Exact charges against the 65-year-old retired Concordia University professor are unknown. She is believed to be accused of “collaborating with a hostile government, propaganda against the state, and ‘dabbling in feminism.’ ”
Photo: Concordia professor Homa Hoodfar has written articles on women in Muslim societies, including Iran. (Concordia University)
By Olivia Ward
Foreign Affairs Reporter
Tues., Sept. 13, 2016
The outlook for release of Montreal anthropologist Homa Hoodfar from Iran’s Evin prison darkened Tuesday with news that a hard-line judge has dismissed her lawyer and chosen another to represent her without her consent.
“This seems to be standard procedure for this judge, who has been violating many laws,” said Hoodfar’s niece, Amanda Ghahremani, speaking from Montreal. “He’s denied access to her lawyers, her family, she is in solitary confinement and has not been moved to a general ward. Her health is our biggest concern.”
The judge, Abolqasem Salvati, known for earlier draconian verdicts, has presided over high-profile cases of Iranian-born journalist Jason Rezaian, Canadian permanent resident Mostafa Azizi and Iranian-British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was sentenced last week to five years in prison.
Hoodfar, said to be in “fragile, declining health,” was first arrested in March by the counter-espionage service of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is in a power struggle with President Hassan Rouhani. She was released on bail after interrogation and arrested again in June.
The details of her case have been kept secret. The exact charges against the 65-year-old retired Concordia University professor are unknown, nor has a trial date been announced. She is believed to be accused of “collaborating with a hostile government, propaganda against the state, and ‘dabbling in feminism.’ ” Hoodfar’s work has focused on dispelling stereotypes about Muslim women in Canada and in the West.
She was hospitalized last month and according to her family, “could hardly walk or talk.”
Hoodfar is now back in solitary confinement under grim conditions. She suffers from a “serious neurological condition,” but Ghahremani says the family in Iran has no way of knowing if she received the medicine they delivered for her.
A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said in an email to the Star that the government is “very concerned about this recent development and the continued detention of Dr. Hoodfar. We are actively engaged on this case and doing everything we can to support the family as they endure this terrible ordeal.”
She added that in the absence of diplomatic ties, “we are working with countries of influence and pursuing the best course of action to press the case and to secure her safe return to her family, friends and colleagues,” and that “this case is a priority for us.”
Hoodfar is one of a number of dual nationals targeted by the Revolutionary Guard in past months. It arrested Canadian permanent resident Saeed Malekpour in 2008, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
Ghahremani, who spoke with Hoodfar before she went to Iran in February, said that after the death of her husband she “wanted to go back to visit Iran and to grieve there. She wanted an opportunity to reconnect with her roots. Iran was her beloved country.” However, her Tehran residence was raided, and her personal computers, cellphone and passport seized to prevent her from returning to Canada.
There have been widespread protests against Hoodfar’s arrest, and this week 21 former UN special rapporteurs on human rights are calling for Iran to release her immediately. They are asking the UN General Assembly to take up her case.
Note - September 14, 2016: This article was edited from a previous version.