Extend amnesty to remaining imprisoned scholars and students
Posted March 15, 2023
Scholars at Risk issued the below letter to Iranian authorities, urging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to extend the amnesty granted to hundreds in prison to the scholars and students who remain in prison, including Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, Ms. Niloufar Bayani, Mr. Ali Younesi, and Mr. Amirhossein Moradi. Among those granted amnesty is Dr. Fariba Adelkhah; however, Dr. Adelkhah’s identity card, passport, and computer have not been returned to her. SAR urges Iranian authorities to ensure Dr. Adelkhah’s freedom of movement is respected and that she is able to safely travel outside of Iran.
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
c/o H.E. Mr. Amir Saeid Iravani
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
March 15, 2023
RE: Extend amnesty to remaining imprisoned scholars and students
I write on behalf of Scholars at Risk to welcome the release of anthropologist Dr. Fariba Adelkhah and to respectfully urge you to ensure her full freedom is secured, including her right to travel. Furthermore, I urge you to ensure that the amnesty you granted to Dr. Adelkhah be extended to the other scholars and students who remain in prison, including Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, Ms. Niloufar Bayani, Mr. Ali Younesi, and Mr. Amirhossein Moradi.
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 600 universities and colleges in over 40 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 infringement of these freedoms, SAR intervenes hoping to resolve matters favorably.
SAR understands that Iranian authorities released Dr. Adelkhah as part of a broader amnesty or reduction of sentences. Dr. Adelkhah, a researcher and Director of Research at the Paris Institute of Political Studies at Sciences Po, had been in prison for over three years. Dr. Adelkhah was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic’s political system” and “collusion to undermine national security.” While we welcome Dr. Adelkhah’s release, we understand that her identity card, passport, and computer have not been returned to her. We respectfully urge you to instruct the appropriate authorities to return Dr. Adelkhah’s personal belongings to her and to ensure that her right to travel is respected. Dr. Adelkhah should be free to travel in and out of Iran, including returning to France so she may continue her research and be reunited with her friends and colleagues.
While we welcome Dr. Adelkhah’s release and respectfully ask for further positive intervention on her behalf, we remain concerned that hundreds of other scholars and students remain in prison, including Dr. Djalali, Ms. Bayani, Mr. Younesi, and Mr. Moradi. We respectfully urge you to extend amnesty to them.
Dr. Djalali, a scholar of disaster medicine, was arrested in April 2016 and has been imprisoned under the death penalty on a charge of “corruption on earth” (ifsad fil-arz). The charge reportedly relates to allegations that Dr. Djalali had provided intelligence to the Israeli authorities; however, no evidentiary basis for these allegations have been disclosed, and Dr. Djalali has disputed them. The past 6 years and 10 months have been horrific for Dr. Djalali. On multiple occasions, prison authorities have threatened to carry out Dr. Djalali’s execution. Dr. Djalali’s health has drastically worsened; he suffers from severe weight loss, stomach pain, and difficulty breathing. Despite this, authorities continue to deny him appropriate medical care.
Ms. Bayani, the program manager of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, has been in prison since January 2018 when she was arrested alongside her colleagues while conducting field research on the endangered Asiatic cheetah. Ms. Bayani was sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of “contacts with the U.S. enemy state” and “gaining illegitimate income.” Authorities allegedly used torture techniques to force confessions from Ms. Bayani that she has since retracted.
Mr. Younesi and Mr. Moradi are award-winning students in computer engineering and physics, respectively, at Sharif University of Technology, who are serving 16-year prison sentences on charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” and “destruction of public property.” The charges appear to stem from their families’ alleged ties to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group based in Albania, and their alleged participation in nationwide protests in January 2020. Messrs. Younesi and Moradi were also allegedly tortured and subjected to maltreatment to force confessions that they both retracted.
Absent additional information, the wrongful arrest, conviction, and sentencing of scholars and students coupled with allegations of torture and denial of appropriate medical care suggest a troubling disregard for international standards relating to academic freedom; freedoms of expression, assembly, and association; the right to due process and a fair trial; and the humane treatment of prisoners, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. The arrest, imprisonment, and maltreatment of Dr. Djalali, Ms. Bayani, Mr. Younesi, and Mr. Moradi further undermine the conditions needed for developing quality higher education and scientific research that can benefit both Iranian and global society.
SAR therefore respectfully urges you to:
- ensure Dr. Adelkhah’s freedom of movement be respected, including by returning her identity card and passport to her and ensuring she is safely able to travel in and out of Iran;
- extend the amnesty and direct the relevant authorities to immediately release Dr. Djalali, Ms. Bayani, Mr. Younesi, and Mr. Moradi on humanitarian grounds; and,
- pending such action, ensure their 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. Ali Bahreini
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 Ali Zolfigol
Minister of Science, Research and Technology
Islamic Republic of Iran
The Honorable Ali Salajegheh
The head of the Department of Environment
Islamic Republic of Iran
Dr. Bahram Ainullahi
Ministry of Health and Medical Education
Islamic Republic of Iran
The Honorable Sorena Sattari
Vice President for Science & Technology Affairs & Head of the National Elites Foundation
Islamic Republic of Iran
The Honorable Rassol Jalili
President, Sharif University of Technology
The Honorable Alireza Aghaee
Inspector, Iranian Physics Association
The Honorable Reza Reazai
Chief Inspector, Iranian Astronomical Society
The Honorable Elham Darmanki Farahani
Investigator, Computer Society of Iran
The Honorable Vahid Ahmadi
Chair, IEEE Iran Section
The Honorable Reza Faraji-Dana
Chair of the Board, Iranian Society of Engineering Education
 John Gambrell, “Iran acknowledges ‘tens of thousands’ detained in protests,” AP News, February 5, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/iran-protests-and-demonstrations-government-ali-khamenei-8560e45570321ad08ef75f1f743f9b80.
 Golnaz Esfandiari, “Jailed Iranian Ecologist Says Threatened With Rape, Death, Forced To Imitate Animals,” Radio Free Europe, February 22, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-iranian-ecologist-says-she-was-threatened-with-rape-death-forced-to-imitate-animals/30449008.html.
 Amnesty International, “Iran: Tortured students jailed unjustly: Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi,” August 4, 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/5920/2022/en/.