Homa Hoodfar’s Incarceration

My colleague and friend, Dr. Homa Hoodfar has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since June 6th on unclear charges. Amnesty International considers her to be a prisoner of conscience.

I have known Homa since 1990, when she came to work in our department at Concordia University. Since that time I have been greatly impressed with the quality of her work, the professional standards that she maintains in that work, her generous support of students, and her commitment to scholarship. She is also an excellent colleague and friend. She is an internationally recognized scholar working on women’s democratic and human rights in Muslim societies.

On March 10, 2016 she was detained for questioning by the Revolutionary Guard at which time her passport, phone, research papers, and computer were seized. At that she was released on bail but faced repeated interrogations. On June 6 she was arrested and taken to Evin prison. Since that time she has not been granted access to her family or legal counsel and may be held in solitary confinement.

Please sign the petition at the Free Homa Hoodfar website http://www.homahoodfar.org/. Their “Get Involved” link also has instructions for sending letter to the Canadian, Irish, and Iranian governments – along with social media options. The Irish government is included since Homa is an Irish national in addition to Canadian and Iranian.

The “Women Living Under Muslim Law” site also has a letter writing campaign which includes information about Iranian officials. You can find their Action Alert via http://www.wluml.org/action/action-alert-dr-homa-hoodfar-0.

Not only does her poor health make this a matter of urgency but such action offends all of us who are committed to scholarship and scientific investigation. It reminds us that such investigation can come at a considerable price and requires continuing attention.

You can find out more about this situation via the numerous media options below (adapted from Concordia Media Review June 10).

Payvand Iran News, Pakistan ObserverAl Arabiya, The Lebanon Daily Star, the Boston Globe (picking up from The New York Times), La Parisienne24 Matins (France), 24 heures (Switzerland), MondafriqueKompas Internasional (in Indonesian), BoursoramaVice NewsCanada Standard, Hungarian Free Press  and Buzz Feed NewsThe Washington Post, which reported earlier on the arrest, filed a second story on Hoodfar’s interrogation and detention.

Montreal’s CTV News and Global News each present a profile of Hoodfar, both featuring Hoodfar’s niece, Montrealer Amanda Ghahremani, and a friend and former Concordia colleague of Hoodfar, professor Marguerite Mendell.

CBC News reports that friends and former Concordia colleagues and students of Hoodfar are looking for ways to help secure her release from Evin prison: it quotes Marguerite Mendell, professor in the School of Community and Public Affairs, Kimberley Manning, political science professor and principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, and Kathryn Jezer-Morton, a former student of Hoodfar. Concordia President Alan Shepard is quoted from a statement posted on Concordia’s website.

Radio Canada International (in French and in English) The Toronto Star (picking up from Associated Press)  and The Canadian Press (CP) report that Amnesty International is demanding Iran release Hoodfar. It cites Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, who says Hoodfar is a prisoner of conscience. It also reports that Hoodfar’s family has indicated that the academic, who taught social anthropology at Concordia, was arrested as she conducted research on the condition of women in Iran. The CP story is picked up by dozens of media, including CTVNews.ca, The Toronto Star, Le DevoirL’actualité, CastanetCJAD and Journal Métro.

CBC.ca Radio Canada International (reprised by MSN actualités) reports that even as Iran maintains a news blackout on Hoodfar’s condition and legal status, Teheran continues to press Ottawa to extradite an Iranian banker suspected of involvement in fraudulent financial activity. The Globe and Mail also reports on the Iranian demand for the extradition and a possible link between that situation and Hoodfar’s arrest.

The English edition of Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London, reports that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which carried out the Hoodfar arrest, is suspected of actively obstructing the Iranian government’s efforts to normalize ties with Western countries, including Canada.

The National Post quotes a friend of Hoodfar who says the retired professor was researching women’s participation in political life in Tehran when she was arrested, but that she is not an activist.

Hoodfar’s arrest is mentioned in a report in Inside Higher Ed about “Universities in a Dangerous World”, a three-day meeting at McGill. A colleague of Hoodfar, McGill professor Vrinda Narain, spoke on Hoodfar’s behalf during the Congress.

The Globe and Mail published an opinion piece by Marina Nemat, co-chair of the board of directors at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. Nemat, who was once detained at Evin prison, where Hoodfar is being held, says she was tortured and raped during her imprisonment in 1982, at age 16.  She urges Canadians across civil society to press Iran on human rights.

Finally, the Hoodfar arrest is mentioned briefly in a roundup of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets and compiled by CriticalThreats.org

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