In June 2008, two well-known Iranian physicians and HIV/AIDS leaders, brothers Arash Alaei and Kamiar Alaei, were detained by Iranian authorities. Held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for six months without charges, they were finally tried in a one-day, closed-door trial in which the Alaeis were charged as conspirators working with an “enemy government” to overthrow the government of Iran. They were also tried on unspecified other charges which neither they nor their lawyer were allowed to know, see the evidence of, or address. Kamiar was sentenced to three years in prison and Arash to six.
During the Alaeis’ imprisonment, Physicians for Human Rights spearheaded a three-year international advocacy campaign calling for the brothers’ release and launched the Iran, Free the Docs campaign that mobilized a global movement of leading AIDS experts, virologists, health organizations, and human rights groups.
In late 2010, after serving two of the three years of his sentence, Kamiar Alaei was released from Evin prison and joined forces with PHR to advocate for his brother’s release. Following intense pressure, including by medical associations and global AIDS organizations, and PHR’s Global Day of Action to petition Iranian embassies and other representatives for his freedom, Arash was released in August 2011.
“Knowing that PHR and its members were working on our behalf sustained us when all seemed lost,” Kamiar Alaei said. “PHR is the one organization that uses the expertise and voice of doctors such as Arash and me to help protect human rights around the world.”