Over the last two years, being a physicist in Iran has become a dangerous profession. Four scientists have been assassinated under suspicious circumstances. The most recent incident took place in January of 2012. In response to these attacks, APS President Robert Byer released an open letter on behalf of the Society, condemning the killings.
“The American Physical Society finds the recent wave of killings of Iranian scientists extremely troubling and welcomes the United States’ condemnation of this type of violence,” the letter reads. “The American Physical Society condemns acts of violence against scientists everywhere and reaffirms its commitment to international collegiality among physicists and its belief that science can be used to promote international peace.”
No nation or organization has thus far come forward and claimed responsibility for the attacks. Many analysts have surmised that because they have been targeting physicists, the campaign is part of a concerted effort to slow or stop Iran’s suspected clandestine nuclear weapons program. The most recent victim, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, was a chemical engineer at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. Iran has variously accused Israel and the United States for the attacks.
Hossein Sadeghpour, a physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and chair of the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists, said that the APS had to speak out because of the implications such attacks have for scientists globally.
“The issue is that scientists should be given the freedom to do science,” Sadeghpour said. “This should be true everywhere, not just in the United States or in some other favorite nation, but everywhere…Even during the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union refrained from targeting their scientists.”
In addition, he said that such attacks will only alienate Iran more.
“If we want to bring Iran back into the community of nations, we must address the plight of the Iranian people, and in particular the plight of the scientists. They’re not working in very ideal environments to begin with,” Sadeghpour said.
President Byer’s Letter
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