This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iranian authorities have dismissed at least 10 university professors who supported nationwide protests that began last September following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.
Just weeks ahead of the anniversary of her demise, reports on social media showed that Hamideh Khademi and Ameneh Aali, two professors from Allameh University in Tehran, were dismissed via phone call, while the Student Guild Council of Iran reported the dismissal of seven professors from the Faculty of Literature at the University of Tehran.
Universities and students have long been at the forefront of the struggle for greater social and political freedoms in Iran. In 1999, students protested the closure of a reformist daily, prompting a brutal raid on the dorms of Tehran University that left one student dead. Amini’s death while being detained for an alleged head-scarf violation in September last year has once again made campuses a hotbed of dissent.
Over the years, the authorities have arrested student activists and leaders, sentencing them to prison and banning them from studying.
The ‘United Students’ channel, which covers news related to students and academia, pointed out that last year during the protests, Hamideh Khademi and Ameneh Aali “not only opposed the suppression of students but also supported detained and suspended students.”
Student guild councils across the country, called the method — a phone call used by the head of the Psychology Department at Allameh University to announce the dismissal of Hamideh Khademi and Ameneh Aali — as a “new innovation in suppressing and dismissing university professors.”
Aali shot back in an open letter on August 28, saying that ‘we, as teachers, cannot and should not be obedient and followers of governments.’
She also pointed out in her letter that teachers receive their salaries from the nation’s budget and that ‘schools and universities are the homes of this nation’s children, and we are the defenders of these children’s rights and the guardians of this homeland.’
On August 26, Ali Sharifi Zarchi, a faculty member at the Computer Engineering Department of Tehran’s Sharif University, announced on his Twitter account that he had received a dismissal letter from the university.
During the recent nationwide protests, Zarchi repeatedly supported the students and at one point declared that he would suspend his classes until all detained students from Sharif University were released.
The activist HRANA news agency says at least 700 university students have been arrested during the recent unrest.
Many have faced sentences such as imprisonment, flogging, and dozens of students have been expelled from universities or suspended from their studies, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.