The colleagues of a Canadian-Iranian university professor jailed in Iran are urging governments to apply pressure as her detention enters a third month with no end in sight.
Homa Hoodfar, who taught at Concordia University, has been held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since June 6 and recent reports suggest her health is deteriorating.
With little information about her plight, Montreal academics from Concordia want the Canadian and Irish governments (Hoodfar also has Irish citizenship through marriage) as well as the Iranians themselves to do their utmost to free their friend.
“This is an emergency, this is a life or death situation,” Kimberley Manning of the university’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute told a news conference Wednesday.
“Right now, we don’t even know if Dr. Hoodfar is still alive.”
Hoodfar, 65, is being held on what supporters and family call trumped-up charges of collaboration with a hostile government and propaganda against the state.
She suffers from a serious neurological condition and the family has said requests for a check-up by an independent specialist doctor have been ignored.
Nearly 5,000 academics worldwide have signed a petition this summer in support of Hoodfar, with some rallying outside the Iranian Embassy in Dublin on Wednesday.
Emer O’Toole, a professor in Irish studies at Concordia, says Ireland might be able to provide a voice that Canada cannot.
Global Affairs Canada has said several times that Hoodfar’s case remains a “priority” but that it is hamstrung to a degree because it does not have direct diplomatic ties with Iran.
Her family has said the Iranian probe into the retired anthropology professor centred on her “dabbling in feminism” and security matters.
Hoodfar is known for her research on Muslim women in various regions of the world. That her work might have triggered her imprisonment is terrifying, O’Toole said.
“As academics, it’s horrifying to think that the kind of balanced and productive and valuable scholarship for which Homa is world-renowned can be so misread and so misinterpreted, and to such tragic effect,” she said.
Hoodfar travelled to Iran in February to see family and do archival academic research and was arrested in March, just as she was supposed to return to Montreal.
She was released on bail but was rearrested June 6 — a date that forever changed the university department where she worked, said colleague and friend Marc Lafrance.
“Many of my colleagues....have struggled with how to live with the knowledge that one of the most generous and kind-hearted people they know — the physically frail but intellectually formidable Homa Hoodfar — has been held in solitary confinement for 93 days,” Lafrance said.
Lafrance had dinner with Hoodfar shortly before she left for Iran — a second trip following an October 2015 visit that went off without a hitch.
“She was quite jubilant and elated about going back to Iran,” he said.
“She had absolutely no inkling this could be a problem.”
Manning said several actions are planned in the coming weeks, taking care to ensure the focus remains on Hoodfar.
“The strategy of keeping quiet, allowing back channels to develop isn’t working, or at least we haven’t seen the fruit of those efforts yet,” Manning said.
“So now it’s time to become more visible in terms of our concern.”Report Typo/Error