August 21, 2023

University Punishment Ahead of the Anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s Killing in Police Detention

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The tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in Tehran in September last year sparked one of Iran’s most significant protests in recent history. With the anniversary of Amini’s death approaching, tensions have been escalating.

According to sources, university students have been subjected to intensified actions this week. In a move seen by many as a preemptive strike against potential protests, over 200 female students from Bu Ali University in Hamedan have reportedly been expelled from dormitories without prior notice, as a result of an allegation of non-compliance with mandatory hijab and smoking.

There have also been increasing reports of student summonses, academic suspensions, and the deployment of motorcycle patrols to issue warnings about mandatory hijab at various universities, especially the University of Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences. In addition, students at Al-Zahra University reported academic suspensions, where over 35 students were suspended for violating the ‘loose hijab’ policy.

At Noshiravani University in Babol, a ‘Steering Committee’ was formed and tasked with enforcing the dress code. This has led to the interruption of lectures, regardless of the presence of the professor, in order to warn students about dress code violations.

Meanwhile, a spate of reportedly threatening text messages have been sent to students, cautioning them against violating the dress code: “Considering your behavior contrary to student ethics, especially your complete covering, this is your final warning.”

A number of private universities, including Azad University campus in Shahr-e-Qods, have also been issuing ‘Hijab Warning’ leaflets reminding students about the specific dress code regulations in their universities.

Moreover, numerous students are being summoned by security institutions. At least 12 students from Tarbiat Modares University were reportedly summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence, while many more received calls from anonymous numbers asking for written commitments against participating in protests.

A wide range of former detainees from last year’s revolutionary uprising against the Islamic Republic have also been called into custody by security agencies and are being pressured to remain at home during the upcoming weeks as part of a broader and anticipatory crackdown.

Additionally, Mehdi Golshani, Director of Public Transport and Regional Affairs at the Tehran Municipality, announced on August 11th that correspondence has been initiated to transition university activities to online platforms until October 2nd, with the reported aim of alleviating traffic congestion in the capital. However, this period stretches beyond the anniversary of Amini’s death and the outbreak of nationwide protests.

Amid the involvement of educators and students in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, the ‘Student Disciplinary Regulations’ were updated by the Ministries of Health and Science, Research, and Technology of Iran. The updated regulations, communicated to universities starting from the beginning of Azar (late November last year), criminalize any form of public assembly against the Islamic Republic or other protest activities, including online and offline dissemination of statements. The updated regulations also curtail political freedoms, severely limiting student membership in political organizations, as stated in articles 38, 43, and 44. Additionally, paragraph 2 of article 32 states that student virtual groups – including Telegram channels – with more than 100 members also require approval from the Committee for Monitoring Student Publications.

The Islamic Republic’s repressive efforts have not spared faculty members eitherr. Professors from Shahid Beheshti University and the University of Kurdistan have been suspended or detained, indicating that a wider net is being cast by the Islamic Republic to keep potential unrest at bay.

NIAC deplores these efforts to stifle freedom of expression, women’s rights and basic political activities in contradiction of Iran’s international human rights obligations.  All students deserve the right to pursue their education with the rights to freedom of expression upheld, including freedom of choice when it comes to attire. NIAC reiterates its call for the Iranian government to end its crackdown on peaceful protesters, and release all students, professors and other prisoners of conscience who are unjustly detained. 

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