IRAN: French academic in court

A report by France 24 said that Clotilde Reiss, a 24-year-old French academic, appeared before an Iranian Revolutionary Court for a second time on 17 November to face charges of "collecting information and provoking rioters" in the turbulent aftermath of the presidential elections in June.

Reiss was arrested at an airport in Tehran on 1 July, having allegedly taken pictures of the protests that followed the election on her mobile phone and emailed them to friends. She initially appeared in court on 6 August, as part of a televised mass trial of those accused of fomenting unrest.

She was granted bail and released from Insein Prison on 16 August in the care of the French Embassy in Tehran, on the condition that she remained there to await a verdict. No decision was reached at the latest court session and French officials say they do not rule out the prospect of Reiss having to return to court in the near future.

At the time of her detention, Reiss was coming to the end of a six month research and teaching post at a university in Isfahan, central Iran.

ISRAEL: Palestinian professor released

Dr Ghassan Khaled, a Palestinian law professor held for 20 months without charge in three different Israeli prisons, has finally been released. Arrested in January 2008, Khaled was initially freed but was then re-arrested in March the same year, Ma'an News Agency has said.

He was subsequently held in 'administrative detention' in Negev, Megiddo and Ofer prisons, until his release on 26 November. Khaled, also a human rights activist, was reportedly tortured during his detention.

UK: Immigration causes problems for international students

A report by the UK Council for International Student Affairs highlights the problems inflicted on the higher education sector by Britain's new points-based immigration system, according to The Guardian.

The report, based on a study of 2,777 international students who applied for a visa between July and September this year, indicates that obstructive and expensive bureaucracy is causing difficulties for many applicants, with some being refused visas due to negligible errors on their applications.

New rules require prospective students to provide proof they have the necessary funds to support themselves throughout their time in the UK although the report found that 49% of students struggled to provide this.

The council believes that the current situation risks harming Britain's reputation among international students and could deter them from seeking to study there. International students are annually worth £8.5 billion (US$13.8 billion) to the UK economy and their fees make up 8% of university incomes.

UZBEKISTAN: Students expelled for not picking cotton

Radio Free Europe reports that Uzbek students are regularly expelled from their universities and schools for refusing to take part in compulsory cotton-picking work during the harvest season.

The report quotes an Uzbek university lecturer, Bobur Rashidov, as stating that five to 10 students are expelled from his institution each year for not participating in the work. Rashidov said some students were forced to pay bribes to university officials to avoid expulsion while others had to pay the medical commission to obtain exemptions from the work.

Uzbekistan, the world's second largest cotton exporter, regularly attracts criticism for its use of student and child labour in the cotton harvest.

IRAN: Crackdown on student protests

A planned day of student protests in Tehran on 7 December was met with an aggressive response by security forces and pro-government Basiji militiamen, the Associated Press has said.

Witness reports stated that members of the Basiji militia attacked the crowd with batons while security forces also allegedly fired tear gas. Thousands of protestors had gathered to mark the date in 1953 when three students were killed during an anti-US demonstration. The date has since come to be used as a platform for protest by pro-reform students.

In preparation for the demonstrations, authorities reportedly covered fences surrounding the campus with banners bearing quotes from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini to block the protestors from public view. It was also reported that mobile phone communications in the area were shut down and members of the international press had their press cards suspended for the duration of the protests.

TURKEY: Academic freedom conference

Istanbul Bilgi University Human Rights Law Research Centre, the Network for Education and Academic Rights and the Scholars at Risk Network held a symposium and workshop on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy in the Balkan, Black Sea & Caspian Regions in October. The events were held at Istanbul Bilgi University with faculty members, human rights leaders and researchers from 16 countries participating.

Representatives from the Arab Society for Academic Freedom and the African Academic Freedom Network reported on activities in their regions and described the aims of their respective regional networks. Case studies on academic freedom in the participants' countries followed.

The country reports highlighted issues of strength or concern relating to academic freedom, university autonomy and related university values. Participants discussed strategies used in the past to address these issues and suggested new strategies.

A workshop was held using a model framework for analysing academic freedom questions and case studies, developed in advance by NEAR and SAR. Participants formed working groups to discuss, analyse and critique the model framework and response strategies.

Participants agreed to contribute to the development of a new global e-bulletin and to work with NEAR and SAR to develop more effective advocacy strategies with the UN, Unesco and other international and regional bodies. A full report on the proceedings and outcomes will be available on the NEAR and SAR websites shortly.

AUSTRALIA: Human rights education kit

The Australian arm of Amnesty International has prepared a kit for use in university education faculties to assist trainee teachers to identify ways of incorporating human rights in their teaching. Amnesty International hopes the kit will be an important step in increasing a focus on human rights rationale across the curriculum.

"Our research shows that teachers want to ensure that the next generation learns about human rights. This kit provides exciting resources to help make this happen," said Desley Mather, Campaigns Director for Amnesty International. "We hope this long-term project will inspire young people to take action on human rights in classrooms and throughout the rest of their lives."

The kit includes practical activities and resources for tertiary staff and student teachers as well as a DVD demonstrating the activities in action. It was distributed free to all tertiary institutions across Australia and the DVD will be sent to all secondary schools. For details contact Karen Iles (

* Daniel Sawney and Jonathan Travis work for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR)