IRAN: Iranian-American academic detained in Tehran

On 9 July 2009 Dr Kian Tajbakhsh, a prominent Iranian-American social scientist, was arrested at his home by Tehran authorities. The agents did not provide any legal justification for the arrest and took him to an undisclosed location.

Tajbakhsh' family told Associated Press that two Iranian security officials questioned him and his wife, searched the residence for three hours and then took him away along with two of his computers and other items. The family said no information was given about where he was taken.

Tajbakhsh was previously held by authorities in 2007 after being charged along with three other Iranian-Americans with "endangering national security". He was then a consultant with the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, an organisation Iran has accused of trying to undermine the Iranian government.

According to The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Tajbakhsh joins more than 240 other prominent Iranian lawyers, activists, journalists, professors, human rights defenders, and students who have been arrested without warrants at their homes or places of work by unidentified agents and taken to undisclosed locations.

US: Obama criticises arrest of Harvard professor

President Obama accused police of acting 'stupidly' in arresting Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr, after an officer had established that Gates had not broken into his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The New York Times reported that Obama stopped short of accusing the police department of racial profiling, as Gates has done.

At a prime-time White House news conference that was otherwise largely devoted to health care, Obama weighed in on the Gates case and suggested police should never have arrested him. He added that African-Americans and Hispanics in the US had long been familiar with racial profiling by law enforcement.

The New York Times said Cambridge police dropped disorderly conduct charges against Gates but he still wanted a personal apology.

CHINA: Call for urgent action for Ilham Tohti

Prominent Chinese Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, a professor of economics at the Chinese Nationalities University, reportedly disappeared from his home on 8 July. Associated Press reported that a close friend of Tohti received a phone call from him on 7 July saying he had been interrogated by Chinese officials for the previous two days and had received notice he would be detained.

Tohti is a founder of, a popular website that has a lively forum for discussion of Uighur issues, including Chinese rule in Xinjiang.

Scholars at Risk has called on the Chinese government to examine the circumstances of Tohti's detention. His arrest raises grave concerns for his well-being, and the lack of any clear basis for his detention raises questions about the ability of respected scholars to safely express their beliefs in China.

SAR believes the scholar's arrest suggests a wider attempt to intimidate university communities, thereby limiting academic freedom and freedom of expression.

UK: Tough visa rules deterring overseas students

Thousands of international students are being warned against coming to study at universities in the UK because of tough new visa rules. The Guardian quoted agents in Hong Kong saying that up to 40% of overseas students who apply for a study visa are being turned away. Other students are reportedly subjected to long delays and some even miss the start of the college term.

The UK's new points-based immigration system was introduced in April to stop illegal students entering the country. A drop in the number of international students will have severe financial repercussions on universities and the UK economy.

The Guardian says overseas students pay tuition fees worth an estimated £2.5 billion (US$4 billion) to UK universities each year and contribute an annual £1.89 billion to the university sector.

NIGERIA: Auchi Polytechnic students under attack

Students of the Auchi Polytechnic have appealed to school authorities to provide security against local hoodlums, the Daily Trust in Nigeria reports. On 15 July, a student hostel in South Ibie community, an Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State, was attacked by armed robbers.

The intruders carried weapons and made away with students' money, phones and other valuables. One student who resisted the robbers was physically beaten.

It was the second attack on students in two weeks. The state police department said the students had yet to report the matter to them but promised police would look into the matter.

* Jonathan Travis is programme officer for the Network for Education and Academic Rights.