Despite Promises, Starred Students Keep Waiting to Return to Classrooms
One of the preconditions set for starred students who entered universities before 2011 is that they retake the nationwide university entrance examination. The students hold that they have already taken the strenuous examination once and have passed it, and it is unfair to ask them to take it again. “Starred students” are individuals who passed the university entrance examination, or even attended classes after admission to the university, but who were banned from the universities due to their peaceful civil or political activities or their religious beliefs.
On August 31, for the first time since the emergence of the “starred students” in 2009, Jafar Tofighi, the Interim Minister of Science told Sharq Newspaper that the issue of starred students would be solved soon, enabling them to return to the universities. He told Sharq that a special committee would be reviewing the situation of students who had been banned from education, and the students could file their requests for review with this committee. Tofighi said again on September 16 that requests from several banned students were under review and that several students had been issued permission to return to classrooms, but he did not mention the names of these students. Statements made by the Interim Minister created a wave of hope for the starred students, but four months on, they continue to wait on the closed gates of Iranian universities.
Many Members of Parliament, however, oppose the Ministry’s decision to allow starred students to resume their education. On December 2, Minister of Science Reza Faraji Dana was called to the Parliament to explain how he plans to return the starred students to the universities.
My Academic Qualifications Didn’t Matter, They Told Me
“I went to the Ministry of Science on September 22, after Jafar Tofighi’s talk, and registered my request with the Ministry. I know of dozens of others who did the same thing,” Farshid Moghaddam Salimi, a student who has been banned from continuing his education since 2006, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “I contacted them many times or appeared in person. In the end they told me verbally that my ‘selection’ [security] issue had been solved, but that I had to re-take the university entrance examination in order to enter the university. After seven years they told me verbally that I no longer have a selection issue. But, really, what guarantee is there that after I re-take the entrance exam next year and pass it again, this decision won’t be changed again?” he added.
Farshid Moghaddam graduated with a degree in Social Sciences from Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabaee University. In 2007, he took the graduate admissions examination to study Social Sciences or Urban and Regional Planning, but he never received his exam results. When he inquired about the exam results at the Ministry of Science, he was told, “You scored passing grades, but because your general qualifications have not been confirmed, your academic qualifications don’t matter.”
“I was banned from continuing my education seven years ago, but no official has ever told me why I was deprived of this right. I have not been informed of any charges, nor have I had a chance to defend myself; but I have been sentenced and punished,” he told the Campaign.
Asked whether any of his banned classmates have resumed their education, Farshid Moghaddam said, “so far as I know, none of the starred students from before 2011 have resolved their issue. According to the Ministry of Science, cases of 126 individuals have been resolved and they were allowed to enter the universities this term. They were all starred after 2011.”
Reza Arab, a student who was banned in 2012, told the Campaign, “When I and my other friends who are banned from education submitted our grievances to the responsible authorities at the Ministry of Science, we were all told that those banned after 2011 wou.d probably have no problems returning to universities, but those who were banned before 2011, after receiving the agreement of a three-person committee at the Ministry of Science, would have to retake the national entrance examination.”
Reza Arab took the entrance exam to study linguistics in 2012, but never received his test results. The authorities only told him that he had become a starred student and was not allowed to continue his education. “The authorities never explained the reason for my ban, but I believe it was because of my activities during my undergraduate studies. I was the Secretary of Mazandaran University’s Islamic Students Association,” Arab told the Campaign.
Reza Arab told the Campaign that despite his repeated visits and phone calls to the Science Ministry, he has not received any information about his application or subsequent inquiries.