The Iranian regime under President Hassan Rouhani has tabled a bill in parliament that may well end the state’s discriminatory attitude against “starred students”, pupils considered threat to national security for engaging in various forms of activism on campus.
Such students have for long been known as “starred students”, owing to the start marked on their documents. As a result, these starred students have been routinely barred from entering higher education institutes or continuing higher education as they were thought to be engaged in activities considered illegal by the regime. The activities considered anti-state could be as trivial as a social media post or as substantial as protests.
However, the government bill now has an amendment that reasserts the right to education as one of the fundamental rights of individuals.
Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, said the bill was an attempt to address the issue of starred students, which was “ad hoc, non-transparent bizarre process”.
She went on to say that the system of starring was facilitated by the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, as well as the Iranian intelligence and security agencies. While welcoming the move, Far said great political will was needed to implement true results.
“Law is important but it also requires political will to stand up against that, so the bill would not be sufficient unless Rouhani’s administration is sincere and firm in standing against such intervention,” she said.
The starred students remained an issue at the centre of 2013 and 2017 election campaigns, and Rouhani had vowed to make amends. He did address the issue when he first came to power in 2013, but students are still taking to social networking sites to display the starred images of their documents.
Gholamreza Zarifian, a history professor at Tehran University said the “starred students” problem was a massive political and social issue and a fundamental contradiction of the spirit of the constitution.
The professor said no student should be treated unjustly and disciplinary issues should be dealt with by disciplinary committees at universities.