Brothers Arash and Kamyar Alaie were imprisoned by the Iranian government in June of 2008 and faced trial on December 31st 2008 in a private hearing in Tehran. The two Iranian doctors were doing AIDS/HIV research in Iran.
The Iranian government claimed that the two doctors and two other unnamed individuals were working with the CIA, in a $32 million plan to overthrow the Iranian government. The government claimed that the doctors were working to stir up a social revolution.
Arash was given six years and his brother three. There is no evidence to explain the difference in their sentencing. Their charges are based on Article 508 of Iran’s Penal Code which allows up to ten years’ imprisonment for “cooperation with an enemy government,” though the Penal Code is silent as to what constitutes “cooperation” or what is meant by an “enemy government.”
Human Rights activists claim that the convictions are based on empty accusations and that the brothers are being dealt with in a harsh and inhuman manner. Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa stated, “Unfortunately Iran’s government, instead of trying to minimize these kind of condemnations, has given full power to radicals so that they can make more moves than before.”
The Iranian government has for some time had doubts about Iranian Americans spreading US propaganda in Iran. The imprisonment of two AIDS/HIV doctors is a perfect example of how far the Iranian government will go to display their standing as a power to be taken seriously. This is not an isolated case. In 2008 Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University-Northridge, was arrested on ambiguous charges. These are only two of many examples of the prejudice that Iranian Americans face from the hard-line government of Ahmadinejad.
But, what does this mean for the Iranian-American community? Well, for any Iranian American wanting to travel back to Iran this could mean a lot. The Iranian government has repeatedly taken every measure to prove that they have no respect or regard for international regulations of human rights. So, if you’re looking to go back to Iran to get in touch with your roots or visit family then enter with caution. This is the sad truth.
The two doctors’ arrest further demonstrates the enormous problem of Iran’s abysmal human rights record. The human rights issue has breached the borders of Iran. This issue is at our doorsteps. It affects us and our freedoms as Iranians living in America.
There is, however, a positive role to be played by Iranian Americans by calling for human rights reform in Iran. Iranian Americans should take advantage of the newly inaugurated Obama administration by pushing for constructive engagement with Iran which places human rights issues on the forefront of negotiations.
Click on the links below to read more about this story.