Increased monitoring of Iranian students and scientists

The Cabinet will start screening Iranian students and scientists in the Netherlands with immediate effect. It fears their specialist knowledge could be used to develop Iran’s ballistic missile program. TU/e counts 148 Iranians among its staff and 28 students from Iran are enrolled.

photo Shutterstock

The increased monitoring will apply to students who follow “sensitive” study courses and scientist who are active in research fields that pose a risk of “unwanted technology transfer,” ministers Blok (foreign affairs), Van Engelshoven (education) and Grapperhaus (justice) say in a briefing to parliament.


The Cabinet takes immediate action following increased concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile program. In their briefing, the ministers also refer to a “recent case.” Broadcasting organization NOS says this refers to a student at TU Delft who is studying the construction of missiles. The university cannot confirm this and will not comment on individual cases, according to TU Delft’s news site Delta.

It is unclear whether specialist knowledge has already been passed on to Iran. Students and researchers with ties to North Korea have been monitored for some time already. Iranians increasingly turned up during these investigations, minister Blok told the NOS.


It is not the first time that Iranian students and scientists are under scrutiny in the Netherlands. In 2006, the Netherlands used a Security Council resolution to ensure that people with an Iranian background needed permission from the department of education if they wished to follow a master’s program in physics, out of fear that they might pass on nuclear knowledge. An action group of Iranian students and scientists filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government that the supreme court eventually ruled in favor of in 2012.


Nevertheless, this discriminatory government policy was amended as late as 2013 by then education minister Bussemaker. From then on, every student and scientist needed to apply for an exemption if they wished to follow nuclear-related study courses at Dutch universities.

The first part of the letter sent to parliament by the ministers last week deals with monitoring of all students and scientists who might be linked to the Iranian missile program. The second part specifically refers to “students and researchers from Iran” that need to be monitored by a special ‘Taskforce,’ set up by the three ministries involved. But the monitoring will be “careful and non-discriminatory,” the ministers promise.

Share this article