18 Jan 2023

Encieh Erfani and Daniel Munier: What’s happening in Iran?

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On 16 September 2022, Mahsa Amini died after having been arrested in Tehran for not wearing her hijab in accordance with government rules. Months of ongoing protests followed, with the situation now reaching new heights, including Iran’s removal from the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the use of death penalty charges by Iranian courts to try and crush the protests.

There have been marches, protests, and get-togethers at higher education institutions all over the world to show support for Iran, but while Iranian students and academics want to fight for academic freedom and social justice, they are also afraid of jeopardising their careers and personal lives. How did we get here? What do these recent events in Iran mean for the freedom of scholars/academics globally? And what actions can be taken by the international community to show support?

In this first podcast episode of 2023, we talk to Daniel Munier, Senior Program Officer for the Scholars at Risk Advocacy team, and Encieh Erfani, who resigned from her academic post at an Iranian university in September 2022 in protest. They tell us more about the current situation in Iran, why this matters beyond Iran, and what might happen next. Join us for this first podcast episode of the new year to find out more!

About Encieh Erfani

Dr. Encieh Erfani was an Assistant Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Science (IASBS), Iran. She resigned on 23 September 2022 due to the events in Iran. She obtained her Ph.D. from Bonn University, Germany (2012). Her research area is theoretical physics with a concentration on cosmology. She is a Junior Associate of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy, a Young Affiliate member of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), co-chair of the "Preservation of Science" task team of Science in Exile, and an executive committee member of the Global Young Academy (2021-2023). She is the founder of the Yar-e-Danesh Fund (2019) which provides financial support to students. She was on the board of directors of the Astronomy Society of Iran and the founder of its female branch. She also has extensive scientific outreach and public engagement experience and is passionate about teaching, science diplomacy, science communication, and helping young scholars, especially women.

About Daniel Munier

As a Senior Program Officer for the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Advocacy team, Dan oversees SAR’s reporting of attacks on higher education communities for SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, conducts case advocacy for the Scholars-in-Prison Project, and produces reports and publications, including SAR’s Free to Think report series, to raise awareness of global and regional issues. Before joining SAR, Dan worked in refugee resettlement at Catholic Charities Community Services, interned for the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, and worked in international education and English language programming in France and the US. He holds an M.A. in International Education from New York University and a B.A. in Economics and French from Nazareth College.

Additional resources

For further insights into the topics touched on in this episode, the following resources may be of interest:

Scholars at Risk website: Host a scholar

Scholars at Risk website: Free to think 2022

The International Community of Iranian Academics (ICOIA) report on the government crackdown on university students and academics in Iran

→ Dangerous questions: Why not keep quiet?

→ Sinead O’Gorman - Academic freedom in a complex world