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The Committee on Human Rights serves as the Secretariat for the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network).
On December 7-8, 2017, the Committee on Human Rights hosted a public symposium on the role of scientists, engineers, and health professionals in assisting refugees and other individuals who have been forcibly displaced. Scholars, innovators and humanitarian organizations, among others, examined strategies being used to promote rights and dignity in situations of displacement and identified specific ongoing challenges that scientists, engineers, and health professionals can help to address.
For more information about the event, please click here.
In the spotlight
Iranian Baha’i Engineer Released after Serving 10-Year Prison Sentence
February 22, 2018
On February 16, Saeid Rezaie—an Iranian agricultural engineer and Baha’i community leader—was released from Raja’i Shahr prison after serving a 10-year sentence in connection with his Baha’i faith.
Mr. Rezaie ran an agricultural company and taught classes at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), an alternative academic institution created and run by the Baha’i community on a volunteer basis to provide higher education to Baha’i students who are prohibited, because of their religious faith, from attending universities and government-sponsored institutions of higher learning in Iran. He was also one of the seven-member Friends in Iran (Yaran-i-Iran), an ad hoc national coordinating group responsible for the Iranian Baha’i community’s religious and administrative affairs.
In spring 2008 all seven members of the Yaran were arrested. More than two years later, following proceedings that failed to meet international fair trial standards, they were convicted by a Tehran Revolutionary Court of “espionage for Israel” (apparently because the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith, is located in what is now Israel), “insulting religious sanctities,” and “propaganda against the system,” and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In late November 2015, in accordance with a new stipulation in Iran’s Penal Code, which allows for sentences to be served concurrently, their prison term was reduced from 20 years to 10 years. Throughout his incarceration, Mr. Rezaie was held under harsh conditions of confinement. The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority, have long been subjected to severe government persecution. Their religion is not recognized, and they are deprived of many internationally recognized human rights.
The CHR and academies participating in the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies have taken a number of actions in support of Mr. Rezaie in the years since his arrest. The CHR is pleased that he has been reunited with his family at last.
Formerly Detained Turkish Political Scientist Acquitted February 7, 2018
On January 31, 2018, Dr. İştar Gözaydın—a Turkish academic and human rights defender—was acquitted of membership in the Fethullah Gülen movement in her final hearing before the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Dr. Gözaydın is an internationally respected Turkish scholar of political science and law and was Chair of the Department of Sociology at Gediz University, in Izmir Province, until her suspension on July 21, 2016. Her suspension occurred after she posted information on social media criticizing the proposed reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey and mob violence. (Shortly after Dr. Gözaydın’s suspension, the government closed the University by emergency decree for alleged ties to the Gülen movement.) She is the author of numerous articles and books on comparative politics and comparative law concerning the relationship between state and religion in Turkey. Dr. Gözaydın is also well-known as an outspoken analyst on religion and politics in Turkey and appeared regularly on Turkish radio and television to speak on these subjects. Additionally, she is one of the founders of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly (Helsinki Yurttaşlar Derneği), an active Turkish human rights organization. (She was the recipient of the 2017 University of Oslo Human Rights Award.)
Dr. Gözaydın was taken into custody at her home in Izmir in late December 2016. She was one of 14 former faculty members from her university and one of numerous academics from other universities around Turkey detained that day. Dr. Gözaydın was released from detention on May 30, 2017, pending the outcome of her trial.
The CHR appealed to high-level Turkish government officials for her release from detention and acquittal on the grounds that the charges brought against her stemmed from her peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of speech. The Committee also submitted her case to relevant independent U.N. experts.
CHR Committee Member Named Senior Vice President Emeritus of March of Dimes
The Committee on Human Rights is pleased to share that CHR Committee Member Dr. Michael Katz has been named Senior Vice President Emeritus of March of Dimes, in recognition of his 25 years of outstanding service to the organization.
The National Academy of Medicine Hosts Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion on the Targeting of Health Professionals in Conflict Areas
On December 18, 2017, the National Academy of Medicine hosted a screening of an original documentary from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, titled The New Barbarianism. The film explores the growing trend of violence against health and humanitarian workers in global conflict zones, with a focus on the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, and discusses current efforts to reduce these attacks. The screening was followed by a panel discussion, which included Patricia Evers, Senior Program Officer at the Committee on Human Rights of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The discussion highlighted the historic lack of attention this issue has received, but also the recent increase in actions taken to address attacks on health professionals. When asked what steps we can take now to help solve this crisis, panelists pointed to the need for implementation of laws concerning limitation of civilian casualties and greater efforts to support individual victims of these abuses and their families.
The Committee on Human Rights (CHR) has produced a new infographic that provides a snapshot of our current and resolved cases concerning scientists, health professionals, and engineers around the world subjected to severe human rights abuses - whether as a result of their professional work or for having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression. The infographic also demonstrates the active support we enjoy from members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and highlights our engagement with UNESCO's human rights complaint body.
* Data is taken from July 2016
You must scroll through the infographic to see both.