For Immediate Release
One year ago this week, Iranian authorities arrested Drs. Kamiar and Arash Alaei, internationally renowned Iranian HIV/AIDS physicians, for practicing medicine. On this somber anniversary for friends, family and colleagues of the Alaeis, Iran is witnessing increasing violence and a litany of alleged human rights abuses. As post-election violence in Iran continues, PHR urges the Iranian government to protect the human rights of everyone within its borders and to respect both international law and human rights provisions in Iran's own constitution.
In the aftermath of Iran's presidential elections, held June 12, 2009, hundreds of people have been detained, including Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, a friend of the Alaeis, who directed a moving documentary in 2004 on their AIDS work, called Mohammad and the Matchmaker. Reports from Iran state that many demonstrators have been beaten, and some killed, while hundreds of others have been detained. The Iranian government has severely limited freedom of the press during this time, expelling foreign journalists and cutting off cell phone and internet access at various periods throughout the past two weeks. PHR is deeply concerned for the safety of everyone detained in Iran, including the Drs. Alaei.
On the one-year anniversary of their arrest, PHR renews our call to the Iranian government to release Arash and Kamiar Alaei so that they can continue their life-saving medical work in Iran and worldwide.
After a perfunctory trial in December 2008, Kamiar and Arash were convicted of "communicating with an enemy government" and sentenced to three and six years, respectively, in Evin Prison in Tehran. The Alaeis' crime: traveling the world and liaising with health workers across the globe to find solutions to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"Iran can not equate public health diplomacy and the quest for shared solutions to the world's shared disease burden to treason. It is a dangerous and maddening fallacy and a danger to the people of Iran to keep science stifled and scientists in jail." said Sarah Kalloch, Director of Outreach at PHR.
Protect the Rights of All
PHR also urges Iranian authorities to protect the human rights of all people in Iran during this post-election crisis. The Iranian authorities must respect the right to free assembly that is articulated in both International Human Rights Law and in the Iranian Constitution. PHR is also concerned about reports of alleged violations of Medical Neutrality by the Iranian government. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has reported that people seeking medical attention for injuries suffered during demonstrations are being arrested in hospitals, and that doctors are being forced to report to state security any injuries that appear to be related to protests. This puts doctors in Iran in a desperate position: obey the state or care for their patients.
"The Iranian Government must allow health professionals to treat patients regardless of their political leanings. Doctors have an ethical duty to prevent and limit suffering of patients in their care and a duty to practice medicine in a neutral way without fear or favor," continued Ms. Kalloch.
The need for human rights protection for the Alaeis, for our colleague Mazier Bahari, and for all Iranians, has never been greater. The Iranian Government must respect the universal freedoms and rights of its people as recognized by the international community and the laws of Iran.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.