/ 11 February 2020

Open letter: a call for freedom for academic prisoners in Iran

Nuclear Deal Usa Iran Could Usher In A New Era
Iran’s justice system has itself acknowledged the arbitrary nature of the allegations of detaining academics.


Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, two researchers affiliated to the Centre for International Studies in Paris, have been detained in an Iranian prison since June 5 2019. Together with 15 other foreign academics, they have been accused of political crimes: undermining national security, propaganda against the regime, and spying. 

Iran’s justice system has itself acknowledged the arbitrary nature of the allegations. In December a court ordered their conditional release and in January espionage charges against Adelkhah were dropped. Yet it is not justice, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who determine their fate and harsh conditions of detention.  

On December 24 Adelkhah began a hunger strike. Together with Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic incarcerated since 2018, she refused food in defence of legal rights and academic freedom throughout the Middle East. Their pleas have successfully highlighted the plight of all academic prisoners. After six weeks of starvation, Adelkhah’s health is now in critical condition. 

Despite the international publicity and outcry, the academics face acute danger. Adelkhah and Marchal may soon be brought before Tehran’s revolutionary tribunal. There are strong reasons to believe that this trial will not be impartial.

The “shadow power” of the Revolutionary Guards ultimately rests, constitutionally, on the supreme leader of the revolution, Ali Khamenei. This is why we formally address him, on this Tuesday February 11, the day commemorating the 1979 revolution, to ask him to save the Islamic Republic from the shame of injustice by ordering the Revolutionary Guards to free Adelkhah and Marchal and all others unjustly detained.

From the depths of Evin prison, Adelkhah poignantly has called on us to “save researchers, in order to save research and preserve our history”. This appeal concerns not only the Islamic Republic and the whole Middle East, but academics throughout the world. For there will be no free and fair society without academic freedom.


Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, Lebanon

Association Française de Science Politique, France

Swiss Political Science Association, Switzerland

Centre d’Étude des Crises et des Conflits Internationaux, Belgium

Centre d’Études et de Recherche Internationales, Canada

Centre de Recherche sur l’Action Politique de l’Université de Lausanne, Switzerland

Centre de Recherche et d’Étude sur les Sociétés Contemporaines (CRESC), Morocco

German Political Science Association, Germany

European Consortium for Political Research 

Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux, Tunisia

Freedom Now, Morocco

Groupe Jeunes Chercheurs en Sciences Sociales, Morocco

Middle East Studies Association of North America

Pan African Anthropology Association 

Réseau Européen d’Analyse des Sociétés Politiques

Scholars at Risk

Swiss Society for African Studies, Switzerland 

South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal 

Universitaires pour la paix/Academics for Peace, Turkey

This issue was also supported by:

Association des Chercheur.e.s de Politique Africaine 

Association Française d’Ethnologie et d’Anthropologie 

African Studies Association 

Cedej Khartoum (Centre for social, legal and economic studies and documentation in Sudan)

Centre de recherches internationales/Centre for International Studies

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Center for Socio-Political Data, Sciences Po

Centre Français de Recherche en Sciences Sociales

Committee of Concerned Scientists

Conférence des Présidents d’Université

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

Endangered Scholars Worldwide

European Association of Social Anthropology

Fondation de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme 

Fonds d’Analyse des Sociétés Politiques 

The Graduate Institute Geneva

Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique Études Africaines en France

Institut des Hautes Études sur la Justice

Institut des Mondes Africains

Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales

International Sociological Association

Les Afriques dans le Monde

Revue Internationale de Politique de Développement/International Development Policy

Sciences Po, Paris

Società Italiana di Filosofia Politica 

Società Italiana di Scienza Politica

Université de Lausanne

Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

Université de Strasbourg

Université Paris Nanterre

Non-academic organisations supporting our colleagues: 

Association Tunisienne de Défense des Libertés, Tunisia 

Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates, Tunisia 

Beity, Tunisia 

Centre des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme, Libya

Comité Pour le Respect des Libertés et Droits de l’Homme en Tunisie

Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme, Tunisia

Parti Radical Italien

Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens

Vigilance Pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique, Tunisia