United for Iran Addresses 20th Session of UN Human Rights Council
Following the release of a joint statement by 17 NGOs on Academic Freedom in Iran, United for Iran's Puyan Mahmudian addressed the 20th UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Mahmudian discussed his own experiences in Iran noting that his professional growth had been inhibited by the Iranian government due to his political activism. Broadening the scope of the discussion, Mr. Mahmudian asserted that he was not alone: "Between March 2009 and February 2012, at least 396 students were banned from education as a result of their peaceful political dissent; 634 students were arrested by security organs; and, 254 students were convicted by the judiciary for similar reasons. Iranian authorities have dismissed over one hundred academics since 2009 on the basis of their opinions."
Read the entire speech below or click on this image to watch it. [The blue screen at the start of the speech is due to a technical glitch; United for Iran is seeking to resolve this issue as soon as possible.]
I am speaking on behalf of the Democracy Coalition Project in coordination with United for Iran. My name is Puyan Mahmudian. I was jailed in Iran in May 2007 for serving as an editor for a pro-democracy student publication. The government forged false documents to arrest me and other student activists. I spent three months in solitary confinement and endured torture by my interrogators. I was barred from graduate education despite being ranked 6th out of more than one thousand candidates in the national entrance examination for Polymer Chemical Engineering.
I am not alone. Earlier this month, seventeen human rights organizations highlighted the severe violations of academic freedom and the right to education in Iran, in particular violations of freedom of expression, association, and assembly; and the arbitrary expulsion and barring of students and instructors on the basis of their opinions, gender, religion and ethnicity.
Between March 2009 and February 2012, at least 396 students were banned from education as a result of their peaceful political dissent; 634 students were arrested by security organs; and, 254 students were convicted by the judiciary for similar reasons. Iranian authorities have dismissed over one hundred academics since 2009 on the basis of their opinions.
Women and ethnic and religious minorities also face increasing discrimination in higher education. Gender quotas recently implemented by the government restrict women’s admission to specific fields of study violating Iran’s legal obligations to ensure the equal rights of men and women to education. And members of the Bahá’í faith are systematically targeted and prevented from pursuing higher education solely on the basis of their religious beliefs.
We call on the Iranian government to release unconditionally all students and higher educational personnel jailed for exercising their rights; to end the targeting of students due to their religious, political or civic activities; to abolish gender quotas and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities; and to ensure that universities are independent from government control and adhere to international standards. We request the UN Human Rights Council to address this issue.