Academics to protest over arrest of colleague in Iran

A group of scholars from Dublin’s major universities will gather in full academic garb outside the Iranian embassy today to appeal to the Iranian government for the release of an Irish citizen from a Tehran jail.

The group also plans to highlight what it describes as the “Irish government’s lack of action” in relation to the ongoing detention of world-renowned anthropologist, Professor Homa Hoodfar, jailed on June 6 at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.

According to Prof Hoodfar’s supporters, the Iranian-born academic, who holds Canadian and Irish citizenship, travelled to Iran in February 2016 to visit family as well as to access the archives of the Iranian parliamentary library for an historical book project.

However, in early March, just before her scheduled departure from Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard raided her residence.

She was subsequently jailed after several interrogations. Supporters say her academic research seems to have been interpreted as a threat to national security. Prof Hoodfar has conducted extensive research on women’s status, development, and the family in Muslim contexts and one of her books, The Muslim Veil in North America.

Prof Hoodfar’s health is said to have deteriorated. She has a neurological condition (myasthenia gravis) that requires specialised medical care and suffered a minor stroke last year.

Galway native Emer O’Toole, a colleague of Prof Hoodfar at Concordia University Montreal, where she is an assistant professor of Irish Performance Studies at the School of Irish Studies, was instrumental in organising today’s protest in Dublin: “Homa is a much-loved and valued member of our academic community here at Concordia University, and so many of her colleagues are just in shock that something like this could happen.

“Everyone here believes Homa innocent of the charges. She is a scholar, not an activist, and went to Iran following the death of her husband from a brain tumour, in part to do research and in part to reconnect with family in the wake of her loss. We are particularly worried because of her health, and the news last week that Homa has been hospitalised sent shockwaves through the university,” Dr O’Toole said.

Asked by the Irish Examiner what the Department of Foreign Affairs had done on behalf of its imprisoned Irish — Prof Hoodfar was previously married to an Irishman — the department said it is “actively working on the case”.


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