After ten years of persistence in demanding that her right to education, unjustly denied, be reinstated, Mahdieh Golru, was admitted into Al-Zahra university. Because of her social and political activism, Mahdieh Golrou a student rights and women’s rights activist, was classified as a “starred student” and barred from continuing her education in 2007. During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scores of students were barred from continuing their education because of their political and social activism within the university or elsewhere.
In a tweet Golru writes: “on a warm sunny day in June 2007 they took away my right, on a cold rainy day in February I got it back.” Her continued insistence and followup in having the education ban removed, has garnered much attention among Iranians, especially social activists. Her ability to ensure that her right to education is reinstated also brings hope to others whose right to education has been denied, including Majid Dori, another student activist, who was barred from education because of his political and social activism. He is currently staging protests outside of the ministry of education to demand his right for reinstatement.
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s President, promised to address and rectify the issue of barred students, reinstate those banned from education and end the practice altogether. While some bans were removed following his election, many continue to be barred from education, including Bahai’s who are denied access to eduction because of their faith.
Fereshteh Ghazi a respected journalist who covers political and social issues, with particular focus on human rights tweeted on Golrou’s reinstatement: “Mahdieh Golrou’s efforts and followup throughout these years, has increased attention to the situation of “starred students” and those barred from education by the media, the public, and even [government] officials. She did not give up and she got her right. More power to her.”
In a gathering of human rights activists last year, Mahdieh explains the importance of supporting students who have been expelled from university and the need to ensure that independence and integrity of universities. She explains that while students are expelled from university, there is a concerted effort to give scholarships to students who are not qualified, but whose ideological beliefs are in line with the hardline factions of the State. She warns of a future, in which university professors are hired because of their ideological beliefs rather than their scientific qualifications.
The issue of “starred students” became especially contentious when Ahmadinejad denied the practice. Many of those who had been barred and insisted on answers and pressed for the lifting of the ban, were subsequently arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. Eventually it came out that in fact there was a star system in place, which would classify students based on their social and political activism. Students with one star could attend university if they pledged to give up their activism. Those with two stars would be allowed into university if they pledged an end to their activism and agreed that they would be expelled if they engaged in political and social activity again. Those with three stars were banned from continuing their education.
Mahdieh Golrou was arrested on December 2, 2009, during protests against the outcome of the presidential elections, which reinstated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a second term. She was released on May 19, 2012, after serving two years and four months in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security.” Golrou was also arrested on October 23, 2014, a day after she attended a rally to protest acid attacks on women in Iran’s Isfahan Province. She was held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, and was finally released on January 18, 2015.