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Education under Attack 2010 - Iran

Publisher UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
Publication Date 10 February 2010
Cite as UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Education under Attack 2010 - Iran, 10 February 2010, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 2007, the Iranian government reportedly attempted to curtail the independent activities of civil society, including dissident expression among students, trade unionists, university teachers and intellectuals – with recurring waves of arrest and arbitrary sentencing.483 Previously, in 2006, just one prominent scholar had been arrested and was held for four months. But following student protests against President Ahmadinejad in December 2007, four students were reported to have fled into hiding after vigilantes came looking for them in their dormitories. Under a new star-rating system, politically active students were allegedly rated according to the threat they posed, which resulted in some being banned from studying.484 Since then, a succession of academics, teachers and students have been arrested during the 2007-2009 period on charges of conspiring with "enemy governments", endangering national security, insulting Islam and its clerics, "intent to commit propaganda" or participating in demonstrations. In one incident, 300 teachers were arrested in March 2007 for protesting about working conditions.485

In February 2007, a Montreal doctoral student was released after a month in jail, where she was reportedly subjected to daily interrogations. She had travelled to Iran to make a documentary about the burial rites of Iran's minorities, but had stumbled upon a mass grave of regime opponents executed in 1988. After she was released, she was re-arrested and prevented from leaving the country for nearly a year.486

Two US-Iranian academics were arrested in 2007 and charged with spying and endangering national security. Kian Tajbakhsh, a planning consultant at the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, was arrested in May and held in Evin Prison for four months.487 Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington DC, was held for three months, during which she was subjected to interrogations and solitary confinement and was forced to make a "television confession".488

In October 2007, three members of a reformist student organization at Amir Kabir University were given jail sentences of up to three years for allegedly insulting Islam and its clerics in a newsletter that the students said had been fabricated by hardliners. The three denied the charges. They were refused access to their families and lawyers, and were reportedly subjected to physical and psychological abuse in the Evin Prison.489 Originally, five other students from the university were arrested and also held in solitary confinement. According to Human Rights Watch, even the judiciary admitted that the students had had nothing to do with the forged publications.490

In December 2007, nine teachers were sentenced for taking part in nationwide protests by teachers and academics over working conditions. The sentences ranged from three years' compulsory displacement to a two-grade pay cut.491 According to Education International, threats, beatings, arrests and dismissals had become commonplace across Iran, and more than 700 teachers identified in the protests had had their pay cut, 86 had been suspended and 39 were banned from teaching.492

In April 2008, four students active in the group, Students Seeking Freedom and Equality, were reported to have been tortured.493 Two, Behrooz Karimizadeh and Peyman Piran, were arrested in Tehran in December 2007 and taken to Evin Prison. There they were reportedly subjected to long periods of solitary confinement and physical and psychological ill-treatment. A third, Ali Kantouri, was arrested in Ghazvin. Majid Purmajid was arrested by Ministry of Information agents in Tabriz on 29 March and was hospitalized on 2 April. All were denied access to their lawyers. After December 2007, 40 members of the group were arrested, apparently in connection with demonstrations planned on campuses to commemorate Students' Day on 7 December 2007.494

In August 2008, Dr Mehdi Zakerian, an assistant professor of international law and human rights at Islamic Azad University, Tehran, was detained and held for two months at a Ministry of Intelligence detention centre without being charged. He was dismissed from his university post at Tehran University in September 2007 without explanation in a wave of academic sackings following the election of President Ahmadinejad.495 But he had since become professor of human rights at Islamic Azad University, an independent institution that has been criticized by Ahmadinejad. At the time of his disappearance, he was awaiting clearance from the US Department of Homeland Security to travel to the US to teach at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.496

One teacher remains on death row: Farzad Kamangar, an Iranian Kurdish teacher who campaigned on human rights and was sentenced to death in February 2008 for endangering national security. He was arrested in 2006 and reportedly tortured to such an extent that he required medical attention in the prison hospital, according to evidence received by Human Rights Watch. There was no jury at his trial.497

The Government sets very high bail rates for women activists seemingly to intimidate them. Esha Momeni, a student at California State University Northbridge, arrested on 15 October 2008 while visiting Tehran, was held in solitary confinement until her bail of 2,000 million Rials (Euros 160,000) was met on 10 November 2008.498

On 6 November 2008, Yasser Goli, a Kurdish rights activist and Secretary General of the Kurdish Students' Union of Iranian Universities, detained since 9 October 2007, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and banished to Kerman, in the east of the country, for having contacts with "illegal Kurdish organizations". The crime is punishable by death.499

Two leading international researchers were sent to jail in January 2009, convicted of cooperation with the US government in fomenting a "velvet revolution". Dr Kamiar Alaei and his brother, Dr Arash Alaei, were found guilty of "communicating with an enemy" on the grounds that they had participated in international HIV & AIDS conferences. They had worked with government and religious leaders on education programmes for young people and in prisons.500

