Scholars at Risk has sent to Iranian authorities the below letter raising concern for the well-being of Niloufar Bayani, a wrongfully imprisoned researcher and conservationist who is suffering from COVID-19. SAR calls on Iranian authorities to secure Ms. Bayani’s immediate release on medical grounds so that she may receive urgent medical care.
Sent via email to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
c/o H.E. Mr. Majid Takht Ravanchi
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
August 9, 2021
RE: Release Niloufar Bayani on medical grounds
I write on behalf of Scholars at Risk to express grave concern for the well-being of Niloufar Bayani, a wrongfully imprisoned researcher and conservationist who is suffering from COVID-19. I respectfully urge you to call on the appropriate authorities to secure Ms. Bayani’s immediate release on medical grounds so that she may receive urgent medical care.
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 500 universities and colleges in 42 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 this, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, SAR investigates, hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.
SAR last wrote to you on December 4, 2019, seeking the release of Ms. Bayani, who was arrested in January 2018 alongside eight colleagues from the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation while conducting fieldwork . In November 2019, she was convicted and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment on charges of “contacts with the U.S. enemy state” and “gaining illegitimate income.” Ms. Bayani has alleged that she was subjected to physical and psychological torture, in order to force a confession that served as the basis for her indictment.
In July 2021, reports surfaced of a rise in cases of COVID-19 in the women’s ward of Evin Prison . On August 1, 2021, it was reported that Ms. Bayani was transferred to the Evin Prison quarantine ward after testing positive for Covid-19. Once detainees are transferred to the quarantine ward, they are reportedly denied any medical care until their health worsens at which point they may be transferred to the prison infirmary or a hospital . SAR Is deeply concerned that Ms. Bayani’s health may suffer greatly if she is denied proper medical treatment.
Absent additional information, Ms. Bayani’s conviction, sentence, allegations of torture, and reports of a lack of appropriate medical care for detainees suggest a troubling disregard for international standards of 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. The arrest, imprisonment, and treatment of Ms. Bayani further undermine the conditions needed for quality higher education and scientific research, including academic freedom.
SAR therefore respectfully urges you to direct the relevant authorities to immediately release Ms. Bayani on medical grounds and, pending such action, to ensure her well-being and access to urgent, quality medical treatment, legal counsel, and family, in accordance with international human rights obligations.
I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.
The Honorable Ebrahim Raeisi
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
c/o H.E. Mr. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva
The Honorable Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Honorable Irene Khan
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
The Honorable Javaid Rehman
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Honorable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
The Honorable Marc Garneau
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada