GLOBAL: Academic freedom reports worldwide

The Chinese authorities have arrested three Tibetan monks, including a student, in Beijing following a self-immolation protest against Chinese rule in Tibet, and have banned an inter-college debate on the 1911 revolution. In Iran, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Allameh Tabatabaee University in Tehran has been dismissed, and two student activists have been expelled from Baku State University in Azerbaijan. Student anti-government protests have been held in Damascus and at Aleppo University in Syria.

CHINA: Tibetan monks arrested, including a student

The Chinese authorities have arrested three Tibetan monks, including a student, in Beijing following a self-immolation protest against Chinese rule in Tibet, Radio Free Asia reported on 3 April.

In the aftermath of protests against Chinese rule in Tibet, when young monk Lobsang Phuntsog self-immolated and died on 17 March, the Chinese authorities have intensified and widened their repression of Tibetan monks. Protestors were asking for a free Tibet and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Lobsang Tsepak, a student at Beijing Nationality University, and two other monks, Lobsang Ngodrup and Lobsang Choephel, were arrested. The reason and the location of their detention remain unknown.

The Chinese authorities have increased their control over the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, making the coverage of events even more difficult than usual. They imposed new restrictions on the Kirti Monastery in the Ngaba Prefecture, where both Phuntsog and Tsepak come from, including wider control over the monks' movements.

The Chinese authorities have also arrested dozens of Tibetans, including members of Phuntsog's family, without revealing the reasons for the arrests.

According to Tsering, a monk affiliated with the Kirti Monastery in Dharamsala in India, Chinese authorities have been carrying out re-education programmes with Tibetans monks. It has been reported that Kirti Monastery and the Ngaba prefecture have witnessed regular repression from the Chinese authorities, especially since unrest in 2008.

CHINA: Inter-university debates banned by Beijing authorities

The Chinese authorities in Beijing have banned an inter-college debate on the 1911 revolution due to start on 9 April, the Sunday Morning Post reported on 10 April.

The Beijing Committee of the Communist Youth League ordered the organisers of the inter-university debate, from the Beijing Institute of Technology, to cancel the event the day before it was due to start. According to Zhang Ming, a politics professor at Renmin University and a planned judge in the competition, students were angry and disappointed by the last-minute ban.

The competition has been held since 2002 and attracted 16 universities, including the prominent Peking University, Renmin University and Tianjin University. The debates have focused on the 1911 revolution and the political philosophy developed by Dr Sun Yat-sen, on "The Three Principles of the People - Nationalism, democracy and livelihood". Students were encouraged to discuss its political heritage as reflected in modern China.

With the official commemoration of the 1911 revolution's 100th anniversary upcoming, a significantly patriotic event for the Chinese government, it will carefully avoid any reference to democracy and revolution, sensitive subjects for the authorities.

Universities and students have been particularly targeted by the Chinese authorities, especially following continuous anonymous online calls for 'Jasmine' demonstrations, inspired by the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East. Controversial measures were taken to increase control over the population and restrict freedoms.

Recently, Peking University announced its intention to screen students, including those with "radical thoughts" and "eccentric lifestyles". While the university justified the measure as a way to help solve students' academic and social problems, students argue that screening will enforce self-censorship. The measure has been tested since November 2010, in a college of the university reputed for its liberal thinking, and is due to be implemented across the entire university in May.

IRAN: Lawyer and academic dismissed from Faculty

A human rights lawyer and professor of law at Allameh Tabatabaee University in Tehran has been dismissed from the faculty, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported on 7 April.

Mohammad Sharif, a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Allameh Tabatabaee, a state-run university, has been discharged from his position after 25 years of service. His courses were cancelled without any explanation on 21 January 2011, and he was dismissed in early April.

He reported having received a dismissal letter signed by Hojjatollah Mansouri, head of university administration, one of his former students who had failed courses.

Sharif said his activities as a human rights lawyer had cost him his position at the university. However, he argued that he had always been careful to stay within the framework of the law while defending a number of political and rights activist since the disputed 2009 election, and had not spoken to the international media.

The next and only possible step for Sharif is to take his case to the administrative justice court, but he is sceptical of the result. He is currently concerned about his economic stability, as his sole income has been denied, and severance or retirement benefits are not possible due to his dismissal.

Since last year, the Iranian authorities have dismissed or pushed into retirement a large number of qualified academics from their positions at universities and colleges across Iran, without any explanation or under false accusations of "general disqualifications".

AZERBAIJAN: Youth activists expelled from university

Two students and youth activists in opposition parties were expelled from Baku State University in Azerbaijan last week, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty reported on 12 April.

Students Tural Abbasli and Javid Mehraliyev, both political activists and members of Azerbaijani opposition parties, were expelled on 5 and 6 April.

Officially Abbasli, a masters student in journalism and leader of the youth wing of the Musavat party, has been banned from continuing his studies for administrative reasons. The faculty of journalism at Bakou State University said Abbasli failed to attend classes during 100 tuition hours and did not pay the tuition fee of 900 manats ($1,135) for the academic period between September 2010 and the end of March 2011.

Javid Mehraliyev, a member of the Classical Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, was expelled from Baku State University for similar reasons. He denied the accusations, claiming that he was registered as absent even when he was actually in class.

While the university declared that the decision to expel the two students was not political, the students claimed the expulsions were indeed linked to their political activities.

The Azerbaijani authorities have increased repression of the opposition and rights activist after large protests against the government organised in March and early April, inspired by the popular uprisings in the Middle East, to push for greater freedoms and rights.

SYRIA: Student anti-government protests in Aleppo and Damascus

Student protests against Bashar al Assad's government have been held in Damascus and at Aleppo University in Syria, Reuters reported on 14 April.

Students demonstrated on the Aleppo University campus to show their support for protestors in Deraa, the southern city where protests against the government and its authoritarian rule started more than three weeks ago. Students were also protesting to push for greater political freedoms and basic rights.

The protest movement spread throughout the country and violent clashes with the police and Bath Party security forces have been reported in several cities. Witnesses confirmed the large presence of secret police, increasing fear of reprisal among protestors.

Protestors have also demanded an end to emergency laws, implemented decades ago, which allow police to arrest people without laying charges.

Demonstrations took place in Damascus early last week. Hundreds of students, most of them from Deraa, gathered in the capital on Monday to protest against state repression and the death of several protestors last weekend, including a student who was shot dead during a demonstration.

Violent clashes broke out between the police and protestors yelling pro-freedom and pro-democracy slogans. An activist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, confirmed violent police repression.

Since the movement spread to Damascus and Aleppo campuses, students have been particularly targeted by the authorities as a way to control the movement. According to organisations such as Damascus Declaration, a major human rights group in Syria, more than 200 people have died since the beginning of the protests.

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* Noemi Bouet is an intern at the Network for Education and Academic Rights, NEAR, a non-profit organisation that facilitates the rapid global transfer of accurate information in response to breaches of academic freedom and human rights in education.