Advocates at U.N. Meeting Protest Jailing of Iranian Physicians
Human rights advocates on Monday during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City protested the detention of two Iranian physicians who implemented Iran's first HIV prevention and treatment program, the Washington Post reports. Brothers Arash Alaei and Kamiar Alaei were arrested in June and have been detained in a high-security Iranian prison without formal charges, according to the Post. More than 3,200 HIV/AIDS advocates and researchers worldwide have signed a petition requesting that the brothers be released.
According to the Post, the brothers' arrest reflects a trend of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration to detain professionals who are suspected of promoting Western interests. According to Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a main focus of Ahmadinejad's administration is a "broad crackdown on dissidents of all kinds" and a refusal "to acknowledge that anything of the sort is happening."
An unnamed Iranian lawyer who has been in contact with Physicians for Human Rights said the Alaeis likely were the targets of intelligence and security officials in Iran. Hasan Hadad, deputy general prosecutor of Tehran, in an August statement said the brothers attempted to recruit and train people to topple the Iranian government. Hadad said that the brothers were "involved in organizing gatherings on topics such as AIDS that have received attention from domestic and international" non-governmental organizations, adding that they "acted to recruit individuals to travel abroad with the aim of training them on overthrowing the system. They were well aware of their activities and topics of training, such as velvet revolutions."
Sarah Kalloch -- a representative of PHR who is leading a campaign to call for the brothers' release -- said that the HIV program the Alaeis implemented in Iran has been a "very enlightened program for ... harm reduction, methadone treatment, therapy and health care for inject[ion] drug users." Kalloch added, "Everyone in global health is wisely advocating for civil society exchange" in Iran, adding, "If that is a threat to the regime, it is a sad day for the health and well-being of the people of Iran" (Boustany, Washington Post, 9/24).