Sanctions university to file a complaint to the EU

The president of a top Iranian technology university slapped with European Union (EU) sanctions announced in December, has said his institution – Sanati Sharif University of Technology in Tehran – had not been violating sanctions and he would “complain against the decision”.

The EU added the university, one of Iran’s most prestigious science institutions, to an updated sanctions list on 22 December. In all, a further 19 companies and organisations were added to the list of 600 Iranian companies and individuals.

Diplomats in Brussels said Sharif University’s top-level course on nuclear physics engineering had led to its featuring on various ‘cause for concern’ lists in Europe since 2009.

The EU Commission has claimed unofficially that the university is involved in Iran’s nuclear energy programme. But Sharif University President Reza Rousta Azad has denied this.

Speaking during a meeting of university leaders in Tehran on 28 January, Rousta Azad told state-owned Press TV that although the EU announced sanctions against the university a month ago, he had only received the letter of sanctions from the EU this week.

“We plan to file a complaint to the EU and we will fight for our rights.”

Rousta Azad said: “We have been familiar with the sanctions regime for three decades. What’s sad, odd and surprising is the way the EU has tried to justify its political move. Everyone knows that Sharif University is a civilian university.

“We haven’t any record in Europe to suggest we have been providing technical and scientific support to Iran’s nuclear energy programme. The EU has no excuse.”

EU sanctions include a freeze on the university’s European assets and a ban on dealing with European companies and individuals. But Rousta Azad said the university had no European assets and sanctions would have no impact on its international programmes and activities.

At the same Tehran meeting of university leaders Kamran Daneshjoo, Iran’s science minister, lashed out at the West for imposing sanctions against the university. Official media quoted him as saying:

“The West uses science as a tool to dominate the world; for us science is a tool to facilitate human development. It is because of these two conflicting views that the West has become so irrational. If we master the technology we will share it with the world. Quite the opposite, the West wants to monopolise everything by restricting non-Western universities like those in Iran.”

Rousta-Azad also claimed that European countries were divided on academic sanctions.

A European diplomat in Brussels said, for example, that Germany’s Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) last year signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology.

A European diplomat, who spoke to University World News on condition of anonymity, said his embassy in Brussels had been petitioning against the inclusion of the university on the EU sanctions list since it had appeared on various ‘cause for concern’ lists in previous years.

Petitioners in Iran, mainly students and professors, pointed out that even US sanctions exclude scientific exchanges with Iran, and voiced fear that the university could become a possible target for military attack, using its position on the sanctions list as a justification.

A number of Iranian universities – mostly technology institutions – have featured on various European country blacklists as providing ‘cause for concern’.

According to diplomatic sources they include Tehran University; Azad University branches in Bushehr and Shar E Ghods; Islamic Azad University’s Physics Research Centre; Isfahan University of Technology; Khaje Nassir-Al-Din Toosi University of Technology in Tehran; Malek Ashtar Unviersity of Technology with three campuses including one in Tehran; Shahid Chamran University in Ahvaz; and Tarbiat Modares University.

Last July Malek Ashtar University was put on the US sanctions list because it was said to train military technicians.

* Yojana Sharma contributed to this article.