Sanaz Raji began her PhD on the Iranian Diaspora post 9/11 in October 2009. In February 2010, three months into her research project finding herself wholly dissatisfied with the supervision she received Sanaz made a complaint to the School of Media and Communication Research Postgraduate Tutor, requesting a change of supervisors. Instead of assisting Sanaz’s request, as is her right stipulated in the University of Leeds Research Student Handbook the Postgraduate Research Tutor forced Sanaz into an unworkable supervisory arrangement that left her open to further institutional racism and victimization by the supervisory team designated to her research project. Additionally, Sanaz did not receive the required ten supervision meetings as stipulated in the Research Student Handbook.
Despite passing her upgrade transfer viva in September 2010 and making good progress on her research, Sanaz’s scholarship was wrongfully revoked on the 15th August 2011, two weeks before the start of the 2011-2012 academic year. The School of Media and Communication breached their own rules and conditions concerning the removal of a scholarship, which are as follows: “Student whose progress or conduct is considered unsatisfactory may have their Scholarships terminated. In such cases four weeks’ notice should be given to enable the student to make domestic arrangements.” (ICS Research Scholarship General Conditions 2009-2010).
As a result of these actions by the School of Media and Communication, Sanaz has not been able to finish her PhD project.
The unjust removal of Sanaz’s scholarship has left her in a state of destitution and homelessness for over two years, which has gravely affected her health. In March 2014, Sanaz was hospitalised at Leeds General Infirmary for two weeks with functional limb weakness, a condition brought about due to the extreme stress that she has been under.
Sanaz survives on the kindness of friends and her supporters from the Justice4Sanaz campaign, many of whom are utterly shocked that the School of Media and Communication treat their friend in such a cruel and vindictive manner. We, as members of the Justice4Sanaz cannot understand why Sanaz, a published author who has written for media outlets like the Guardian, Tehran Bureau/Public Broadcasting Service and academic books and journals, such as Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, be taken off her scholarship and her world-class research project in such an atrocious and inhumane manner.
Sanaz has fought to have her scholarship reinstated so that she can complete her PhD. Despite going through the University of Leeds internal appeals procedure, which took almost a year to provide a final decision, and the Office of Independent Adjudicators for Higher Education (OIHE), which took an additional nine months to make a decision, Sanaz did not find an equitable solution to the horrendous situation she is in. Most recently, in August 2014 the Legal Aid Agency granted Sanaz and her solicitor, Mr Carl Gallagher, funding to take the OIAHE for a judicial review. However, on the 1st December 2014, Sanaz learned that her judicial review application had been denied and adding insult to injury, documents pertaining to her case that were hand delivered and noted by Leeds Administrative Court went missing the day the judge made a decision concerning her case! Currently, Sanaz and her solicitor are following up with Leeds Administrative Court how this egregious miscarriage of justice could have happened.
As an non-EU international student who’s student visa expired on the 31st December 2013, Sanaz is fighting to remain in the United Kingdom in the hopes of taking a breach of contracts case against the University of Leeds.
Since launching Justice4Sanaz in April 2013, Sanaz has received support from 8 university student unions: King’s College London, Royal Holloway, Bradford University, Bristol University, SOAS, University of Birmingham, University of the Arts London, and Kingston University.
Additionally, Sanaz has support from Defend Education Birmingham, Warwick for Free Education, NUS Black Students Campaign, Manchester No Borders, Leeds No Borders, Exeter University Student Occupation 2014, Defend the Right to Protest. Also, over 1,000 supporters have signed her petition on Change.org.
Why is Justice4Sanaz important?
As Sanaz explained recently at This is Not a Gateway Festival in November 2014, in her talk about the the plight of non-EU international and BME students and the academic industrial complex, British universities are using non-EU international students as little more than “cash cows” to prop up an ailing and unequal neoliberal university system that thrives on divide and rule tactics to keep students and staff fighting against each other rather than against the system that oppresses them. Non-EU international students, in turn, are finding that their rights are eroding, especially the ever changing immigration policy under the Home Secretary, Theresa May that has left many non-EU international students further exposed to unjust and inhumane treatment, whether by UKBA or their universities.
What Justice4Sanaz has shown is the hypocrisy within British higher education, which purports to offer non-EU international students with world class education, when in fact, non-EU international students are given shoddy services, a woeful lack of contact time with their mentors and supervisors, forced and bullied to do unpaid labour for departments, and finally, if like Sanaz, they complain, they are forced out with little recourse to challenge the system.
This discriminatory treatment against non-EU international students MUST END! Support Justice4Sanaz and help make sure that non-EU international students are treated and given the same opportunities as their British and EU counterparts.