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The Iranian authorities have waged a ruthless campaign of repression over the past three decades against students and academics who are routinely harassed, detained or barred from studying or teaching because of their peaceful activism, views or beliefs, said Amnesty International in a report released on Monday.

“Universities in Iran have long been perceived as a breeding ground for dissent. The authorities have consistently displayed zero tolerance of dissenting voices in universities, promptly dismissing, arresting, torturing and locking up students and academics merely for peacefully expressing their views or supporting opposition politicians,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“The Iranian authorities have retained an iron grip over academic establishments, even allowing state security and intelligence bodies to oversee disciplinary procedures on campuses. Relentless efforts to tighten the stranglehold on academic freedom, banish peaceful student activists and side-line women and religious minorities, have squeezed the life out of Iran’s academic institutions leaving little room for freedom of thought or expression.”

The authorities have entrenched as a policy the practice of “starring”, permanently or temporarily barring students who do not conform to state-imposed social and political views from higher education.

The report lists the cases of dozens of students and academics who remain behind bars after being convicted of catch-all national security charges such as “spreading propaganda against the system” or “insulting the Supreme leader”. Many of them are prisoners of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising their rights.

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