Following up on our previous activities on behalf of Omid Kokabee, an Iranian graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin, who was arrested when he returned to Iran, CCS wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about his arrest and its chilling effect on Iranian students in the United States, who now fear that they will also be arrested if they go home to Iran.
Our Previous Activities
October 14, 2011
The Honorable Hilary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. We write now in concern for Omid Kokabee, an Iranian doctoral student at the University of Texas/Austin, as well as other Iranian students in the United States.
Mr. Kokabee was arrested in Tehran nine months ago on a visit to his parents. He is standing trial for “communicating with a hostile government” and “illegitimate earnings,” criminal charges that carry severe penalties. In a trial held on October 4, Kokabee was only allowed to present a written statement. Throughout his imprisonment, he has not been allowed to communicate with his lawyer.
Omid Kokabee’s professors and fellow students at the University of Texas, as well as at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, where Omid obtained his Masters Degree in optics, all confirm that he was dedicated to his studies and refrained from engaging in politics. He was paid for his teaching assistantship with the regular support package provided to all first-year doctoral students by the University of Texas. We have written to Iranian authorities protesting violation of his human rights.
Reaction to this case at Texas University and at other academic institutions reported to us indicated that many Iranian students in the US fear that they will be punished for their studies here if they return home. As scientists, we believe that this situation presents serious obstacles to international academic cooperation, as well as to the exercise of such human rights as travel (under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights) and education (under the International Convention on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights). If Iranian students fear to return to their native country, they may outstay their student visas and seek asylum in the US. If the US decides to stop issuing further visas to Iranian students, Iran will lose any benefit from the resources of American universities and the latter will lose many talented students who may contribute to Iran’s future.
We suggest that you consider whether any diplomatic steps can be taken to resolve this situation involving possibly thousands of Iranian students and many academic institutions. We look forward to your response.
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
The Hon. Jeffrey Feltman
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs