Last month, Dr. Arash Alaei spoke at the 24th annual meeting of the Kurdish National Congress of North America.
His presentation, The Price of Promoting Health and Human Rights in Kermashan, discusses his and his brother’s more than three-year imprisonment in the infamous Evin prison located in Tehran, Iran.
The two doctors were imprisoned for their attempts to prevent HIV/AIDS and care for HIV/AIDS patients.
The official charge by the Iran Revolutionary Court was “communications with an enemy government”, along with several other secret charges that would not be released.
The Iran Free the Docs Campaign
The Iranian government stated that what the men were doing was akin to a “velvet revolution.” According to Trehan Officials, by training others in HIV/AIDS prevention and organizing international trips for those trainees in an effort to call attention to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, Dr. Arash Alaei and his brother, Dr. Kamiar Alaei, were participating in a political revolution.
The men were held for six weeks prior to being charged with any crime. During this time they were allowed little to no human contact.
In a statement to freethedocs.org, the brothers state:
“Because we were under pressure during our two months of solitary confinement and several months of interrogation, we were led to believe that we were forgotten.”
In an effort to free the doctors and to call international attention to such absurd “Criminal” charges, along with the human rights violations being committed in Iran, Physicians for Human Rights began their Iran Free the Docs campaign.
A Campaign of Hope
The campaign was made up of colleagues and students of the Alaei’s, but grew at an incredible rate to include doctors and medical practitioners from around the globe.
When the men heard news of the “Iran Free the Docs” campaign by Physicians for Human Rights to free them, they became hopeful.
In a statement on freethedocs.org, the brothers said, “When we got the message about your campaign through our family, it was like getting new blood that warmed our hearts . . .”
Jonathan Hutson of Physicians for Human Rights called the charges “unfounded, politically motivated and illegitimate.” He went on to state, “They were not guilty of crimes. They were practicing good medicine.”
The two doctors were held in prison for six months before being tried behind closed doors in Trehan and convicted for “seeking to overthrow the Iranian government.”
A Corrupt Legal System
Many of the secret charges were not told to the Alaei’s or their lawyer. Furthermore, their lawyer was also not allowed to review the so-called incriminating evidence prior to the case.
According to the Albany Times Union, their lawyer was not even given sufficient time to refute the charges during the trial itself. It was more than obvious that the men did not stand a chance.
The sentencing was doled out, and Arash was sentenced to six years in Evin prison while Kamiar was sentenced to three years. Kamiar was released in 2010 after serving two and a half years of the bogus sentence.
In June 2011, Dr. Kamiar Alaei accepted the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Kamiar accepted the award for himself and on the behalf of his brother, who was still imprisoned in Evin at the time.
Dr. Arash Alaei was not released until August of last year after serving three years of his six-year prison sentence.
The Free the Docs Campaign was instrumental in the release of the wrongly convicted doctors. Also, the campaign was a great success at calling attention to the human rights violations being committed in Iran.
According to the site:
“When a government chooses to detain doctors without cause, and prevent them from treating patients and disseminating health information, the government puts both the doctors and their patients at risk…”