BRISMES Committee on Academic Freedom

The BRISMES Committee on Academic Freedom was set up to monitor and defend academic freedom in the research, study and teaching of Middle East Studies in the UK and anywhere in the world, including in academic institutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

To learn more about how the committee works, please see the Terms of Reference.

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Latest Letter

The Academic Freedom Committee has written to Iraqi authorities to express our profound concern about the recent directives which ban or limit the use of the terms “gender” (al-naw‘ al-ijtima‘i and al-jindar) and “homosexuality” (al-mithliyya) from official documents, institutions, and media platforms.

BRISMES understands that the directive applies to government institutions, including universities. This is a clear infringement of the academic freedom and freedom of expression of academics and students in Iraqi universities, who must be free to explore ideas, and to use academic terminology, as they choose.

This directive delegitimizes and devalues gender studies, which is an internationally recognised and vital field of academic study that contributes to improving the lives of women and girls and supporting their full participation in all spheres of life as well as allowing us to make sense of important societal dynamics and changes. Furthermore, the directive contributes to and legitimizes the discrimination that people with non-normative gender and sexual identities experience in Iraq, including university students and staff.

We urge Iraqi authorities to rescind the directive immediately and in full, and to confirm their commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression in Iraqi universities. 

29 August 2023

Previous Letters


  • The Committee on Academic Freedom wrote a letter to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to express deep concerns about the ongoing detention of Dr Ahmed Tohamy, Assistant Professor of Political Sciences in the Faculty of Economic and Political Sciences, Alexandria University. - 15 August 2023
  • Following the heartening news of the decision to pardon Mr Patrick George Zaki, the BRISMES Committee on Academic Freedom together with the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Italian Society for the Study of the Middle East (SeSaMO) wrote to the Egyptian government and to EU and Italian authorities regarding the ongoing detention of thousands of other students, academics, researchers and human rights defenders in Egypt.- 25 July 2023
  • Statement in solidarity with Dr Muriel Asseburg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs after she came under attack by the Israeli embassy in Berlin following comments that she made in a podcast discussing the situation in the Middle East. - 18 July 2023
  • BRISMES has signed a joint letter to Bahraini authorities expressing grave concern for the well-being of Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, an academic, award-winning human rights defender and blogger serving a life sentence in Bahrain solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. - 8 July 2023
  • Letter to Leiden University to express serious and urgent concern regarding the cancellation of the event ‘Apartheid in Palestine, Namibia, and South Africa - Ending Apartheid: Learning from the past and present’, organised by Students for Palestine (SfP), African Students Association (ASA) and the BASIS Africa Committee. - 6 July 2023
  • BRISMES has signed a joint letter from 51 organisations calling for the release of Dr Salah Soltan, an arbitrarily detained academic in Egypt. The co-signing organisations believe that the Egyptian authorities’ abuse of Dr Soltan, a legal US permanent resident, appears to be in retaliation for the human rights work of his son, Mohamed Soltan, who lives in the USA. - 3 May 2023
  • BRISMES has signed a joint letter from 104 organisations strongly urging the United Nations not to endorse or adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism which has been used to surpress criticism of human rights violations by Israeli authorities. - 20 April 2023
  • Statement of support for the Centre for Lebanese Studies (CLS), which abruptly had its partnership with the Lebanese American University (LAU) terminated. The committee expressed its support for CLS and its appreciation for the vital work that it does in Lebanon, the Middle East and the UK. - 1 March 2023
  • Letter to UK Foreign Secretary requesting that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office urges Saudi authorities to ensure that the death penalty against academics Awad Al-Qarni, Salman Alodah and Hassan Farhan al-Maliki is dropped and that they are immediately released from prison. - 2 February 2023
  • Statement from the BRISMES Committee on Academic Freedom in response to the Rebecca Tuck KC report on alleged antisemitism in the National Union of Students (NUS). - 1 February 2023
  • Letter to Bahraini authorities expressing concern about the ongoing imprisonment of Bahraini academic Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace and the violations of his academic freedom. - 4 January 2023


  • Open letter to COP27 attendees providing essential information regarding the state of academic freedom in Egypt. - 3 November 2022
  • Letter to Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal of University of Glasgow, expressing deep concern regarding the university's treatment of Ms. Jane Jackman.- 1 November 2022
  • Statement of solidarity with academic staff and students in Iran who have been protesting following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini. -6 October 2022
  • Letters to Leeds University and to the UK government to express alarm at the conviction and jailing of Leeds University PhD student Salma al-Shehab. - 24 August 2022
  • Letter to the University of Edinburgh and LSE urging them to clarify and restate their commitment to academic freedom in light of their partnerships with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) whose annual conference, COP27, is scheduled to be hosted by Egypt in November 2022. - 17 August 2022
  • Letters to Diaa Rashwan, Coordinator of the National Dialogue in Egypt, to express our deep concern about the ongoing detention of:
    • Alexandria University Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr Ahmed Al-Tohamy Abdel-Hay - Read letter
    • Helwan University’s former Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Dr Elsayed Hassan Shehabeldin Abo Zaid - Read letter
    • Former Cairo University Engineering Professor Dr Essam Hashish - Read letter
    • Egyptian Professor of Engineering Dr Mohamed Ali Beshr - Read letter
    • Egyptian scholar Dr Salah Soltan, who is also a resident of the United States - Read letter
    - 9 August 2022
  • Letter to Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna to express our serious and urgent concern regarding the cancellation of a talk by Dr Walaa Alqaisiya scheduled for May 30 at the Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies as part of its Spring Curatorial Program 2022, Art Geographies - 27 May 2022
  • Letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet to protest against Israeli violations of Palestinian academic freedom and to call on the Prime Minister to cancel the recently announced “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region” - 6 April 2022
  • Letter to Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor University of Manchester, to express our concerns about the University’s treatment of Alistair Hudson, Director, Whitworth Art Gallery (WAG) - 8 March 2022
  • Letter to Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University regarding the investigation of Shahd Abusalama and cancellation of the class she was scheduled to teach - 25 January 2022


  • Letter to the UK Home Secretary to express our concern about statements made by the Home Secretary following LSE student protests against the Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely - 16 November 2021
  • Report on meeting between BRISMES Committee on Academic Freedom and the Minister for Universities, Michelle Donelan, and Baroness Barran, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education, in follow-up to our correspondence with the Minister regarding the IHRA working definition of antisemitism - 28 October 2021


  • Letter to Egyptian President regarding the arrest and detention of Dr Ahmed Tohamy and the continued detention of Mr Patrick George Zaki.
    - 29 November 2020
  • Letter to Israeli government calling for the immediate release of Professor Imad Barghouthi.
    - 22 October 2020
  • Letter to the President of the German Rectors' Conference regarding the recent resolution entitled ‘No place for antisemitism’ and its implications for academic freedom.
    - 26 February 2020
  • Letter from BRISMES regarding the arrest and detention of Mr Patrick Zaki.
    - 14 February 2020
  • BRISMES signs open letter calling for the release of Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, academics imprisoned in Iran since last year on charges of espionage.
    - 11 February 2020


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