In November 2014, SAR learned of the dire situation of an Iranian activist and scholar of political science facing threats due to his writing and activist affiliations. The scholar had been arrested and kept in solitary confinement for four months. His home and office had been raided, all of his work had been confiscated, and he had been forbidden from conducting research or teaching at the university. Because of this, he lost his university position while in prison.
After the scholar’s release, he was threatened with a three-year prison sentence, a common tactic used to control activists. Communication with the scholar was difficult at best, due to his location and the necessary precautions, but SAR sought to find him a position in a safe location as quickly as possible.
Faced with these difficult circumstances, Karen-Lise Knudsen, SAR’s primary representative from the University of Agder, worked with speed and grace to safely provide the scholar with sanctuary in Norway. Understanding the urgency of the scholar’s case, Karen took it upon herself to get the scholar’s residence permit as quickly as possible by assuming power of attorney and submitting all the documents herself. On top of filling out all the paperwork, Karen also provided much-needed moral support to the scholar throughout the process. All the while, the Univeristy of Agder worked closely with Karen and SAR to ensure the scholar’s swift escape to safety.
Thanks to Karen’s hard work and dedication, the scholar received a visa and made the journey from Iran to Norway this June. Up to the last moment, Karen and SAR staff were worried that the scholar would not be allowed to leave the country, but he arrived safely in Agder with only a minor hiccup—one of his flights was delayed. Karen ended up making two trips to the airport to pick him up, once more going above and beyond on his behalf.
Karen understands the crucial nature of creating a safe haven for a threatened scholar. “Especially in these extraordinary times,” she says, “it is ever more important to defend the core values of higher education all over the world. I think SAR has a very important role to play in this.” The scholar is now happily ensconced in academic life in Agder (and the apartment Karen found for him).
The SAR Spotlight is a monthly series highlighting SAR scholars, partners, and network activities.