Academic Freedom and the Case of Ahmadreza Djalali

Words by Advocates for Djalali

Content warning: discussions of violence, imprisonment, torture and medical abuse


Why do you go to university? To get a degree? Make some friends? Education may be something that we take for granted here in Australia. It is here that we all contribute to the pursuit of knowledge, whether that be in law, medicine, politics or the arts. But what if you couldn’t? What if your freedom to study, research and discuss wasn’t protected by the state or the university? Sadly, this is the reality for many academics in Iran, who are under threat of persecution should their work interfere with the goals of the regime. 


One such academic is Ahmadreza Djalali, who was arrested on 24 April 2016. Djalali is a physician, scientist and well-respected expert in disaster medicine. Iranian authorities arrested Djalali during a visit from Sweden to Tehran University, Shiraz University and the Iranian Natural Disaster Medicine Institute. Under duress, Djalali confessed to providing the Israeli Intelligence Agency Mossad with classified intel on Iranian military assets and nuclear sites. However, he later alleged that his prosecution was a result of his refusal to use his academic ties in Europe to spy for Iran. Additionally, there has been some suggestions that his arrest is being used as a bargaining chip for Iran’s hostage diplomacy. 


Since his unjust arrest, Djalali has been sentenced to death on the charge of ‘Corruption on Earth’, during a grossly unfair trial. During his time imprisoned, evidence from the Human Rights Watch and UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention highlights the inhumane conditions he is suffering such as torture, refusal of medical care and excessive solitary confinement. He has also reportedly lost 24kg since his arrest and been diagnosed with leukaemia. 


Ahmadreza Djalali is a father and a husband. 7 years ago he was a leading scientist in disaster medicine with 46 publications in scientific journals into topics that contributed to important humanitarian work, including preparedness for crises like Covid-19. Now Djalali waits to see whether the mistreatment of his leukaemia or a sentence of capital punishment will end his life. 


The freedom to educate, research and pursue truth is both precious and precarious. It is with this freedom that we can hold people in positions of power accountable for their actions and protect civil liberties. It shouldn’t matter whether you are studying in Australia or Iran. Without academic freedom, the truth becomes a tool weaponised by autocratic regimes to manipulate and oppress their people.


That is why a group of Monash students are advocating alongside the non-profit organisation ‘Scholars at Risk’ to demand that Ahmedreza Djalali be immediately released from Iranian authorities and reunited with his family. Please join us in standing up for academic freedom and engage with our campaign. 


You can find more information on our social media accounts and SAR: @scholarsatriskmonash on Instagram and @SARMonash on Twitter. 


Please also consider registering to our in-person event at Monash University (Clayton campus) which will include expert insight from an exciting guest speaker.


Leave a Response