Former Durham academic released from Iranian jail

by Daniel Johnson

Dr. Reza Molavi, former director of the Centre for Iranian Studies (CIS), is believed to have been released from Iranian jail roughly a month ago, but there remains confusion about his arrest.

According to friends of Dr. Molavi, who wish to remain anonymous, it is believed that he was held in solitary confinement. He was arrested at the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran in April 2010. Reports suggest that he is suffered from several physical illnesses in prison.

A Durham University spokesperson said: “Dr Molavi was an honorary research fellow of the School of Government and International Affairs and a College tutor at the University. His role included acting as a director of Durham University’s Centre for Iranian Studies. Dr Molavi resigned from these posts with effect from May 2010 having earlier returned to Iran for family reasons.

“The University was made aware last year of Dr Molavi’s arrest in Tehran and continues to maintain contact with Dr Molavi’s family.”

Dr. Molavi made several TV appearances during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections and wrote an article in The Independent.

In an article published in June 2009, Molavi wrote: “The official result of the Iranian election has left Iranians as well as Iran-watchers in the West baffled, disgusted and bewildered. Perhaps from the start, however, Mirhossein Mousavi was destined to fail.”

He was also involved in the last controversy over accepting money from Iran, when CIS received £5,000 to run a seminar in Durham, which invited a number of pro-regime speakers to the University.

It is believed that Dr. Molavi returned to Iran after his mother passed away, and he was due to take up an academic post in Iran around the time of his arrest. A friend of Molavi informed Palatinate that they believe he was set up in some way.

Molavi, who is no longer mentioned on Durham University’s website, came to Durham to write his Phd under Professor Ehteshami. His continued arrest comes after the sentencing of PhD student Ehsan Abdoh-Tabrizi to eight years in Iranian prison in January 2011.

CIS is a controversial part of the School of Government and International Affairs (SGIA), which has recently received criticism from students for its dealings with the U.S. State Department revealed in a Wikileaks cable.

It remains University policy to strongly advise students and academics against all travel to Iran. “Durham University does not wish to impose a blanket ‘ban’ on travel to Iran or to override any academic consideration which may be given to proposals to travel to this region. However, we would like to take this opportunity to stress some of the sensitivities around travel to Iran for Durham members at this time and to clarify that the University is currently unable to sanction travel insurance for any University member wishing to travel to this country.”

Just today, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Tehran in support of the protests in Egypt. A BBC producer in the Iranian capital, described central Tehran as “total chaos”. He said “severe clashes” were taking place between protesters and police and there had been many arrests.

According to HRNA (Human Rights Activists News Agency), no one has any information about the current situation of Professor Reza Molavi.

Look out for more information at www.palatinate.org.uk and in the upcoming edition of Palatinate.

4 Responses

Leave a Reply
  1. ip
    Feb 15, 2011 - 01:17 AM

    The protest are spreading across the Middle East. People are getting restless. This story should get interesting

    Reply
  2. AB
    Feb 19, 2011 - 01:20 AM

    The CIS in the Wikileak is the Confederation of Iranian Students, an international student organisation which protests against the Iranian regime. The CIS in Durham is the Centre for Iranian Studies, an academic organisation which holds conferences about Iran, writes articles etc. but which is not, so far as I’m aware, anti-regime.

    Can you confirm if they are linked or if the two acronyms have been confused?

    Reply

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