On 14 June 2009, the Bassij (paramilitary police) invaded dormitories at Tehran University, attacking students and burning bedrooms. Three male students and one female student were shot dead, according to Reuters, and rooms were set alight. In another incident, the Bassij attacked Golshan Dormitory of the Polytechnic University, Tehran, beat students with batons, used tear gas and broke equipment. They also stormed the engineering faculty of Tehran's Shiraz University, beating one female student and shooting dead at least one student.501

More violent attacks by security forces on students were reported in the provincial towns of Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Bandar Abbas and Mashad.502

The attacks on dormitories echoed events of 1999 when widespread student protests for reform led to the storming of student dormitories, the arrest of students and reports of torture by police and vigilantes.503

On 25 June 2009, 70 university professors were arrested, after a meeting of members of the Islamic Association of University Teachers of Iran with former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.504

On 21 July 2009, Dr Klan Tajbakhsh, the Iranian-American social scientist, was re-arrested in Tehran without legal justification and taken to an undisclosed location.505

The paramilitary Bassij, under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, has recruited boys from middle schools and high schools since 1979.506 In November 2009, the Revolutionary Guards announced that the Bassij militia would soon be established in elementary schools.507

[Refworld note: The source report "Education under Attack 2010" was posted on the UNESCO website ( in pdf format, with country chapters run together. Original footnote numbers have been retained here.]

483 FIDH, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 – Iran (FIDH, 2008); and Education International, "Teachers Will Continue to Strike Despite Threats," NEAR Alert, April 13, 2007. In its Resolution on Iran, the European Parliament expressed its deep concern "about the dramatic increase in the repression of civil-society movements in Iran over the past year" and called on "the Iranian authorities to put an end to harsh repression against women's rights defenders, [...] student movements, minority rights defenders, intellectuals, teachers, journalists, web loggers and trade unionists" European Parliament, European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2007 on Iran, P6_TA(2007)0488 (October 25, 2007).

484 The Guardian, "Students Flee Fearing for Their Lifes (sic)," NEAR Alert, December 19, 2006.

485 Education International, "Teachers Will Continue to Strike Despite Threats."

486 AFP, "Detained French-Iranian Journalist Student Released," NEAR Alert, January 22, 2008.

487 The Guardian, "US-Iranian Academic Released on Bail," NEAR Alert, August 27, 2007.

488 Ibid.

489 Iran-Va-Jahan, "Three Iranian Student Leaders Sentenced to Jail Terms of Up to Three Years," NEAR Alert, October 18, 2007.

490 HRW, "Eight Detained Students at Risk of Torture," NEAR Alert, June 25, 2007.

491 Education International, "Nine Teachers Sentenced to Jail by a Criminal Court in the Province of Hamadan," NEAR Alert, January 7, 2008.

492 Ibid.

493 HRW, "Detained Students at Risk of Torture," NEAR Alert, April 14, 2008.

494 Ibid.

495 Scholars at Risk, "Scholar of Human Rights and International Law Detained in Iran," NEAR Alert, September 3, 2008; and Amnesty International, "Iran: Further Information on Fear of Torture or Ill Treatment/Incommunicado Detention: Dr Mehdi Zakerian (m)," November 28, 2008.

496 The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Legal Scholar Held in Iran Was Scheduled to Teach at Penn," September 3, 2008.

497 Education International, "Iranian Teacher Unionist Could Be Executed Today," NEAR Alert, November 26, 2008; and Education International, "Iran: Farzad Kamangar Still at Risk of Being Executed," December 15, 2009.

498 FIDH, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009, 313.

499 Ibid., 314.

500 International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, "Iranian Doctors Remain in Prisons, Despite Lack of Evidence," NEAR Alert, June 16, 2009.

501 Amnesty International,; Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran,; and International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran,

502 HRW, "Turmoil in Iran Extends to Universities," NEAR Alert, June 22, 2009.

503 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News, "Iran Student Protests: Five Years On, Account of Victim Mohammad Reza Kassrani," July 9, 2004, 879535.stm.

504 UCU, "Arrest of Iranian Academics Condemned," NEAR Alert, June 30, 2009.

505 AP, "Iranian-American Academic Detained in Tehran," NEAR Alert, July 21, 2009.

506 Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, "Basij – the Revolutionary People's Militia of Iran," Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Inquiry and Analysis Series no. 262 (February 1, 2006), http://www.; and Global Security, "Ansar-I-Hizbullah: Followers of the Party of God,"; all as cited in Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, 177.

507, "Brainwashing Children: Basij Militia to Be Established in 6,000 Elementary Schools," November 12, 2009,

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