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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 December 2014, CIFS wrote to the King of Bahrain to express its concern over the poor conditions in which Abduljalil Al-Singace, a professor of mechanical engineering, is incarcerated. Al-Singace is a prominent engineer and human rights activist who has been imprisoned since 2011. He was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly plotting to topple the government of Bahrain. He has reportedly been tortured while in prison, and has been denied medical treatment and visits from his family. CIFS has requested that he be given a medical furlough to receive proper medical treatment.
Baha’i Educators in Iran
CIFS wrote to Iranian authorities in December 2014 to urge them to unconditionally release several educators from the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) who have been detained since May 2011. In Iran, members of the Baha’i religion are forbidden to pursue higher education, starting at the high school level. As a result, the Baha’i community has created BIHE - its own, informal higher education system. Several BIHE educators were arrested in a raid on over 30 homes in May 2011 and have been detained since. Since 2012, CIFS has urged the Iranian government to reconsider its policy of barring Baha’is from pursuing education and to release the imprisoned BIHE educators.
Sergey Kalyakin, a Russian scientist who is an expert on the safety of nuclear reactors, was arrested in November 2013 on charges of embezzlement and fraud. He completely denies the charges and has received the support of over 700 members of his institute, who have called for an appeal of his case. In December 2014, CIFS urged Russian authorities to permit Kalyakin to remain at home prior to his trial so that he may recuperate from health problems that have worsened during his confinement.
In February, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and APS sent a joint letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, requesting that he release physics graduate student Omid Kokabee from prison on humanitarian grounds. On February 13, Kokabee received the 2014 AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award. APS also recognized Kokabee’s efforts when it awarded him the APS Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2014 for his refusal to “use his physics knowledge to work on projects that he deemed harmful to humanity, in the face of extreme physical and psychological pressure.”
As many APS News readers know, the physics and human rights communities lost a great advocate when Andrew M. Sessler, a former APS president, passed away in April of last year. In his honor, the AAAS-Andrew M. Sessler Fund for Science, Education, and Human Rights, established with a gift from his children, supports activities that spur interest in human rights among science and engineering students and increase the ability of human rights practitioners to bring scientific methods and technologies into their work in the field. On October 23, 2014 the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, on the occasion of its fifth anniversary, offered a tribute to Sessler, presented by APS Director of International Affairs Amy K. Flatten and Juan C. Gallardo, who is the APS representative to the AAAS coalition and a former chair of CIFS. For more information on the fund, see the Support AAAS Andrew M. Sessler Fund page.
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