During the last academic year (2005-2006), the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology notified six students that they can no longer pursue their higher education. They are: Mehdi Aminizadeh (Mofid University in Qom), Peyman Aref (Tehran University), Hamed Hasandoost (Teachers College in Tehran), Ezattollah Torbatinejad (Kurdistan University), Towhid Alizadeh (Tehran University), and Muhammad Zamani (Zanjan University).
In September 2006, another 11 students discovered that, despite having been accepted to graduate programs, they were not allowed to register. They are: Hananeh Azizi (Alameh Tabatabai University), Siamak Karimi (Hamedan University), Yashar Ghajar (Tabriz Polytechnic University), Zahra Janipour (Hamedan University), Gharib Sajadi (Alameh Tabatabai University), Roozbeh Riazi-Moghadam (Amir Kabir University), Mansour Ezati (Industrial University of Isfahan), Saeed Ardeshiri (Kerman University), Shuresh Muradi (Kurdistan University), Salar Saket (Kurdistan University), and Mohsen Fatehi (Tehran University).
Interviews with some of these students, and official letters by the SR&T Ministry, obtained by Human Rights Watch, indicate that the ministrys barring these students is politically motivated and directly linked to their activism. Furthermore, according to student testimonies and official letters, it is not the SR&T Ministry but the Ministry of Information that is the main authority involved in deciding to bar them from education.
All of the above students, except for Hananeh Azizi, are either members of Islamic Students Associations in their universities or have been outspoken activists. Apparently, Hananeh Azizi is being barred from her right of access to higher education because her father is the persecuted writer Yusuf Azizi Banitoraf.3
In a letter written in response to an appeal by one of the barred students, obtained by Human Rights Watch, Seyed Morteza Nurbakhsh, director of the Central Committee for Selection of Students and Faculty at the SR&T Ministry wrote, After receiving an answer to our inquiry from the Ministry of Information, it has been determined that the said student lacks proper qualifications for continuing his education at the graduate level and thus following this decision by the Ministry of Information, it was announced to the National Organization for Admissions (Saziman Sanjish Amuzish Keshvar) to reject his admission.4
The Ministry of Information, which primarily acts as an intelligence agency, is not the proper authority to determine a students educational qualifications. All of the above students earned their right to enter graduate programs by passing competitive entrance examinations.
Another of the barred students, Mehdi Aminizadeh, told Human Rights Watch:
Peyman Aref has a history of being persecuted by the authorities, who have arrested him several times during the past five years. In April 2006 a court handed down a suspended sentence of 18 months imprisonment after convicting him of propaganda against the state and of acting against national security. He has lodged an appeal. Aref had entered the graduate program at Tehran Universitys College of Law in September 2005, having ranked second in the national entrance exam. He told Human Rights Watch that university officials notified him in April 2006 that he is barred from education and cannot finish his masters degree. He also alleged that the Ministry of Information asked the SR&T Ministry to prevent him from engaging in further academic work. Aref told us, In a letter from the Selection Committee for Students and Faculty, I was notified that I lack proper general and ideological [iteghadi] qualifications for continuing my education. I have been summoned to the Ministry of Information several times, and their officials told me that if I give any lecture, or write anything they consider extreme, they will imprison me.6
Human Rights Watch obtained a letter sent from the SR&T Ministry to one student barred from continuing his education. Prior to this he had received a letter, dated September 19, 2006, which stated that the students admission had been rejected due to selection [gozinesh] regulations, but that the rejection could be appealed. The accompanying appeals form required the student to follow these instructions:
This letter demonstrates that the SR&T Ministrys admissions process is based on a students political background and activities.