During the past few years, Iranian universities have been experiencing a new phase of government intervention in academic affairs, which is considered a second Cultural Revolution. (The first Cultural Revolution took place following the 1979 Revolution. The newly established Islamic Republic instituted a policy of purging the universities of “un-Islamic” faculty and students and revising the curriculum. The government officially shut down all universities in June 1980. They were reopened gradually over a period of the next two years.)
The present government policy is demonstrated on several fronts and is resulting in severe infringements on academic freedoms. The dimensions of this policy include:
· Permanently Barring Students from Education: The Intelligence Ministry is routinely notifying the Education Ministry of lists of students who should not be admitted to higher education programs, regardless of their academic performance. These students are denied the right to education solely based on politically motivated evaluations by agents of Ministry of Intelligence. Human Rights Watch documented the cases of 17 students thus barred from higher education during the 2005-2006 academic year.
· Widespread Temporary Suspensions: Another recent ploy by the government to silence and intimidate students is to issue suspension sentences of one or more semesters against an increasing number of students. According to Iranian student groups, during the 2007 Fall Semester alone, university disciplinary committees suspended at least 37 students for up to two semesters. During the same period, the disciplinary committees summoned at least another 59 students whose sentences are yet to be issued. Also, Human Rights Watch reported that during the 2005-2006 academic year, disciplinary committees suspended at least 41 students for up to two semesters.
· Prosecution and imprisonment of student activists: The Judiciary routinely summons and prosecutes student activists. At the moment, three students at Amir Kabir University are in prison: Ahamd Ghasaban, Majid Tavakoli, and Ehsan Mansouri. During a nationwide sweep by intelligence and security agents in December 2007 and January 2008, the authorities detained more than sixty students. The majority of these students have been released after posting heavy bails and are subject to further prosecution.
· Forced retirements and denying contract renewal for members of faculty: According to Iranian academics, the government is actively pursuing a policy of purging the universities from faculty members it considers “problematic.” The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is currently investigating the scope and details of such cases.
see also: www.hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/iran1006/