Academics from the University of Ostrava, Czechia, appeal to universities worldwide to support the struggle of Iranian women and men for human rights in their country

Academics from Ostrava University have published an Open letter from Iranians living in the free world on the global petition platform and called on the leadership of Czech and international universities, students, and all those who care about the situation in Iran to sign it.

The university environment has many international links and academics from the University of Ostrava (OU) are in contact with colleagues in Iranian universities as well as scholars and students with Persian roots outside Iran. They are no longer willing to stand by and watch the alarming situation in Iran, exacerbated by the death of the twenty-two-year-old law student Mahsa Amini. They are therefore calling on the international academic community and the public to join the Ostrava Initiative for the Support of Freedom and Human Rights in Iran.

"We consider it our duty to speak out against the blatant disregard for human rights and to spread awareness of the suffering of the people in Iran. We want to lead students to take an interest in society and to take responsibility for how it is run, so we ourselves cannot be indifferent to these appalling events," says Renáta Tomášková, Vice-Rector for International Relations at the University of Ostrava.

On the Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy, 17 November, Martin Štěpnička, Ass. Prof. and his academic colleagues met the authors of the open letter: "Unfortunately, many people still think in stereotypes and trust the false idea that the regime in Iran is what the majority wants for the Iranian society. In my entire career, I have never met a colleague from Iran who would support the regime. None of them have ever been insensitive or presented themselves as superior to women. On the contrary, they actively fight the regime. Their situation is comparable to the situation in the Czech society in 1980s. The dramatic difference, however, is that the Islamic regime represses their protests with a brutality beyond our imagination. And they have enormous courage to face this brutality," says Martin Štěpnička, one of the organizers of the Ostrava Initiative for Supporting Freedom and Human Rights in Iran.

This spring, the OU became a member of the international organization Scholars at Risk (SAR); the organization helps protect academics who suffer threats to their lives in their country, seeking asylum for them and providing moral support, but not only that. Education in human rights is an essential part of the activities.

"Thanks to SAR, we have an opportunity to invite Iranian scholars to lecture online or in person and learn about Iran's history and present from their perspective. Hopefully an exhibition of photographs by Iranian photographers we are planning will also help provide an insight into life in Iran," says Renáta Tomášková.

"Forming an attitude towards various events by seeking more comprehensive information and looking at situations from different perspectives is essential for the development of critical thinking. That is why we do not want to limit our initiative to the statement but prepare a range of educational activities aimed at providing (not only) students with such stimuli and opportunities," says Renáta Tomášková.

We respect the concerns of the authors of the letter about their safety and the safety of their families, which is why we do not reveal their identity. Instead we introduce the initiative with a symbolic photograph of an anonymous woman holding a poster depicting Iranian protesters with a portrait of Mahsa Amini. We would like to show our recognition of the leading role women have played in this movement. The photograph was taken at the Memorial Plaque to the Students of November 1989 by Jan Šnéberger, located on a building of the University of Ostrava, commemorating the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Full text of the statement soubor pdf 0,24 MB

Petition on

Scholars at risk

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Mgr. Adam Soustružník
Head of Marketing and communication center, University of Ostrava

+420 724 919 614

Updated: 30. 11. 2022