APS News

APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists

CIFS Briefs: Highlighting the Connection Between Human Rights and Science for the Physics Community

Since its creation in 1980, the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) has advocated for and defended the rights of scientists around the globe. In this column, CIFS describes some of the issues that the Committee is monitoring as well as the Society's other human rights activities. APS

Andrei Sakharov Prize
In September, APS awarded its Andrei Sakharov Prize to Boris Altshuler (P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute) and Omid Kokabee (Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran). Altshuler was honored "For his life-long struggle for democracy in Russia and for his advocacy on behalf of the rights of neglected children." Kokabee was cited "For his courage in refusing to use his physics knowledge to work on projects that he deemed harmful to humanity, in the face of extreme physical and psychological pressure."

CIFS is pleased to report that Kokabee is aware that he has been awarded the Prize. 

Amnesty International Event

On November 16, APS co-sponsored an event with Amnesty International and several other organizations that highlighted the plight of Iranian graduate student and APS member Omid Kokabee (see related story). The event "Iran: Silencing Scientists and Squelching Scholarship" was held at Georgetown University. Three APS members — including the chair and a member of CIFS — were among the speakers. During the event, Amnesty International announced that it had declared Kokabee a prisoner of conscience. 

As APS News readers may know, Kokabee was arrested in Iran in January 2011 after visiting family and trying to return to the University of Texas at Austin, where he was pursuing a PhD. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted in May 2012 on charges that he received "illegal earnings" and was "communicating with a hostile government." Kokabee recently confirmed that he has never had access to his lawyer. He has also been denied needed medical care for kidney stones. CIFS continues to advocate on his behalf. 

AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition
Earlier this year, Vikram Singh Prasher (Member-at-Large of the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA) and graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell) was appointed as the APS  graduate student representative to the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition. Prasher participates in the biannual Coalition meetings, where he is working to increase the understanding among physics graduate students of the connections between science and human rights, as well as to bring the voice of these students to the work of the Coalition. As part of this effort, Prasher is undertaking a survey of APS graduate student and early career members who also are members of FGSA and the Forum on International Physics. The survey asks these members about their knowledge of and interest in human rights.

APS members who are graduate students or early career physicists are welcome to complete the survey, through January 20, at: Human Rights: Engaging physics students and recent graduates survey page. We welcome your input!

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