CIFS Human Rights Cases
News and Updates
August 30, 2016: APS member Omid Kokabee released from prison
April 2016: Omid Kokabee diagnosed with kidney cancer
The Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) is responsible for monitoring the rights of scientists around the world, including the United States, and advocating on behalf of those in need. Below is a sampling of some of the cases that CIFS has monitored.
Abduljalil Al-Singace (Mechanical Engineer)
On 17 March 2011, Al-Singace was forcibly taken from his home and imprisoned without charge (after having been released from prison on 23 February 2011). Al-Singace was originally arrested in Bahrain in August 2010 after reporting on Bahrain's human rights record to the British House of Lords.
Masaud Mirza Jahromi (Computer Science and Engineering)
In 2015, Bahrain revoked the citizenship of Masaud Mirza Jahromi, a professor at Ahlia University in Manama, for “advocating regime change through illegal means.” This charge was related to his involvement in protests in 2011. He was notified in early 2016 that he would be deported, and on March 6, 2016, he was deported to Beirut, Lebanon. Jahromi was forced to leave behind his family, including his wife and son.
Immediately before Jahromi was deported, CIFS wrote to Bahraini authorities calling on them to rescind the decision to deport Jahromi.
CIFS Letter, March 2016
CIFS has advocated for the ability of scientists and students to travel to and from Gaza as many have encountered obstacles to travel to scientific conferences or when seeking to pursue advanced study abroad. Most recently, the APS President wrote to the Israeli Prime Minister to ask that the government of Israel allow students and faculty in Gaza the opportunity to travel as necessary as part of their scientific work, consistent with security needs.
APS Letter, April 2017
Omid Kokabee (Physics Ph.D. Student & APS Member)
Kokabee was arrested in Iran in the winter of 2011 when trying to return to the University of Texas at Austin, where he was pursuing a Ph.D. in optics. He was accused of "illegal earnings" and "communicating with a hostile government." On 13 May 2012, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Kokabee was granted a retrial by the Iranian Supreme Court after rejecting the legal basis of his prosecution and sentence. However, his ten-year conviction was upheld. In April 2016, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, after years of medical problems and denial of adequate medical care. On August 30, 2016, Kokabee was released on parole after having served more than five years in prison.
In Iran, members of the Baha'i religion are forbidden from pursuing higher education. As a result, the Baha'i community has responded by creating its own, informal higher education system known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). In May 2011, several BIHE educators, including those with scientific backgrounds, were arrested and detained in a raid of over 30 homes. CIFS is concerned that individuals who have committed themselves to educating Baha'i youth have been imprisoned solely for their religious beliefs and has urged the Iranian government to reconsider its policy of barring Baha'is from pursuing education and to release the imprisoned BIHE educators.
CIFS Letter, December 2014
APS Letter, April 2017
Imad al-Barghouti (Astrophysicist)
Barghouti is a Palestinan astrophysicist at Al-Qud's UNiversity in Jerusalem. He was Barghouti was arrested at a West Bank security checkpoint in April 2016, but the charges against him are not clear. While Barghouti had been ordered released in May as it was determined that there was insufficient reason to continue his detention. However, the Israeli military asserted that Barghouti poses a security threat and his detention was extended. As a result, CIFS wrote to the Israeli Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice to ask that all charges and evidence against Barghouti be made public and that he be released should the evidence be insufficient to continue his detention.
CIFS Letter, June 2016
Svyatoslav Bobyshev (Scientist)
Bobyshev and his colleague Yevgeny Afanasyev were both detained in March 2010 without formal charges against them. In June 2012, they were found guilty of treason charges and sentenced to 12 and 12.5 years in prison, respectively. Sadly, Afanasyev passed away in prison in 2015. Bobyshev remains in prison.
Since early 2016, CIFS has watched with concern the firing and persecutions of academics, including scientists, in Turkey. After the detention of some signatories of the “We will not be a Party to This Crime” petition, as well as reports of administrative and criminal investigations of the more than 1,000 signatories, the APS President wrote to the President of Turkey to ask Turkish authorities to cease administrative and criminal proceedings against these individuals.
APS Letter, February 2016
After the attempted coup in July 2016, resulting in additional detentions, APS along with several other scientific organizations wrote to the President of Turkey to express concern for Turkish sceintists' welfare.
Joint Societies Letter, July 2016