New president in Iran, new hope for Ahmadreza Djalali?

It is still too early to know what the consequences of last weekend’s election in Iran will be, but hope is mixed with worry. The new president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, is a well-known conservative religious leader with a history of serious abuses against political prisoners and democratic values. Now he will be given the opportunity to improve on his legacy. Let us hope that he will embrace this opportunity.

As President, Ebrahim Raisi must relate to the international community. This comes with the title and position, so to speak. He will need to play down his hard-line politics, in order not to jeopardize the country’s international relations – which need to improve rather than further deteriorate.     

Not naïve

We must not be naïve. The election could very well mean another setback for all those who work for a more democratic Iran, with freedom of speech and academic freedom on which societal progress so critically depends. If there is one wish I would like to convey to the new president: please prove us wrong.

As should be well known to all readers of  this blog, Karolinska Institutet’s alumnus Ahmadreza Djalali has now been imprisoned in Iran for more than five years, with a death sentence hanging over him. Colleagues, Nobel Laureates, universities, politicians, governments and non-governmental organizations have all voiced their support of Dr Djalali – there is no exaggeration to say that the global community has stood up for him. And rightly so. Never in my career have I seen such a blatant attack on an individual researcher and his family, on academic freedom, on human rights, on the rule of law.


Now comes an opportunity for Iran to re-engage and regain trust in the academic community. For the benefit of both. Seize this opportunity to secure Ahmadreza´s immediate release.  

There is no time to lose.   

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