Being a college student in Iran is a brave thing

As a race, we are lucky that our young people believe they are immortal. If we didn’t have them to stand up and be counted without fear of the consequences. Being a student in Iran is one of the places where young people actively take on the system and do pay a price for the pleasure, but continue to do it anyway.

High Enrollment rates

Tertiary education in Iran has a high enrollment rate. According to UNESCO more than 70% of men and 65% of women enroll annually which is remarkable given prospects and the opportunities of these young people at the end of their 4-year degrees.

Iran has more educated people than it has jobs for them to fill

The original subhead was ‘Iran has an over educated population’ but I realized that is nonsense. There is no such thing as over educated. The point is for at least a quarter of those who make their way through the system there is nothing for them to graduate to in Iran. Not surprisingly, Iran has a large problem with young people getting degrees and leaving.

An alternative to an arranged marriage

Some commentators have suggested one of the reasons for the popularity levels is a university is one of the few places where young people can meet in a way sanctioned by their parents. If they should happen to meet an acceptable spouse while they are there, so much the better.

Bear in mind that Iran is a country which does not shy away from corporal punishment. The last Amnesty International report which came out in 2017 cites specific cases of young women who were privately lashed for attending mixed gender parties. And journalists are flogged for reporting the number of stolen motorcycles wrongly or miners are lashed for activating against working conditions.

Student activism

Students in Iran are active. Being politically active in Iran is a brave, some might say a foolhardy, thing to do. The Human Rights Watch released data earlier this summer of the number of students who have been arrested or sentenced this year.

They report since the beginning of the year the Intelligence Ministry has arrested at least 150 students, and the courts have sentenced at least 19 to prison sentences. It is problematic for students who are trying to work out how to walk the tightrope.

In effect, they encouraged to engage in public discourse while at the same time they run the risk of severe punishment for doing so. The charges they face are nebulous ‘conspiracy and collusion to act against national security’ and (a personal favorite) ‘for propaganda against the state and insulting its pillars.’

There are always those who hold the collective conscience for the rest of us; the ones who say ‘not on my watch’. Sometimes the results of the individuals change the collective. But for all of those, there are few figures for the ones whom the state swallowed and then spat out again understandably broken and defeated.