After 112 days detained in Evin prison in Iran for ‘dabbling in feminism’, retired Montreal professor Homa Hoodfar is now free.
The Canadian-Irish-Iranian social anthropologist and Concordia University professor emerita was released on humanitarian grounds yesterday afternoon. Hoodfar left Iran after her release on Monday and is now in Oman recuperating due to poor health.
Hoodfar’s relatives, colleagues, friends and former students have been rallying for her release since her initial detention on June 6. As recently as Wednesday, protesters gathered in Norman-Bethune Square near Concordia’s downtown campus in Montreal carrying signs, some wearing blue T-shirts, holding posters with Hoodfar’s image.
Professors from around the world have voiced their support, including in a video published on social media and a protest at the Irish Embassy in Dublin.
The question of her release was addressed in the European Parliament as there were concerns for her failing health. Members of European Parliament Marietta Schaake and Frederick Federley say that Hoodfar was indicted for unknown charges and was being investigated for “dabbling in feminism and security matters.”
By Sept 14, Hoodfar had already been imprisoned for three months and was recently “hospitalised for concerns over her deteriorating health.” She was having blackouts.
Schaake and Federley say that dual nationals are “often held on secret charges, accused of espionage or collaboration with a foreign government, without access to their lawyers and families,” and that “several other dual nationals are being detained in Iran, including Kamal Foroughi, Nazanin Zaghary-Ratcliffe, Siamak and Baquer Namazi, Robin Shahini and Nizar Zakka, without due process.”
A recent tweet by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéfan Dion on Sept 20 suggested that he addressed the status of relations between the two countries, in context of the Middle East, with Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari, “consular cases” in particular, while they were both at the UN General Assembly. To that, Thornhill MP Peter Kent replied by asking Minister Dion about Prof. Hoodfar.
According to Amnesty International, Dr. Hoodfar was in Iran visiting family and undertaking some archival research at a library in Tehran for her work “on women’s participation in public life since 1906 when Revolutionary Guards detained her for questioning March 10.”
Before the authorities arrested Dr. Hoodfar, they raided her apartment, took her computer, passport, research papers and cellphone. She was released shortly after her arrest but she was not allowed to leave the country.
Scholars at Risk (SAR), a network for protecting the rights and freedoms of academics and students, released a statement on Sept 14, in which they say that Prof. Hoodfar was denied access to proper medical care and due process. They expressed grave concern for the social anthropologist after her June arrest, which they say was on grounds of “cooperating with a foreign state against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
SAR says that Dr. Hoodfar’s family reported in late June that her health was deteriorating rapidly, “likely in connection to denied access to proper medical treatment for Myasthenia Gravis, a rare neurological condition.” They also say that the presiding judge released her lawyer from her case and assigned her another one.
Prof. Hoodfar, who taught at Concordia University for 30 years, was released on humanitarian grounds on Sept 26 and transported to Oman for medical examination.
Her colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, where Dr. Hoodfar still has students under her guidance, and the Concordia community, who publicly fought for her release, were elated.
Kimberley Manning, principal of Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute says, “Undertaking research on issues related to women should not be treated as a criminal act, it is an integral part of the work necessary to improve conditions for women, whether in Iran or here in Canada.”
Noam Chomsky and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk are among the 45,000 people whose signatures are on the petition at www.homahoodfar.com. The Amnesty International petition for Dr. Hoodfar’s release has another 55,000 signatures.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Oman, Italy, Switzerland and Iranian authorities in a public notice issued on Sept 26 for their help in securing Prof. Hoodfar’s release from prison.
Cherryl Bird – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter @ladycbird | Instagram @cherrylbird