh Golroo to the Vozara detention center and the other three students were transferred to a police station where they were turned over to the Security Police. All four detainees are currently in Evin prison in Tehran.
During the past three years, more than 300 students at Iranian universities have been either suspended or expelled from continuing their education, simply for expressing their opinions regarding conditions at their academic institutions.
The four detained students had been barred from entering the university campus by the university’s Chancellor, Hojatoleslam Shariati, since May 2007, when elections for the Islamic Student Association took place. Subsequently, a total of eight students, including those detained, were suspended by the University’s Disciplinary Committee and thus prevented from continuing their education.
The suspended students formed the Right to Education Committee, seeking to resume their education by advocating with the authorities, including the Minister of Higher Education. However, all of their requests to authorities were left unanswered. On 30 October 2007, security forces attacked a large gathering in support of suspended students at Alameh Tabataba’i University. Later, the four-semester suspension sentence for the eight students was confirmed, effectively resulting in their expulsion since they could not complete their degrees under such circumstances.
Asal Akhavan, one of the students punished for peacefully expressing their views, confirmed detention of the four students and that they had been transferred to Evin prison.
“The voices of students seeking their legitimate right to education will not be silenced by these detentions,” she said. “How can anyone justify denying hundreds of students from continuing their higher education? Students enter the university by overcoming so many difficulties and yet bring so much hope with them. Doesn’t anyone realize the destructive effect of these actions on the social fabric as well as individuals’ lives? How can we accept the expulsion of Rashid Esmaili, a Master’s student in Human Rights, on verge of graduation, without any explanation whatsoever from the officials? We will certainly persevere in pursuing and demanding our rights,” she added.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called on the Iranian authorities to immediately release the four student detainees as well as all other students in custody in violation of their human rights.
“Iranian officials are well aware of their obligation to respect their citizens’ right to education. They should put an end to these violations. Young men and women who demand nothing more than their right to express themselves and to think freely as they pursue their education deserve the support and solidarity of students around the world and the international community,” Ghaemi said.