It is imperative to keep Homa Hoodfar’s story alive even when there is no breaking news, says Marguerite Mendell, a close friend and colleague of the a respected Concordia professor detained in Iran since June 6. “People must write letters, start petitions, do whatever they can on social media and within their own personal networks.”
A jarring graphic greets you when you click on homahoodfar.com a website that provides regular updates on Hoodfar: a counter measures, in real time, the days, hours, minutes and seconds that are going by as she languishes at Evin prison in solitary confinement, with no access to her lawyer or family. Accused of being a threat to national security and “dabbling in feminism”, she is being denied the medical care she needs for a chronic neurological condition.
Her family has been informed that her health has deteriorated and she has difficulty walking and talking and is severely disoriented. Her life may be in danger. Thousands internationally have written letters and are advocating on her behalf, saying the accusations unfounded, as Dr. Hoodfar is a scholar, not a political activist.
“She was in Iran for personal reasons,” Mendell says. “She went to see family, to reconnect with her roots. Her husband had died months earlier and she was going home. Research was not the focus of her trip.”
Mendell, a professor of economics, feels Hoodfar is “a political pawn in a very strong anti-feminist campaign by the conservative elements in Iran.”
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A recent article in Foreign Policy (foreignpolicy.com) refers to Iran’s crackdown on feminists and its “periodic intimidation campaigns against women’s rights activists.” It mentions a women’s magazine that had been shut down under President Ahmadinejad in 2008, resurrected under President Rouhani in 2014 and now not publishing again, that featured an interview with Hoodfar in February, discussing her latest book, Electoral Politics: Making Quotas Work for Women. Shortly afterward, authorities confiscated her cell phone, passports and laptop, arresting her in June. According to Foreign Policy, articles on websites affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, claimed Hoodfar was a foreign agent and referred to a feminist conspiracy. “They alleged her research was part of a sprawling
conspiracy, an international network that with the aid of foreign funding has been seeking to infiltrate Iranian society and government. Not long thereafter the regime began using Hoodfar and her foreign connections to tarnish influential figures in the Tehran’s women’s movement. Many of them have received ominous phone calls ordering them in for questioning.”
Hoodfar’s family has stated Iranian authorities told them to “tone down the media on Homa’s case in order to allow the legal process to take its course.” The family complied, hoping that Iranian laws would be respected and Hoodfar’s lawyer would be granted access. “Instead, the court has blatantly and repeatedly violated Iran’s own laws,” said Hoodfar’s niece, Amanda Ghahremani. “Given the alarming news of Homa’s hospitalization and declining health, we are left with no choice but to publicize these travesties of justice widely, as it has become clear that the authorities are not prioritizing her health and do not intend to respect Homa’s due process rights under Iranian law.”