Two days ago, we arranged an international conference on academic freedom and internationalization, Today, this topic became depressingly relevant. A demonstration in support of Ahmadreza Djalali was held on Sergels Torg in Stockholm, and I took part together with representatives from human right organizations, the Swedish parliament, and the society at large.
Most of you who are readers of my blog are well acquainted with the ordeal of Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, Swedish citizen and KI alumnus. He was arrested and imprisoned in Iran while on a lecture tour, then prosecuted and convicted in 2017 with a death sentence. A few days ago, we received alarming signals indicating that the death sentence might be carried out within the month of May. Hence today´s demonstration.
Treated as a resource
In my short speech I emphasized that Ahmadreza is an expert on disaster medicine and that he should have been treated as a resource for Iran and for the world at large. Not so: he was imprisoned, prosecuted, and convicted on charges for which there is not even a shred of evidence.
Let us call this for what it is: hostage taking and extortion. With its incarceration of Ahmadreza the Iranian regime takes us back to medieval ages. Now we live in the 21st century.
The sad case of Ahmadreza Djalali puts us all to the test – as fellow citizens, as fellow academics, as part of the global community. We must stand united against the death penalty, but also against hostage taking and extortion.
It should be made crystal clear to the Iranian authorities what will be the consequences should they choose to carry out the death sentence. Sweden, Europe, and the world will not forget. It will not be back to business as usual. If the sentence is carried out this will have a chilling effect on academic cooperation and on cooperation at large. And it will be seen as one of the most brutal and blatant attack on academic freedom and human rights in modern time.
We are not privy to the talks that currently take place in diplomatic channels on Ahmadreza´s case. But Iranian government representatives that engage in such talks should not be allowed to see even a flicker of weakness in the eyes of Swedish or European delegates. They should see resolve, and a steadfastness that is commensurate with the seriousness of the case at hand. And they should be reminded in no uncertain terms that carrying out the sentence will have effects for generations to come.
Ahmadreza´s wife and family attended today´s demonstration. I hope they felt the sincere and heartfelt support from us all.
Please also see an article in Swedish Läkartidningen about the manifestation Saturday (in Swedish)