International Day of Education; an overview of the right to education in Iran in 2020

Posted on: January 25th, 2021

Hrana- This report prepared by Human Rights Activists (HRA) honors the International Day of Education by bringing attention to the state of education in Iran, specially during the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent challenges of online education. Furthermore, this report includes a statistical overview of the violations of the fundamental rights of students and teachers, as well as violations of the right to education that took place between 24th January 2020 to 20th January 2021 in Iran.

“Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” (UDHR Article 26)

The right to education is a fundamental right that should be available to everyone free of charge, at least for children in the elementary and fundamental stages. However, many students in Iran have been deprived of their right to education due to the lack of facilities and educational spaces, and dilapidated schools. According to managing director of Society for Protecting the Rights of the Children (SPRC), there are approximately 1 million children living in underdeveloped or in impoverished neighbourhoods in Iran, who are deprived of education. Also 49 thousand children do not attend schools because they lack documents such as birth certificate or are active part of the workforce. This statistic does not fluctuate greatly each year however, during the Covid-19 pandemic there has been approximately a three-fold increase in the number of children deprived of basic education, due to lack of proper infrastructure for online education and a sudden shift from classrooms to online schools during the pandemic.

In the university level, in addition to many systematic challenges for getting into universities, many students have been banned from attending higher education due to their religious belief. Students that believe in Baha’i faith are amongst those that are often deprived of either entering universities or completing their university degrees. In addition, on banning students from completing their higher education in Iranian Universities, many teachers and students or individuals that have any connection to the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) have also been arrested and given long prison terms.

Many student and teachers have also been arrested, suspended, expelled, or reprimanded for expressing their thoughts and opinions or for holding peaceful assemblies and publications.

These acts are violation of Freedom of thought and religion, Freedom of opinion and expression, Freedom of Assembly, and the right to education. It is worth mentioning that the right to education includes equal access to higher education for all on basis of merit.

Primary and basic education

Access to basic and primary education has not been equal for all because of various factors, including lack of infrastructure, lack of access for undocumented children, poverty, and cultural and language discriminations. According to the managing director of Society for Protecting the Rights of the Children (SPRC), there are approximately 1 million children living in underdeveloped or in impoverished neighbourhoods in Iran, who are deprived of education. Additionally, 49 thousand children do not attend schools because they lack identification documents such as birth certificate or are part of the workforce.

This statistic does not fluctuate greatly each year however, during the Covid-19 pandemic due to lack of proper infrastructure for online education and a sudden shift from classrooms to online schools across the country, there has been approximately a three-fold increase in the number of children deprived of basic education. According to Minister of Education 3 million and 225 thousand children are deprived of education because of lack of access to internet or devices such as smart phones, tablets and computers.

‘Shad’ online education platform asking for national identification number. Photo: Social Media

Covid-19 pandemic and unequal access to online educational platform of ‘Shad’

With the outbreak of the covid-19 virus and the closure of schools, Education Ministry announced that it would resume educating students via the Internet and using a platform called ‘Shad’. The online platform, which requires Internet, has been criticized by teachers and civil society activists from the beginning of its announcement. The problems of online education in Iran and sudden closure of schools without providing any significant support to deprived students includes, lack of access to reliable internet in many parts of the country specially in rural areas, and lack of financial ability of students and their families to purchase necessary devices such as smart phones for this type of education .

Undocumented children: Another major discriminatory aspect of ‘Shad’ platform is that it requires students to register with their national identification number, which leaves undocumented children without access to primary and basic education.

Children in rural areas: There are also reports from various areas of the country that with lack of proper internet connection children have to climb to high points near their cities to be able to connect to internet and the Shad platform to attend classes.

Children from poor-housing or margins of cities: a great proportion of Iran’s population live on the margins of cities or are living in poor-housing conditions. Children living in these conditions are disproportionately affected by the sudden shift to online education and are further discriminated. According to Assembly of Spatial Planning of the Land, in 2020, 45% of Iran’s population were living in poor-housing or on the margins of cities. He continues, “if we calculate 45% of the 85 million population of the country that is today 38 million people living in the margins of cities or in poor-housing.”

Considering these statistics, almost half of the population of the country are living in conditions that makes online-education inaccessible for them.

