Iran: Canadian academic Dr. Homa Hoodfar remains in jail after more than 100 days

 

After more than a hundred days in detention, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) asks the Iranian authorities to free Dr. Homa Hoodfar, a 65-year-old Canadian-Iranian academic who was arrested in Tehran on 6 June 2016. Her arrest came after nearly three months of repeated questioning by the Iranian intelligence service, according to reports from Hoodfar’s sister.

Hoodfar’s house was first raided in March this year, a day before she was due to fly to London, when her belongings and her three passports were confiscated. She was then continuously called for investigations until the day she was arrested and taken to Tehran’s Evin prison without access to a lawyer or to her family. Reports from the media linked with the revolutionary guard claim that she was arrested for charges of “dabbling with feminism.”

Hoodfar is a professor of social anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She is a renowned anthropologist, and has published several studies related but not limited to gender and development, Islamic family law, and women’s political participation. In addition to her contributions as a scholar, Hoodfar has contributed her expertise to research-based networks such as Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Shirkat Gah. In one of her latest studies, she highlights the importance of women in a society, and how women are shaping a new way forward through their own variations of feminism. This work is one of many that actually highlight the importance of her input in women’s rights academic work from a very national academic perspective.

Her arrest is worrisome firstly because it violates principles of intellectual freedom and secondly, because Hoodfar suffers from a rare neurological illness and she often has very bad headaches. Yet despite her illness, she is not being given access to a lawyer or to family visits.

As Hoodfar is a dual national, there have been efforts on behalf of the Canadian government to secure her release, however as Canada does not have a formal presence in Iran, they have been unsuccessful. According to an interview with Canadian officials by the “Guardian” newspaper, “Consular officials and Minister Dion have met with Dr Hoodfar’s family, and remain in close contact with them.” UN officials have also called for Hoodfar’s release, stating that “Iran is breaching its national constitutional principles by arbitrarily arresting and detaining people for simply expressing their opinion and conducting academic research, as is their professional right and duty.”

The Iranian government has yet to provide a valid explanation as to why Hoodfar has been arrested. According to the Scholars at Risk (SAR) network, she had traveled to Iran in February to visit relatives and conduct research. SAR has a petition calling for her freedom at: http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50943/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18948

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