Physicians for Human Rights is urging the Iranian government to release two doctors, including a University at Albany public health doctoral student, who have been detained.
The group said that Kamiar Alaei and his brother Arash, both physicians, were apparently arrested and detained at the end of June in Iran.
The doctors are experts on HIV/AIDS and have worked for many years on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment activities in Iran and internationally.
“Physicians for Human rights calls on the government of Iran to disclose their whereabouts, provide them access to lawyers and family and either to charge them with an internationally recognized crime or release them immediately,” according to a statement from the Boston-based physicians group.
Dr. Kamiar Alaei is a doctoral candidate at the University at Albany School of Public Health and is expected to resume his studies there this fall. He began his studies at UAlbany in September 2007.
“We are in the dark about a lot of this. We are trying to get as much information as we can, but there is not much information available,” University at Albany spokesman Michael Parker said Tuesday.
Physicians for Human Rights said that since 1986 the Alaei brothers have tried to bring the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS into Iran’s national health care system.
“As of today there is continued confirmation they are missing,” said Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.
Ladan Alomar, executive director of Centro Civico, a multi-service organization in Amsterdam, has known the two brothers for five years. She met them through the state Department of Health when they visited Centro Civico. Karmiar Alaei has applied for state funding to research AIDS in Amsterdam.
“I had an opportunity to meet with them since Civico, since its inception, has done AIDS work and the brothers’ expertise and passion has been AIDS work,” Alomar said.
Alomar said Kamiar Alaei is supposed to return in August to continue work toward his doctorate.
Alomar said the work the two brothers are doing is “extremely important, courageous and admirable”.
“In many counties, AIDS and HIV is an issue that is taboo and people don’t want to talk about it. She said the Alaei brothers are able to bring limited resources to the Middle East, and their work with AIDS and HIV is extremely significant.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
The detention of the two has sparked a widespread cry for their release locally and internationally. Human Rights Watch said that Iranian authorities should immediately release or charge the two.
The group said the two were detained without charge by Iranian security forces in late June, and their whereabouts remain unknown.
On June 22, security forces detained Arash Alaei, holding him overnight at an unknown location. The following morning, they accompanied him to his home, where they arrested Kamiar Alaei and seized material and documents belonging to the brothers, according to Human Rights Watch.
The group said authorities have not yet announced why the brothers were detained or whether or not they intend to bring any charges against them.
“To fight AIDS effectively, the government has realized that it must engage in global efforts to combat the disease, work with civil society, and confront taboo issues, including sex and drugs. The detention without charges of the Alaei brothers has a chilling effect on all of those efforts,” Joe Amon, HIV/AIDS program director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The two are also part of Asia Society’s Young Leaders Program and the organization also expressed its concerns.
The Alaei brothers have worked closely with Asia Society on HIV/AIDS awareness activities throughout the Asia-Pacific region for years, and both are participants in Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Program.
Dr. Kamiar Alaei was selected by Asia Society among leaders from across the Asia-Pacific as a 2008-2009 Asia 21 Fellow.
“Asia Society is deeply concerned about the apparent detention by Iranian authorities of Drs. Arash and Kamiar Alaei, who are both leading figures in the HIV/AIDS community and Asia Society Young Leaders,” said Asia Society Chairman Richard C. Holbrooke.
In addition to their work in Iran, the Alaei brothers hold training courses for Afghan and Tajik medical workers and have worked to encourage regional cooperation among 12 Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries.