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“In Iran, a Brotherhood of Doctors and Patients”

The New York Times‘ Tina Rosenberg wrote a post about the Alaeis in her Opinionator Blog on June 20. She says:

Few doctors anywhere in the world have done their country a greater service than the Iranian brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei. Kamiar, who is 37, is currently living in Albany, N.Y., where he is working on a doctorate in public health. Arash, who is 42, is a resident of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison — where until recently, Kamiar lived as well.

PHR’s efforts on the brothers’ behalf are also noted:

Physicians for Human Rights organized prominent AIDS experts in 80 countries to sign petitions, write letters and lobby for them. The brothers did not know about any of this. Arash didn’t even realize that Kamiar had been arrested until several months later, when they went to trial.

Read more at the blog.

Last evening in Washington DC, Doctor Kamiar Alaei was present to accept the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights Award on behalf of himself and his brother, Doctor Arash Alaei. PHR continues to call for the release of Arash from Iran’s Evin prison in Tehran. The award aims to highlight the vital link between health and human rights, and honors . The award is given out annually by the Global Health Council in memory of Dr. Jonathan Mann, the first director of UNAIDS and prominent public health visionary.

PHR salutes the courage and conviction of the two brothers on receiving this prestigious award in recognition of all of the important work that they have done to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS – both in Iran and globally. We hope that Iranian authorities will release Dr. Arash Alaei promptly so that he also can return to his vital medical work.
~ Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights.

The brothers were apparently targeted by the government for their work traveling the world and liaising with health workers across the globe to find solutions to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They focused on overcoming stigma and discrimination against injection drug users and helped to develop and implement Iran’s enlightened policies on needle exchange. The Iranian government used the doctors’ travel to international AIDS conferences and meetings with colleagues in the United States as a basis for their charges.

The brothers were in Tehran visiting their family prior to their planned participation in the 2008 global HIV/AIDS conference in Mexico City, when they were arrested by Iranian authorities. The Alaeis were wrongfully convicted of “communications with an enemy government [USA]” and “seeking to overthrow the Iranian government” in 2008. Arash was sentenced to six years in prison and Kamiar was sentenced to three years. Kamiar was released a few months ago but Arash is still being detained. During the 18 months prior to Kamiar’s release, the brothers had been released for short furloughs.

Since their arrests in June 2008 an international campaign spearheaded by PHR has called for their release, engaging hundreds of leading AIDS experts, health organizations, and thousands of supporters from more than 80 countries.

“PHR, along with colleagues, classmates, and prominent leaders in the global AIDS and public health communities, have advocated for the release of Arash and Kamiar for more than three years, and we only wish that Arash could join in this celebration with Kamiar.
~ Susannah Sirkin

Since their arrests, the Alaeis’ colleagues and classmates campaigned vigorously on their behalf, gaining the support of the World Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health assembly, the International AIDS Society, numerous academic institutions, leading AIDS researchers, and more. Together with other doctors and public health workers in dozens of countries around the world they organized Global Days of Action and contacted Iranian embassies to press for the release of the Alaei brothers. PHR organized the campaign to free the Alaeis; see background here.

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