Joint Statement on the Right to Education and Academic Freedom in Iran

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation  *  Amnesty International

Arseh Sevom * ARTICLE 19 Bahá’í International Community

Committee of Human Rights Reporters

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Green Students for a Democratic Iran – Southern California

*  Human Rights Activists in Iran  *  Human Rights Watch

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

International Federation for Human Rights

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights

*  Society to Combat Discrimination in Education

*  Iranian Democratic Student Association of George Washington University  *  United for Iran

The above signatories representing 17 human rights and student organizations express deep concern about the alarming state of academic freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in particular violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly on campuses; and institutionalized procedures that allow authorities arbitrarily to expel and suspend students, and fire graduate instructors on the basis of their political views or activities. Over six hundred students, as well as some university lecturers, have been arrested since 2009, many of whom have subsequently been imprisoned, and hundreds deprived of education, as a result of their political activities.

The right to education for all persons without discrimination is explicitly guaranteed under international instruments, which Iran has accepted or to which it is party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education. It is also guaranteed under Iran’s Constitution. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) further protect the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly, and prohibit discrimination against any person due to their race, sex, religion or belief, ethnicity, or political or other opinion. The ICCPR also protects the right of minorities, in community with others, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and to use their own language.

In the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights’ General Comment 13 from 1999, academic freedom is explained as including:

 “the liberty of individuals to express freely opinions about the institution or system in which they work, to fulfill their functions without discrimination or fear of repression by the State or any other actor, to participate in professional or representative academic bodies, and to enjoy all the internationally recognized human rights applicable to other individuals in the same jurisdiction.”

Additionally, General Comment 13 of the ICESCR states that “the denial of academic freedom of staff and students” would be a violation of Article 13 of the ICESCR.

UNESCO’s 1997 Policy Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel also provides that the right to education “can only be fully enjoyed in an atmosphere of academic freedom and autonomy for institutions of higher education.” Academic freedom is defined as:

“the right without constriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom of carrying out research and disseminating and publishing the results thereof, freedom to express opinion[s], freedom from institutional censorship and freedom to participate in professional and representative academic bodies […] without discrimination of any kind and without fear of repression by the state or any other source.”

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