Renowned Iranian HIV/AIDS Doctor Imprisoned For Doing His Job

August 11, 2011

Update 8/29/11: Dr. Arash Alaei has been released! Thank you to everyone who took action!

Dr. Arash Alaei teaching
Dr. Arash Alaei teaching © Physicians For Human Rights

Brothers Kamiar and Arash Alaei, both doctors, have dedicated their lives to helping some of the most marginalized and stigmatized groups in Iranian society—HIV-infected drug users and prison inmates. They established innovative and humane public health programs and became internationally recognized experts in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Their hard work brought rare favorable world attention to the Islamic Republic; the programs the brothers created were considered models by the international health community.

The two brothers were so devoted to their patients, they even acted as matchmakers for lonely HIV-infected people having trouble finding spouses. Their matchmaking efforts were lovingly portrayed in “Mohammad and the Matchmaker” made for the BBC by journalist and film maker Maziar Bahari (who was detained and tortured by the Iranian government in 2009).

One would think that they would have been valued as national treasures by their government, but instead the two were sentenced to prison. Their crime? Their attendance at some international scientific conferences, including some held in the U.S., at which Iran’s AIDS treatment programs were highlighted.

They fell victim to an elaborate narrative that hard-line elements within the Iranian government have created to justify the brutal architecture of repression they use to terrorize their citizens. According to this narrative, the United States government and U.S. and British media are actively recruiting Iranian “fifth columnists” to take part in their evil plot to undermine the Islamic Republic; attendance at a conference held at the U.S. was proffered as “evidence” of their involvement in this plot.

Arash Alaei and Kamiar Alaei were convicted on charges including “cooperating with an enemy government” in proceedings that did not meet international standards for fair trial. Dr. Kamiar Alaei was sentenced to three years in prison while Dr. Arash Alaei was sentenced to six years. Kamiar Alaei was released a few months (watch a recent interview with him) ago but Arash still remains in prison.

A coalition of groups, including Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International, are rallying supporters to urge the Iranian government to release Dr. Arash Alaei before the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan–when clemency and mercy should be demonstrated.

There are many ways you can act. Please view “Mohammad and the Matchmaker” and share the film on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about the campaign to free Arash Alaei. Also, sign our online action calling for Arash Alaei’s release.

Handwritten letters to the Iranian authorities are particularly effective. If you have time please send polite letters to the head of the judiciary:

Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani
Public Relations Office Number 4
2 Azizi Street
Vali Asr Avenue above Pasteur Street intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Remarkably, the Alaei brothers continued their humanitarian work even while they were in the notorious Evin Prison. They helped their fellow prisoners by educating them about how to prevent communicable diseases, by operating a smoking cessation program, and organizing sporting events.

Please take action today to so that Arash can rejoin his brother Kamiar to continue their vital efforts on behalf of the afflicted people who need them.