Victory: Release of Iranian HIV/AIDS Specialist!

August 30, 2011

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

On Sunday August 28, we celebrated the release from prison of Dr. Arash Alaei, an internationally recognized expert in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS!

Amnesty International and partner organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights had campaigned tirelessly for his release and that of his brother Kamiar, since the two were arrested in June 2008 (Dr. Kamiar Alaei was released several months ago).  The Iranian government released Dr. Alaei and dozens of other prisoners of conscience to honor the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Brothers Kamiar and Arash Alaei 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 community-based “triangle clinics” to provide prevention, treatment, and social support for their patients.

These clinics were recognized as model treatment programs by the international medical community and brought favorable world attention to the Islamic Republic of Iran. On June 16, 2011 the two brothers received the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights at a ceremony in Washington DC. Kamiar accepted the award on behalf of both brothers.

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).

The brothers were sentenced to prison (six years for Arash and three for Kamiar) because their advocacy involved attending international medical and scientific conferences, including some in the U.S., where they spoke about Iran’s AIDS treatment programs. Their attendance at a conference held by the Aspen Institute in 2006 was cited as evidence of “cooperating with an enemy government” at their unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court.

Amnesty International activists had joined Physician for Human Rights and other organizations to campaign tirelessly for the release of the two brothers for years. They were among the subjects of Amnesty International USA’s Nowruz (Persian New Year) actions. Their release is a testament to the dedication of hardworking activists who kept attention focused on the injustice perpetrated on the two compassionate physicians.

Among the other prisoners of conscience released to mark the end of Ramadan was Milad Asadi, a student activist on behalf of whom Amnesty International campaigned. He is a student of electrical engineering at Khajeh Nasir University and a leading member of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity (OCU), a national student body which has been prominent in demanding political reform and an end to human rights violations. He had been arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to seven years in prison in May 2010.

Amnesty International rejoices with the families of those who have been released in time to celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid al Fitr and we reaffirm our commitment to work for the release of all the remaining prisoners of conscience in Iran.