Photo: IRNA

University and higher education

Higher education in Iran has limited sits available through a national examination system, where all students who wish to enter university have to pass this exam to enter into universities. Based on participants rank in this exam students will be placed into universities and majors of their choices. This exam is highly competitive and often students do not get accepted into their chosen university or majors. In recent years Supreme Leaders office had announced lower sits available to female students, however female students continue to take up more than half of university sits by higher acceptance rate compared to male students. According to the head of Sanjesh institute responsible for carrying out the national university entrance exam (operating under Ministry of Science, Research and Technology), in 2020, 101 thousand and 912 women passed the national university entrance examination that is 53.6% of all the those who registered.

Photo: FARARU

The following section consist of statistics by the statistics department of Human Rights Activists (HRA)

Methodology: The following statistics have been gathered and prepared by the statistic department of Human Rights Activists (HRA). These statistics consist of aggregation of data from HRA’s exclusive reports and documentation efforts, as well as data gathered from public sources. All the gathered information are fact checked to assure their authentication. This data is not exhaustive as many information and statistics are not available or HRA has not been able to verify their authenticity. However, this is a comprehensive report of the available data that HRA has been able to verify.

University Students

In the one-year period, between January 24, 2020 to January 20, 2021, 7 students were arrested, 3 student’s homes were raided by authorities and their personal belongings were confiscated, and 11 student activists were sentenced to a total of 512 months of imprisonment and 222 floggings.

Violation of the Right to Education: 23 Baha’i students were deprived of continuing their education because of their faith.

Violation of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly: 20 students of the Mohaghegh University of Ardabil were reprimanded and suspended from university for gathering and attending the memorial of the victims of flight #PS752 tragedy.

Additionally The student publication of ‘Zed va Forough’ was shut down by authorities.

There has been reports of injuries resulting from the neglect and lack of proper infrastructure at universities and student residencies. On 28th January 2020, 4 students were taken to medical facilities after being poisoned by a methane gas leak from a sewage well at the Buein Zahra Technical University (BZTE) of Qazvin.

In this reporting period 21 student protests took place across the country.

Teachers and Union Activists

In the period of one year between January 24, 2020 to January 20, 2021, 3 teachers were arrested, 13 teachers were sentenced to a total of 334 months of imprisonment, 45 floggings and twelve million and hundred Toman in fines.
On August 10, 2020, a teacher at Jared and Balade a part of Kazeroun city of Fars Province committed suicide by drinking poison and lost his life. The reason behind his suicide has been attributed to failing the adult literacy exam.

 

For media and other inquiries please contact Skylar Thompson, Senior advocacy Coordinator at Human Rights Activists (HRA), Email: [email protected]

Hashem Khastar’s Supporters Released from Custody

Posted on: November 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Twelve individuals demonstrating their support of Hashem Khastar outside Ibn Sina Hospital in Mashhad were reportedly released a few hours after being taken into custody on Monday, November 5th, a close source said.

By arresting the demonstrators, intelligence agents were intercepting their protest of an increasingly curious hostage situation: Iranian authorities have kept Khastar cloistered in the hospital’s psychiatric ward since arresting him for unknown reasons on October 23rd.

Khastar’s detention caused a stir among his family members and fellow activists, eventually inspiring a social-media call for his supporters to gather outside Ibn Sina.

After arresting the 12 would-be protestors, a close source told HRANA, intelligence agents attempted to get their signatures on a set of legal documents, which they refused. “The intelligence officers then negotiated with Mr. Khastar’s wife,” the source continued. “Finally, promising that Mr. Khastar’s situation would be clarified within the next 24 hours, they released all 12 [of them].”

Khastar’s spouse Sadigeh Maleki Fard, his children Jahed and Ahmad Khastar, and his fellow teachers Hadi Lotfinia and Mohammad Yazdi were among those detained.

It has now been 14 days since the IRGC snatched the retired teacher and union activist from his home, sending him by ambulance into psychiatric “care” despite his clean bill of mental health. A source previously pointed HRANA to the circumstances of his arrest: “…His unlocked car and all its contents were abandoned in front of the gate to his orchard.”

A recent arrest during silent teacher protests on June 21, 2018, landed Khastar, 65, in a Security Police detention center on Abbas Abad (formerly Vozara) street. In 2009, he was arrested in connection to widespread protests following that year’s Iranian presidential elections and was fined by Iranian courts for two letters he wrote from Vakilabad Prison. He was released, then arrested again later for refusing to pay the fine.

Authorities Quash Show of Support for Sequestered Teacher Hashem Khastar

Posted on: November 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The wife, children, and colleagues of teachers’ union activist Hashem Khastar, 65, who was forcibly hospitalized on October 23, 2018, in Mashhad, were detained by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on Monday, November 5th.

