Highlighting the Connection Between Human Rights and Science for the Physics Community

The APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) defends the rights of scientists around the globe. Here are some of some of the current issues CIFS is working on.

Omid Kokabee

CIFS continues to monitor the situation of APS member and physics graduate student Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in Tehran. In November, CIFS was notified by Kokabee’s family that he had been hospitalized.

CIFS and APS leadership had been advocating for Kokabee to receive adequate medical care in light of his declining health. Kokabee has suffered from kidney, dental, stomach, and heart ailments since his imprisonment in 2011, but has only just recently been admitted to the hospital. Thus, while it is troubling to know that Kokabee’s poor health requires his hospitalization, CIFS is pleased that he is now receiving medical attention.

Kokabee was a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin when he was arrested in 2011 in Tehran while trying to return to Austin after visiting family. Kokabee has said that Iranian authorities have repeatedly asked him to take part in classified military research, but he refused, resulting in his imprisonment.

AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition

APS members will be in attendance at the next meeting of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, which will be held January 25-26, 2016, at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Coalition is a network of scientific associations and societies — like APS — that facilitates communication and cooperation on the topic of human rights within the scientific community, as well as between the human rights and scientific communities. Coalition members recognize that there is a connection between science and human rights and that scientists have an important role to play in the realization of human rights.

The Coalition meeting in January will focus on scientific approaches to human rights. The plenary session will address evidence-based approaches to human rights practice, examining ways that scientists’ research informs this field. The meeting will also offer workshops, including one focused on developing strong communications plans for sharing human rights resources within scientific organizations. The Coalition’s five working groups will also meet at this time, including the Working Group on the Welfare of Scientists, in which CIFS is active. This working group aims to expand the effectiveness of scientific associations in defending the human rights of scientists. It also seeks to assist associations to better respond to violations of the human rights of scientists.

APS members who will be in the D.C. area at that time are encouraged to attend. More information about the meeting, including registration, is available on the AAAS website.

Human Rights Talks at the 2016 APS April Meeting

CIFS encourages APS members to attend a session at the APS April Meeting 2016 that will include talks by Zafra Lerman, the 2016 Andrei Sakharov Prize recipient, and Perry Link, the translator of the autobiography of astrophysicist and human rights advocate Fang Lizhi, who died in 2012. The session is being organized by the Forum on International Physics (FIP).

Lerman, who is president of the Malta Conferences Foundation, will give the Andrei Sakharov Prize lecture. The Andrei Sakharov Prize recognizes scientists who have demonstrated leadership in defending and supporting human rights. Lerman iss being recognized for her “life-long devotion to the scientific freedom and human rights of scientists throughout the world and for compelling leadership in using science as a bridge to peace in the Middle East.”  

Link, professor emeritus of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, will discuss Fang Lizhi’s human rights contributions in a talk titled “Why Science Implies Human Rights: the Thought of Fang Lizhi.” Link recently translated Fang’s memoir, “The Most Wanted Man in China,” into English.

The FIP session is scheduled for Monday, April 18, at 3:30 p.m.


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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Emily Conover
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Art Director and Special Publications Manager: Kerry G. Johnson
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

January 2016 (Volume 25, Number 1)

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Articles in this Issue
Watch Out Baltimore, Here Come the Physicists
Report: Making the National Labs More Effective
Top Ten Physics Newsmakers of 2015
New Organizational Structure in Place
Mass Media Fellowships Strengthen Both Science and Journalism
Getting Amped for a Nikola Tesla Museum
Matthew Salter Joins APS as New Publisher
The Back Page
CIFS Briefs
This Month in Physics History
Education Update
APS Office of International Affairs
Washington Dispatch
Profiles In Versatility