About the Scholars in Prison Project

Posted May 3, 2019

Through the Scholars in Prison project, Scholars at Risk conducts advocacy on behalf of scholars and students who are wrongfully imprisoned in connection to their academic or expressive activities.

SAR invites everyone to participate in these efforts: Sign a letter of appeal to state and UN leaders, raise awareness about these cases through social media campaigns, hold events in your community to show solidarity, or start a Student Advocacy Seminar on your campus.

To receive updates on Scholars in Prison cases as well as additional advocacy opportunities, subscribe to our Advocacy Opportunities, and to provide case updates or inquire about any of the below cases, please email us. To learn more about the Scholars in Prison project, review our FAQs.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Scholars in Prison project


What does SAR do to assist imprisoned scholars and students?

SAR conducts both public and private advocacy on behalf of cases under the project, depending on the family’s or legal counsel’s preferences. Advocacy may include issuing a public or private letter of concern, organizing letter-writing campaigns, participating in social media campaigns, hosting events, raising cases with government officials, including cases in reports to intergovernmental bodies, among other activities. SAR is currently monitoring over 50 cases as part of the Scholars in Prison project.

How does SAR learn about and select cases for the Scholars in Prison project?

SAR identifies potential cases for the Scholars in Prison project through the Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, the media, higher education institutions, scholars, and partner organizations. SAR also receives requests for assistance from family members or colleagues of imprisoned scholars and students. In some cases, if a scholar is temporarily released on bail or is otherwise out of state custody, SAR will receive requests directly from the scholar.

When receiving a request for help, SAR conducts research about the scholar and their situation, and assesses the amount and quality of information available, the gravity of the case, and opportunities for SAR to make an impact in the case.

How can individuals and higher education communities get involved?

SAR is grateful to its network for advocacy efforts on behalf of scholars in prison. Individuals can sign and share letters of appeal on behalf of imprisoned scholars, meet with or reach out to elected officials, and participate in social media campaigns by following SAR on Twitter and Facebook.

Higher education communities can host events highlighting imprisoned scholars or the problem of wrongful imprisonments of academics generally, including events featuring speakers from SAR’s Speaker Series.

Institutional leadership may consider making a statement about the scholar in public remarks or authoring an op-ed about a case of concern.

Faculty can also start a Student Advocacy Seminar on their campus, through which students conduct research and advocacy on behalf of a scholar in prison in partnership with SAR. Through Student Advocacy Seminars, students and faculty in SAR’s network can make a large impact in supporting and furthering SAR’s advocacy for a scholar.

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