This report is based on research that Amnesty International conducted using a wide range of private and public sources. This included in-depth interviews with more than 50 individuals, both women and men, with direct knowledge of Iran's universities and system of higher education, including former students and academic teaching staff. Amnesty International has not been permitted to visit Iran for fact-finding and research on the country since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and thus was unable to investigate conditions at Iran's universities first hand. However, its interviewees included students and teaching staff who had recently attended or been employed at Iranian universities before fleeing Iran and seeking asylum in Turkey and other countries.
In addition to the interviews, almost all of which were conducted in Persian, Amnesty International compiled further information using questionnaires.
Among public sources, Amnesty International has drawn on information published by the Iranian government, including in submissions to the UN; reports and findings of UN bodies; statements made by Iranian officials; reports of independent non-governmental human rights organizations; and Iranian and international media reports.
Amnesty International also sought information directly from the Iranian authorities, notably concerning the number of students and academics banned from the country's universities and other centres of higher education; including how many have had their bannings set aside since President Rouhani assumed office in August 2013. To date, however, the authorities have failed to respond to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International gratefully acknowledges the assistance that it has received from many Iranians and other individuals in compiling this report, which it dedicates to those working to the uphold human rights and to promote academic freedom in Iran.
Summary of Recommendations
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to:
- Ensure that access to higher education is made equally accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity and uphold the right to study, work and teach in higher education without discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, religious or other consciously held beliefs, or any other status;
- Annul all previous arbitrary suspensions and expulsions of students and all forced retirements or effective dismissals of academic staff carried out on prohibited grounds, and allow these individuals to return to their former places of study or work ;
- Ensure that students and academics who exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly do not face reprisals; and guarantee these rights by allowing students to form independent student bodies and publish journals;
- Stop arbitrary interference in the right to privacy of students and academics and ensure that no one is denied access to higher education as punishment for their political or social opinion, religious faith, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation;
- Rescind all policies that have the intention or effect of limiting women's access to, or exclusion from higher education, including policies restricting or denying women access to particular courses of study;
- Ensure that universities and other institutions of higher education adhere to human rights standards by respecting students and academics' right to exercise freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;
- End human rights violations in the criminal justice system, including arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention,