For Immediate Release
Chief Communications Officer, PHR
jhutson [at] phrusa [dot] org
Doctors, Medical Students Rally at Iranian UN Mission to Free Imprisoned Colleagues
NEW YORK - Today at noon, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and a coalition of
health and human rights groups held a silent vigil and press conference
in front of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations (622 3rd Avenue,
NY) to call for the release of two imprisoned Iranian Physicians. Dr.
Kamiar Alaei and his brother Dr. Arash Alaei , both internationally
known HIV/AIDS doctors, have been detained without charge by the
Iranian government in the notorious section 209 of Iran's Evin prison
since late June 2008. To date, the brothers have been allowed only one
meeting with their attorney and family. The event was timed to coincide
with Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to New York City for the UN
For over a decade, the brothers have worked in and promoted clinics
to treat drug addicts and other vulnerable populations in prisons and
in communities in Iran. Iran has the world's highest rate of
intravenous drug users - a phenomenon that drives the country's
HIV/AIDS epidemic. The brothers' work has been supported by religious
leaders and Iran's Ministry of Health, whose harm reduction programs to
treat injecting drug users have become models in the region and beyond.
Doctors and medical students wore their white coats to symbolize
solidarity with their imprisoned Iranian colleagues. They also carried
large posters showing the faces of the brothers and the web address of
a clearing house site launched by PHR - IranFreeTheDocs.org.
The site offers updates on the campaign, and an online petition. To
date, more than 3200 individuals - mostly health professionals - from
85 countries have signed the petition in support of the Drs. Alaei. The
list includes many of the world's leading AIDS researchers and
"As a physician in training, I believe it is imperative for health
professionals to speak out in defense of human rights of our colleagues
at risk. Dr. Kamiar Alaei should be in Albany now, continuing his
second year of doctoral studies at SUNY School of Public Health where
he is enrolled," said Ali Khan, a medical student at Virginia
Commonwealth University School of Medicine and a board member of PHR.
"His brother, Dr. Arash Alaei, should be preventing and treating
HIV/AIDS at a clinic in his home region of Kermanshah in northwest
Iran. Instead, these two respected HIV/AIDS physicians are languishing
"Students from SUNY Albany School of Public Health have traveled to
the Iranian Mission to the UN today to speak out in behalf of their
missing classmate, Kamiar," said SUNY Albany School of Public Health
Assistant Professor, Punkin Clay Stephens, one of Kamiar's professors.
"We urge Iran to release the Drs. Alaei so that they may continue their
life saving work for the benefit of the people of Iran and the world."
Although the physicians have still not been formally charged, the
prosecutor investigating their case has stated in interviews with the
Iranian press that they are suspected of fomenting a "velvet
revolution." He has cited as evidence the fact that the Drs. Alaei have
traveled to international AIDS conferences, drawn the attention of
international non-governmental organizations, and recruited and trained
people in public health. "That's not a crime, that's good medicine,"
said Khan. "As the UN General Assembly convenes this week, governments
should be fulfilling the UN's Millennium Development Goals on
Prevention and Treatment of AIDS, not persecuting their prominent
public health leaders," he added.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes the health professions to advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.