Dismissals Reflect Explicit Science Ministry Policy

A Call for International Solidarity

(19 April 2010) The Iranian government continues to dismiss prominent university professors on political grounds, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.

After the dismissal of Dr. Morteza Mardiha from his faculty post at Allameh Tabatabaee University on 5 April 2010, two Elm-va-San’at University professors were also fired, part of an ongoing process to dismiss faculty members who have different viewpoints from the government, or who have supported students during student protests.

Sayed Ali Asghar Beheshti and Mohammad Shahri of Elm-va-San’at University received written dismissal notices from their faculty positions following a call by Iran’s Minister of Science, Research and Technology for ideological conformity on the part of professors.

“Iran’s purge of professors expressing independent views is an assault on their basic human rights and on academic freedom,” said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the Campaign.

“These policies will further politicize and debase Iran’s universities, long a source of national pride and admiration by scholars around the world,” he said.

The dismissals were the first of their kind to take place after Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo’s 4 March 2010 statements, in which he announced that faculty members who do not “share the regime’s direction,” and who do not have “practical commitment to velayat-e faqih (rule of the Supreme Leader)” will be dismissed.

“We do not need some faculty members whose tendencies and actions are not in coordination with the Islamic Republic regime,” stated Daneshjoo. The announcement is considered the most explicit statement justifying depriving faculty members from their positions due to their political viewpoints. Daneshjou did not provide any explanations about what constitutes “sharing the regime’s direction.”

According to the news site Kaleme, Sayed Ali Asghar Beheshti Shirazi, an experienced and prominent professor of telecommunications at Elm-va-San’at University, and Professor Mohammad Shahri, an electrical engineering professor, both of whom were employed in the Electrical Engineering Research Center, were dismissed on the morning of 13 April 2010, when they received written notices.

The two professors had earlier written a letter protesting the heavy and unprecedented sentences the University’s Disciplinary Committee had issued students, supporting the students and objecting to the 28 December 2009 entry of plainclothes forces into the campus and beatings of students.

A short time ago, Professor Touraj Mohammadi, Chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department, resigned from his position after being put under immense pressure from the University for objecting to the University’s policies vis a vis the students.

Prior to this, a “mandatory faculty retirement plan,” which had been put into effect to apply pressure and political control over the universities, forced more than 50 distinguished professors into retirement or dismissal. Professors such as Amir Nasser Katouzian, Karim Mojtahedi, Ali Sheikholeslami, Hasan Basharieh, Mahmoud Erfani, Abolghasem Gorji, Mohammad Ashuri, Jamshid Momtaz, Mohammad Reza Shafiee Kadkani, Reza Davari, and several others were dismissed following the implementation of this political project by administrative departments of universities.

On 5 April 2010, in another confrontation by university authorities, Morteza Mardiha, a philosophy professor at Allameh Tabatabaee University, received his dismissal notice. Morteza Mardiha and Saba Vasefi, a researcher and professor at Shahid Beheshti University were deprived from teaching on 20 January 2010. Mardiha is a prominent political philosophy expert in Iran. The decision to dismiss him was made in the Philosophy Department of College of Literature after continuous pressure from the University Chancellor.

Mardiha was a ladder-rank faculty member of Allameh Tabatabaee University and his deprivation of teaching lacks legal grounds. Saba Vasefi, a researcher, human rights activist, and Shahid Beheshti University faculty member has also been deprived from teaching and dismissed. Vasefi is the third women’s rights activist who has been dismissed from work over the past few months. So far, 12 distinguished faculty members of Allameh Tabatabaee University’s Economics Department have been forced into retirement by orders of the Administration Unit of the University.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calls for an immediate review of political dismissals from Iran’s universities, to be followed by their reinstatement.  The Campaign calls on university professors and staff from the international community to stand in solidarity with Iranian professors and scholars who are being ruthlessly separated from their students, their colleagues, and their institutions on the basis of their peaceful political views and expressions.