Iranian authorities have reportedly released roughly 85,000 individuals from prisons, in an effort to contain the outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. Authorities have not, however, released Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali who has long been in need of urgent medical care and is therefore at greater risk of experiencing adverse effects of the disease.
SAR has issued the below letter to Iranian officials, urging them to secure Dr. Djalali’s immediate and unconditional release from prison, amidst growing concerns of his well-being with COVID-19. Additionally, in combatting this pandemic, Iran and the rest of the world would greatly benefit from the expertise of disaster medicine scholars like Dr. Djalali.
Demonstrate your support for Dr. Djalali and the right to academic freedom by sending a copy of this letter under your own name.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
c/o H.E. Mr. Majid Takht Ravanchi
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
P.O. Box 20432
New York, NY 10017, USA
March 23, 2020
RE: Release Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali amidst concerns of COVID-19
I write again on behalf of the Scholars at Risk Network to express grave concern for Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, a scholar of disaster medicine who was sentenced to death in October 2017. I understand that Dr. Djalali suffers from severely deteriorating health and is at great risk of experiencing adverse effects of the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. Furthermore, in combatting this pandemic, Iran and the rest of the world would greatly benefit from the expertise of disaster medicine scholars like Dr. Djalali.
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 500 universities and colleges in 39 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world, and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association, and travel. In cases like that of Dr. Djalali, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, Scholars at Risk investigates hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.
SAR last wrote to you on September 5, 2019, seeking the release of Dr. Djalali following reports that on July 29, 2019, Dr. Djalali was unexpectedly transferred to an undisclosed location, where he was held in solitary confinement and allegedly subjected to torture before being returned to Evin Prison.
Dr. Djalali has been denied medical care several times despite increasing health complications. Following an operation on November 19, 2018, Dr. Djalali was immediately transferred back to Evin Prison and visited by a specialist who discovered that Dr. Djalali’s bone marrow cells had severely weakened, indicating a high possibility of leukemia. On the recommendation of the doctor, Dr. Djalali was scheduled to see a blood and cancer specialist at a hospital on February 5, 2019; however, prison authorities prevented him from going. Dr. Djalali remains in prison and continues to suffer severe health complications. Reports indicate that Iranian authorities have released roughly 85,000 individuals from prisons in an effort to contain the outbreak of COVID- 19. Authorities have not, however, released Dr. Djalali, who because of his poor health condition, is at greater risk of experiencing adverse effects of the disease.
We welcome any additional information that may explain these events or clarify our understandings. Absent this, Dr. Djalali’s conviction, capital sentence, unexpected transfer, allegations of torture – in addition to the circumstances of his arrest and continued confinement – suggest a troubling disregard for international standards of academic freedom, due process, fair trial, and humane treatment of prisoners, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.
Furthermore, in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran and the rest of the world would greatly benefit from the expertise of disaster medicine scholars like Dr. Djalali.
We therefore respectfully urge you to instruct the relevant authorities to immediately release Dr. Djalali and, pending such action, to ensure his well-being and access to legal counsel, family, and medical treatment.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to your response. Sincerely,
President Hassan Rouhani
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Palestine Avenue, Pasteur St., Pasteur Sq.
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi
c/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN
Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28
1209 Geneva, Switzerland
The Honorable Santiago Villalpando
Director of the Office of International Standards and Legal Affairs
7 place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP, France
The Honorable Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Honorable Javaid Rehman
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
The Honorable Joseph Borrell
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi, Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels, Belgium
The Honorable Stefan Löfven
Prime Minister of Sweden Rosenbad 4
SE 103 33
The Honorable Philippe Goffin
Foreign Minister of Belgium
FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
Rue des Petits Carmes 15 1000
The Honorable Luigi Di Maio
Foreign Minister of Italy
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
Piazzale della Farnesina, 1 00135
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
United States Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20520