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
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
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.
Treatment of Scientists at ITEP
In December 2015, CIFS wrote to the Russian Minister of Education and Science to express its concern about the treatment of distinguished scientists at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP). CIFS noted that scientists at ITEP had been restricted from freely expressing themselves and punished when disagreeing with the administration.