Urge the Iranian Government to Ensure Gender-Equal Access to Education

Target: Iranian government

Goal: Ensure equitable access to education for both male and female students

The government of Iran needs to reverse policies that restrict access to higher education for both male and female students at national universities. Naturally, there are more restrictions placed on female students than male students. The gravitation towards gender-specific and more restricted education is known as “Islamicization.” These “Islamicization” policies are being implemented all across the Iranian academic landscape, with the goal of restricting academic freedom in an effort to impede the threat of dissent.

This movement will ban male and female students’ enrollment in specific academic fields at most Iranian universities. According to the Human Rights Watch, many universities are implementing single-gender majors, where only male or female students are permitted to enter that field of study. Human Rights Watch says there are quotas that limit the percentage of female students in specific academic fields.

So far, banned majors and fields of study for women include computer science, engineering, forestry, political science, accounting, and business administration among others. Banned fields of study for male students include 14 social science and humanities majors. In particular, at Esfahan University, male students are no longer allowed access to majors in history, linguistics, theology, applied chemistry, literature, sociology or philosophy. Generally, there is a trend towards restricting female student access to math and science majors, and restricting male student access to humanities courses and majors.

“For decades, Iranian universities have offered high quality education to male and female students,” explained women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, Liesl Gernholtz. “But as university students across Iran prepare to start the new academic year, they face serious setbacks, and women students in particular will no longer be able to pursue the education and careers of their choice.”

There has been no explanation offered by the Iranian government or universities justifying the gender restrictions on certain majors—it seems they are simply hindering education access for the sake of restricting freedom. “Many of the gender restrictions placed on university courses do not seem to follow a clear or particular pattern,” said Gernholtz. “They show that authorities and university administration have imposed seemingly arbitrary barriers that impede the access of both male and female students to the higher education of their choice.”

As explained in an article by the Human Rights Watch, the right to educational equity is guaranteed by Iran’s constitution, as well as by numerous international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Convention against Discrimination in Education.

The Iranian government must put an end to this education discrimination on the basis of gender, as it is a clear infringement on human rights. Sign below to protest the “Islamicization” of higher education, and tell the Iranian government to end this human rights violation.


Dear Iranian government,

Educational equity is a basic human right ensured by Iran’s constitution as well as numerous other international human rights agreements. Regardless, universities across Iran are baselessly restricting access to certain majors for female and male students.

More than 600 fields of study are now restricted to one gender or the other, stretching across more than 60 Iranian universities. There is a disturbing trend towards excluding women students from math and hard science majors, and restricting men from entering fields of study such as linguistics, philosophy and other humanities majors.

These restrictions to education serve no purpose, and are seemingly arbitrary—obstructing freedoms in an attempt to exercise control. This is a human rights violation and gender-specific education restrictions must be put to an end. Please immediately reverse the policies that violate access to academic freedom for Iranian students.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: misterbenthompson via Flickr

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