Harsher regulations aimed at controlling the political behavior of students in Iranian universities are being implemented, regardless of protests.
The amended regulations passed by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council's Committee for the Islamization of Universities of Iran on April 21, 2019, empowers university authorities to punish students for their peaceful online activities.
The decision to tighten controls followed the arrests of dozens of students after widespread unrest in Iran in 2017-2018, when university students were also active.
Speaking to pro-reform daily E'temad's website, a student rights activist and lawyer, Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, has asserted, "The new regulations are introduced under pressures from outside (the academic circles)”, and it has led to a more arbitrary and harsher confrontation with the students.
In the new regulations, Kamfirouzi argues, the students right to protest or appeal is more limited than in the past.
Earlier on April 26, 2019, director of governmental Academic Affairs Organization, Jamasb Nozari, had told the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), "Publishing unethical photos or committing immoral acts in cyberspace and on information-sharing networks will result in disciplinary action against students."
However, the new rules stop short of defining what is or is not "unethical," setting the scene for the arbitrary decisions.
"It has been unprecedented in 'academic disciplinary regulations' in the Islamic Republic to refer to terms, such as 'keeping illegal and unlicensed media products,' disregarding dress codes,' and disseminating unethical subjects on cyberspace," Kamfirouzi notes.
Furthermore, Danial Eslamipanah, the deputy chairman of the Union of Political Organizations at Islamic Azad Universities, twitted, "The addition of cyberspace violations to the disciplinary rules not only interferes in students' privacy but also undermines their independence and freedom."
The new regulations also reveal to wat extent security organs intrude into the lives of citizens and prosecute people at will.
Based on the older version of the regulations, the Secretariat of Disciplinary Committee was obliged to inform a student in advance of a disciplinary hearing session about the reason for the summons. The new regulations have done away with that and a student can be caught off guard in a hearing and found guilty.
The new regulations are currently in place while in his 2013 presidential campaigns, Hassan Rouhani had repeatedly promised to end the police state dominating universities across Iran.
On April 29, 2019, the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) documented some cases of students at Iranian universities, historically hotbeds of political activism, being prosecuted for the content of their peaceful online postings.
On April 13, a university student Mojtaba Dadashi, 23, began serving a three-year prison sentence for sharing a video on social media criticizing the Islamic Republic as "un-Islamic."
Three months earlier, on January 15, the disciplinary committee of the Babol Noshirvani University of Technology suspended an unknown number of students for one semester for posting personal photos from a family gathering on their Facebook pages, CHRI reported.