Editorial: Let’s Bring Homa Home

Graphic: Nico Holzmann

When we hear about injustice happening on the other side of the world, sometimes it can be easy to just ignore it. When injustice doesn’t affect us directly, we don’t always feel the need to prevent it.

Every now and then, though, something happens that reveals how we are connected to the oppression of those far away from us. What’s happening to Homa Hoodfar, in Iran, should be one of those moments for Concordia students.

Hoodfar was a professor at Concordia, whose academic domain was sociology and anthropology. While researching women’s issues in Iran last spring, she was arrested by Iran’s secret police—the Counter Intelligence Unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The absurd charges laid against her are clearly related to her work in women’s issues—the Iranian government accused Hoodfar of “dabbling in feminism and security matters” and charged her with propaganda against the state.

Apart from a brief hospitalization on Aug. 30, Hoodfar has been held in solitary confinement since her arrest in June—a practice described by United Nations experts as a form of torture.
So here we are—in a situation where a former teacher at our own school who still acts as a graduate supervisor has become a political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience, in a nation on the other side of this planet. Despite the distance, this affects us deeply.

As university students, some of us may want to travel and research at some point in the future. Can we count on our university to protect us from events like these? In this situation, Concordia’s administration has left much to be desired.

Despite President Alan Shepard releasing two statements of support for Hoodfar on Concordia’s website, the administration has neglected to send an email to students including the petition demanding her release. The Link believes that the administration should do so immediately. Not only would this help raise awareness for the issue, but also the direct action of signing the petition will serve to create a solid base of support and solidarity.

We at The Link would also like to draw attention to the former Harper administration’s decision to close the Canadian embassy in Iran. The burning of this bridge leaves us wondering what could have been done had diplomatic relations remained intact.

The Trudeau government seems to be attempting to renew ties with Iran, and Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion claims the government is working on Hoodfar’s case. He also confirmed that the lack of an embassy in Iran has been a challenge.

The government has its role to play, but so do we.

The Concordia administration should be doing everything in its power to raise awareness for this issue, and circulating the petition demanding her release is a good starting point.

We’d also like to urge the Concordia Student Union to do everything in its power to bring Homa Hoodfar to the forefront of students’ collective consciousness. Posters, banners, and an update to the positions book could go a long way in this regard.

And, most importantly, we encourage students at large to participate in upcoming demonstrations in solidarity with Hoodfar.

In 2009, three Americans—including journalist Shane Bauer—were detained by the Iranian government after having accidentally crossed the border from Iraq on a hiking trip. The Iranian government, without evidence, claimed they were spies.

For two years, they were detained. A substantial international solidarity movement developed, demanding their release. Activists on the ground made noise, and diplomats negotiated behind closed doors. This combination of factors eventually led to their release.

International solidarity works. It has in the past, and it will in the future. Together, let’s bring Homa home.