More than 10 of Khastar’s supporters were arrested while convening in front of Ebn-Sina hospital, where Khastar remains detained in the psychiatric ward despite having no history of mental illness. They have been transferred to the Intelligence Bureau of Mashhad.

HRANA has thus far been able to confirm the identities of five arrestees: Sadigheh Maleki Fard (Khastar’s wife), Jahed Khastar and Ahmad Khastar (Khastar’s sons), and colleagues “Mr. Lotfinia” and “Mr. Yazdi.”

According to a close source, authorities were quick to head off their show of solidarity. “Security agents were already present at the hospital prior to the protesters’ arrival and had blocked the roads leading up to it. Khastar’s family were arrested as soon as they arrived. Several other individuals — teachers and colleagues of Mr. Khastar — were arrested throughout the day until 5:30 PM.”

Arrestees were reportedly booked at the police station before being handed over to Ministry of Intelligence custody.

Mashhad is the capital of Razavi Khorasan province, located in Iran’s northeast.

Lawyers Issue Statement of Warning to Citizens and Judiciary Alike

Posted on: October 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – A group of 39 Iranian lawyers have issued an apologia of the social issues that pushed thousands of citizens to protest this year, urging authorities to safeguard the right to rebellion all while warning protesters of their potential to invite blowback.

Judicial authorities have been quick to brandish heavy sentences, arrests, and capital punishment against the rising swell of citizens who have less and less to gain from passivity in the deepening recession. In an environment of dwindling tolerance on both sides, the lawyers asked Iranian authorities to keep their retaliatory instincts in check.

“The right for civil protest and assembly is rooted in the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly which have been asserted in the constitution and numerous international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the letter reads.

The lawyers’ letter lauds the initiative of strikers across sectors — from the generalized January protests (“against the conditions of the country’s economy and management”) to the strikes declared by truckers, factory workers, teachers, shopkeepers, university students, and farmers. The protests of Kurdish ethnic minorities in Iran’s border regions also figured in the lawyers’ letter.

Likewise, the letter’s authors validated strikers’ demands, including a more regulated cost of living, more affordable part prices for truckers, payment of back wages for factory workers, more liveable teacher salaries and the protection of public education, increased government efforts to mitigate symptoms of the recession, increased tolerance of student self-expression, and government intervention in regions suffering the effects of drought, i.e. Isfahan and Khuzestan provinces.

More “respect for the rights of protesters” is in order, the letter insists, adding that authorities are responsible for implementing “fairness, justice, and peace,” and for avoiding violent methods of engaging with citizen uprisings.

The letter ends by praising civil protests and social movements as the precursors to democracy and progress in Iran. While reiterating the demand that judicial and security authorities temper their responses to civic rumblings, it places an additional burden on Iran’s disaffected citizens: “we declare our solidarity and support for protesting social groups, and call on them to avoid violent methods.”

Signatories:

Mostafa Ahmadian
Maziar Tatiaei
Mosleh Ghorbani
Behrouz Nalbandi
Saleh Nikbakht
Keyvan Azizi
Sajjad Khosravi
Ayat Abbas
Esfandiar Abnoos
Osman Mozayen
Ehsan Hassanpour
Esmaeil Rahimi
Ali Sakeni
Amir Ahmadi
Esmaeil Salaripour
Arash Fattahi Boukani
Massoud Shamsnejad
Arash Rajabi Kermanshahi
Behrouz Vafadar
Shalir Fotoohi-Sara
Asrin Khaledi
Heydar Khodamoradi
Farman Jafari
Amir Salar Davoudi
Behzad Hakimizadeh
Arash Kamangar
Abdollatif Valadbeigi
Abdolbaset Pourzadi
Hassan Ranjbar
Halimeh Khezri
Keyvan Mamepour
Massoud Javadieh
Mohammad Mogheimi
Narmin Hosseinikhah
Shatav Mobtadi
Sadegh Saed Mouchesh
Fouad Motevasel
Koroush Heydari
Kaveh Alizadeh

Authorities Intimidate National Front of Iran into Cancelling Meeting

Posted on: October 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Before it could assemble for the first time in 12 months, the National Front of Iran again had to cancel a meeting due to threats of detainment from security forces, who have been impeding the group’s gatherings for the past three years.

The political group had intended to hold leadership elections on Monday, October 15th in the home of one of its members. A close source told HRANA that the elections were scheduled to fill the position of late central council chairman Adib Boroumand.

The National Front of Iran is a nationalist political organization that has faced restrictions to its activities since it was founded in 1949.