Saturday 29 October 2016

Pressured by Hardline Group and Revolutionary Guards, University Forces Former Political Prisoner out of Teaching Job

Hengameh Shahidi, a former reformist journalist and political prisoner, has been fired from her teaching position at an Iranian university following threats of violence from a hardline conservative group and pressure from the Revolutionary Guards.

An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Shahidi, who taught international law during the winter (January) 2016 term at the Varamin-Pishva Islamic Open University, located in Varamin city, south of Tehran, was fired after teaching only two classes on the first day of the fall term on October 10, 2016 “because the Delvapasan had threatened to attack the university in shrouds.”

The Delvapasan (“worried ones”) movement claims to be concerned about what its members see as the erosion of revolutionary principles in the Islamic Republic, and has organized related events designed to strengthen its positions on cultural and political issues. The Campaign has gathered numerous testimonies showing that the group’s intimidation tactics have succeeded in ending the professional careers of many reformists who were imprisoned for protesting the widely disputed result of Iran’s contested 2009 presidential election.

“When Ms. Shahidi went to teach on the first day of school on October 10, she was summoned in the middle of her second class to see the head of the university, Hosseinali Sheibani,” said the source.” After the class ended, she went to see Sheibani, who told her that the security agencies (Revolutionary Guards) had contacted him and asked that she stop teaching at the university. Sheibani even said that the Delvapasan had threatened to raid the university in shrouds and throw her out… Some students even told her that Delvapasan had threatened to throw acid.”

“Ms. Shahidi has already been punished in connection with the events in 2009 and she has been free for several years. She does not have any pending court cases and she was not banned from employment or social activities. Therefore her expulsion from the university in this fashion, only to appease concerns expressed by the Delvapasan, is an astonishing and unlawful action and yet no one has so far responded to her objections or students’ protests,” added the source.

In 2009 Shahidi was a reporter for the reformist Nowrouz newspaper and an adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, one of the presidential candidates who disputed the accuracy of the vote count that year. She was arrested on June 30, 2009 and sentenced to six years in prison by Judge Yahya Pirabbasi of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court for “propagating against the regime,” “acting against national security” and “insulting the president.” She was freed in June 2012 after being granted conditional release on medical grounds.

“Shahidi was not teaching at a university in Tehran as an extension of her political activities,” said the source. “Instead she went to Varamin and quietly taught at the Islamic Open University there in January. But now they have taken away her job. Honestly, what should a former political prisoner do after going free? Should all doors remain closed?”


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