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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

Academics protest against imprisonment of Irish citizen in Iran

Homa Hoodfar is a Canadian professor who has an Irish passport and was recently imprisoned.

A NUMBER OF scholars and academics took part in a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in Dublin today over the imprisonment of an Irish citizen in Iran.

Homa Hoodfar is a professor and anthropologist based at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada and is an Irish citizen from her first marriage.

df8348_89016cb6db83431b9f940452353ea450-mv2 Source: Homa Hoodfar

Hoodfar was arrested and imprisoned in Iran on 6 June 2016 and her supporters say she has been held in solitary confinement since. She is said to have been charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security, and propaganda against the state.

Her supporters (who run a website dedicated to her release) say that Hoodfar – who is 65 – has a serious neurological condition and that her health is declining rapidly.

Amnesty International has seen 40,000 people send a message to Iranian authorities calling for Hoodfar’s release.

The Canadian and Irish authorities are being urged “to do everything within their diplomatic ambit to secure her release”.

Speaking from Brazil, Hoodfar’s neice Amanda Ghahremani told

The latest news that we have about Homa is her hospitalisation – we know she was hospitalised in August and she is now back in prison. We have had very little information on her health condition, why she was hospitalised, or whether she is doing better. We don’t know how long she was in hospital and so we’ve had very little information on her coming out of prison.

df8348_d107b2f402ab4ed3a84d6f3dad4a8b95-mv2 Homa Hoodfar and her late husband Anthony Hilton Source: Homa Hoodfar

Ghahremani said that Hoodfar travelled to Iran in February to visit friends and family. Two days before she was due to return to Canada, she was stopped by guards in her home.

“She was questioned about her work and she was ultimately told that she was being investigated for essentially dabbling in feminism.”

She posted bail and was able to stay in her residence there for the first three months with “constant interrogations” but then was imprisoned.

“She is Irish, she has an Irish passport and the Irish government has a responsibility of care for her,” said Ghahremani, who has been in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the issue.

But she says she is disappointed with the “lack of engagement and creative engagement with Iran” on behalf of the Irish government.

Her niece said that Hoodfar is being accused of being “a key player in trying to impose western feminism in Iran”. She said this is a disservice to women in Iran who have been fighting for their rights for hundreds of years.

FreeHomaProtest4 Source: Emer O;Toole

Hoodfar’s work includes researching Muslim women’s lived realities and how they engage meaningfully in their society.

When Hoodfar was doing her PhD and Masters in the UK, she built up links to the Irish community there, says her niece.

Irish involvement

Canada does not have direct diplomatic relations with Iran, but Ireland has an Iranian embassy in Dublin.

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“So my hope has been and continues to be Ireland should step up and take a more proactive role,” says Ghahremani, adding she believes Ireland should collaborate with the Canadian government in dealing with Hoodfar’s case.

She hopes that today’s protest will show the level of support in the country for Hoodfar and “that [the Irish government] do see that they have a responsibility to her as an Irish citizen and that they send their ambassador to Iran”. The ambassador is based in Turkey.


Asked about her fears for her aunt, Ghahremani said:

I’m absolutely scared that her health is deteriorating. That her medical conditions that she had prior to imprisonment are being exacerbated. And I can only imagine the amount of psychological and physical pressure she is under. She is 65 years old – she is already quite a frail woman.

Her family are concerned she won’t be able to endure these conditions much longer, says her niece.

The protest today was organised by academics from Ireland “who wanted to show solidarity with a fellow citizen and fellow colleague”, said Ghahremani.

“They were in their full academic regalia and it was a point that they were trying to make which is their support for academic freedom and support for an Irish citizen who regardless of where her life has taken her in her trajectory is Irish. This was a statement for the Irish government to pay attention and to make her case a priority and also [to show Iran] that she is an academic first and foremost.”

Ghahremani said she is willing to travel to Ireland to speak to the Irish government about her aunt’s situation.

“I hope that they take this opportunity of the protest and media coverage, and my willingness to really engage,” she said. has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment on the protest.

Read: Citizenship is top issue on Immigrant Council helpline>

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