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A Message to Our Friends, from Arash and Kamiar

Dear Friends,

A great Persian Sufi poet wrote,

You are close to me when your heart is with me, even if you are far away from me.
You are far from me when your heart is not with me, even if you are beside me.

As a result of your support, we are now free and we are safe.

Four months after our arrest, we learned for the first time, via a discreet message from our family that so many of you were campaigning for our release.

Because we were under pressure during our two months of solitary confinement and several months of interrogation, we were led to believe that we were forgotten. When we got the message about your campaign through our family, it was like getting new blood that warmed our hearts and gave us energy to be strong, to tolerate the situation, and not to become broken.

Now that we are released, even though we have lost some of our friends in our country, we have learned that we have thousands of new friends, many of whom we have never met. We’ve had the chance to learn about the numerous letters, petitions, statements, presentations and conferences supporting our case from all over the world.

We appreciate so much your message that “treating AIDS is not a crime.” The campaign activity demonstrated to Iranian officials that thousands of individuals and organizations care about the situations of those people who work to improve the health status of their communities, especially when they face threats and persecution. In our case it was very important that the advocacy came not only from human rights organizations, but also from so many in the academic, medical, public health fields and individuals. We were so heartened to learn about the diversity of the engagement in our cause across geographic, religious, ethnic, cultural and political lines.

Thanks to your efforts, we are rejoicing at being reunited and we want to extend your advocacy by being the voice of the voiceless for others who may face a similar situation to ours. This is at least one way we can pass on the kindness you have shown to us.

We are both currently at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany where we hope to start an interdisciplinary center for health and human rights. We hope to receive your input and advice to make this a reality. We also with our friends plan to initiate a “Prison Alumni – Club Evin” to support one another and advocate for others who remain there.

We learned from our prison experience that if you believe in what you are doing, you must continue your work, whether or not the work is appreciated by your government….and you must do this until the last moment of your life.

We are unable to communicate our full appreciation to all of you since words cannot express our real feelings. But from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for campaigning for our freedom.

With much gratitude,

Arash Alaei
Alaeiarash [at] gmail.com

Kamiar Alaei
Kamiar.alaei [at] yahoo.com

“Iranian AIDS doctors continued work behind bars”

Nature.com today posts an interview by Priya Shetty with Dr. Kamiar Alaei, given during the recent International AIDS Society meetings in Rome.

Excerpt:

Q) Did you ever think you would be in prison one day yourself?
A) Never. We never expected to be arrested. The worst scenario we imagined if the new government was not happy with our work was that they would tell us not to continue. We would then have asked them how they wanted us to implement or design our programmes. We would have adapted.

The interview highlights both the important work the Alaeis did prior to their detention, and the work they continued in prison. Please sign the petition to demand the release of Dr. Arash Alaei.

Cross-posted from Blog 4 Global Health, the blog of the Global Health Council’s Policy, Research and Advocacy team. Post by David Jolson.

ROME — In the opening cermonies of the Sixth IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention here last night, Elly Katabira, the international conference chair and current president of the International AIDS Society, decried the continuing imprisonment of Arash Alaei, one of the two Iranian physician-brothers who won the Global Health Council’s Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights at our annual conference last month.

“We, at the IAS, consider human rights for HIV professionals as one of our priorities. This is why I could not be addressing you tonight and not mention our friend doctor Arash Alaei, who has been detained in Iran since June 2008, for the only reason that he was trying to treat HIV-positive people in his home-country. There is no reason why HIV professionals around the world should be in prison only for doing their job, and we, all of us, demand his immediate release from prison.”

The other brother, Dr. Kamiar Alaei, released in October 2010, is here at the conference and will speak at two events on Tuesday — a satellite event organized by the Council and a press conference organized by Physicians for Human Rights where he will call for the release of his brother.

Physicians for Human Rights is planning a global day of action on July 19. They are asking people to sign a petition asking the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Dr. Arash immediately and have set up a website to facilitate that petition.

this profile of the brothers this week.

The New York Times published this profile of the brothers after they received the Jonathan Mann Award.