More than one hundred Iranian academics from around the world have condemned recent firings of professors in Iran, calling it an intensification of suppression.
In an open letter, 105 academics, mostly from American universities said that recent layoffs of professors from Iranian universities were political in nature and cannot be justified on scientific or professional grounds.
The letter followed news in January that at least three professors were fired from their jobs. Sociologist Mohammad Fazeli, professor of philosophy Arash Abazari and social science lecturer Reza Omidi got the pink slip without a clear explanation. Each had excelled in their field. Abazari is well-known for his book Hegel’s Ontology of Power: The Structure of Social Domination in Capitalism, which was published by Cambridge University Press. Fazeli’s works focus on sociology of politics and science, especially in the energy sector.
On Saturday, news emerged that Islamic Azad University in Iran has fired more than 300 professors and lecturers and is planning to fire 1,500 more from its campuses around the country. It is not clear whether this is related to financial pressure amid Iran’s economic crisis or a way to politically “cleanse” the academia.
The academics residing outside Iran said in their letter that based on the academic credentials of the professors in Iran, “it is clear that the firings cannot be justified.” The quality of their scientific research was not the reason for the decisions. The policy to fire professors is the result of “intolerance and lack of respect for academic freedom.”
The letter demanded the “unconditional return” of the professors to their posts, so that they can continue to serve the society and their students.
Among the academics who signed the letter there are Professors of Emeritus from Yale University (Abbas Amanat), Pace University (Reza Afshari), City University of New York (Ervand Abrahamian), Bennington College (Mansour Farhang) and many others.
Other academics of Iranian descent from the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Sweden Holland, Switzerland and other countries have also signed the open letter.
The letter does not name any of the professors fired in Iran, not to endanger their security. The Islamic Republic will probably retaliate against them if their name comes up in a context of criticizing the clerical government. Universities in Iran are controlled by the government and decisions to fire professors are suggested or approved by bureaucrats.
Dr Kazem Alamdari of California State University, Northridge told Center for Human Rights in Iran that “We did not want to endanger the professors in Iran, but we wanted to speak out about this, because we believe that putting authorities under the pressure of public opinion is most impactful approach.”