Iranian-Canadian Anthropologist Released from Prison
September 27, 2016
Iranian-Canadian anthropologist Homa Hoodfar, who had been in jail in Tehran since her arrest on June 6, 2016, left Iran yesterday. She is currently in Oman receiving medical treatment and will return home to Canada when she is strong enough to make the trip. Although charges were never presented to her lawyer, the Iranian press stated in late June that she had been charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security and with propaganda against the state and quoted the prosecutor as saying she had been “dabbling in feminism.” Professor Hoodfar reportedly was found guilty before a court this weekend and sentenced to several years in prison. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson reported yesterday that she was released on humanitarian grounds including for poor health. In a statement issued yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Professor Hoodfar’s release and thanked the governments of Oman, Italy, and Switzerland for their “instrumental” assistance in securing her release. (Canada has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since it closed its embassy there in 2012.)
Homa Hoodfar is a 65-year-old professor of anthropology emerita at Concordia University in Montreal, whose research and teaching relate to gender and development, Islamic family law, Muslim dress codes, and women’s political participation. She traveled to Iran in February 2016 primarily to visit her family, but also to conduct historical research on the participation of Iranian women in elections since 1906. (Her visit coincided with the most recent parliamentary elections during which a record number of women (6%) were elected as Members of Parliament.) Beginning in early March, a day prior to her planned departure, Professor Hoodfar was repeatedly summoned by officials of the Revolutionary Guard for lengthy interrogation sessions. On June 6, she was taken into custody and held in Evin Prison in solitary confinement without access to her family or lawyer. Professor Hoodfar suffers from a rare neurological condition, myasthenia gravis, which affects the nerves and causes muscle weakness. Her family was allowed to meet with her only once, in August for less than 10 minutes, after they learned that she had been briefly transferred to a medical facility because she was having severe difficulty swallowing, reportedly an advanced symptom of her condition. Her family reported that she appeared disoriented, her hands were shaking, and she had difficulty walking and talking.