Posts tagged: Columbia University

Kian Tajbakhsh: Still Captive in Iran (Source: Columbia News)

By , March 12, 2010 10:46 am

Kian’s colleagues at Columbia University reported on their recent efforts urging his release:

“Columbia alumnus Kian Tajbakhsh was supposed to join the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation last fall. Instead, the Iranian-born scholar was arrested in July and jailed at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, accused of supporting the uprising that followed the country’s disputed elections last June and of spying for the United States.

Now, many of those in the Columbia community who expected to welcome Tajbakhsh as a colleague and teacher are working to win his freedom.

Last month, some 20 members of the Columbia faculty—including the deans of the School of General Studies , the Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)—signed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking her assistance in securing Tajbakhsh’s release.“There’s nothing political about his work,” says Professor Ken Prewitt , vice president for Global Centers and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs. “He’s being persecuted, as far as we can tell, for being in Iran at the wrong time. This is a violation of the principles of freedom of mobility for scholars.”

“The Iranian government has established a pattern of harassment of scholars,” the letter stated. The arrest “is a destructive and pernicious act that does not address the problems confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, now or in the future.”

Secretary Clinton wrote back Feb. 1, saying that “the espionage charges against him are groundless” and that the State Department “is using every available diplomatic tool to achieve Dr. Tajbakhsh’s release.”…

Columbia professors have posted video appeals on FreeKian09.org. In one, Mark Wigley , dean of the architecture school, describes Tajbakhsh as “one of the leading experts in the evolution of the city and the way that leaders can best provide services to local populations.” Wigley emphasizes the architectural leadership of Iran and notes that Tajbakhsh was to be the first full-time Iranian scholar at the school.

“It’s incredibly important for our faculty, our professors, our colleagues, our students to learn from Iran,” he says. “If Kian was going to do any of the things he’s been accused of doing, he certainly would not have accepted this full-time academic position here in New York City.”

Ira Katznelson , a professor of political science and history at Columbia, says he first met Kian in the late 1980s, and sponsored his dissertation. Through “long conversations, I discovered what so many of us know: that Kian is a person of luminous intelligence, moral commitment and fierce desire to understand the world and make it better.” …

[Link to full article]

Faculty seek Hillary Clinton’s support in prisoner’s release (Source: Columbia Spectator)

By , January 13, 2010 3:21 pm

A group of Columbia University faculty members called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do everything possible to obtain Kian’s release:

“…Tajbakhsh, who earned his Ph.D. from Columbia, was supposed to teach at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation this year, but he was arrested last summer in Iran during the aftermath of the elections. He faces multiple charges of spying and being a threat to the national government…

…this Monday, Jan. 11, a group of faculty sent a letter to Clinton… The letter begins, “As members of the faculty at Columbia University, we wish to express our deep concerns for the well-being of Kian Tajbakhsh.” …
The letter also denounces Iran’s “pattern of harassment of scholars,” including Mohammad Maleki, the former chancellor of Tehran University. “Attacking and imprisoning scholars is a destructive and pernicious act that does not address the problems confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, now or in the future,” it states.

“Everybody knows that the regime is using coercive repression on its critics inside of the country,” [Columbia political science professor and department chair Andrew] Nathan said. “This person [Tajbakhsh] is a scholar, who is coming to this university as a scholar and a teacher. He is not a politician. He hasn’t used violence. He is not a terrorist. He is using academic freedom, which should be protected.“

[Full Article]

Faculty petition for Tajbakhsh’s release (Source: Columbia Spectator)

By , December 16, 2009 9:42 am

Over 150 Columbia University students and professors have publicized a letter lobbying for the release of Kian, a current Columbia faculty member:

“…Tajbakhsh, who was supposed to teach at Columbia’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, was arrested this summer in Iran during the aftermath of the elections. He has also faced numerous charges of spying and being a threat to the national government.

“We hope to raise awareness about Kian’s case, and show our support for him as a member of our academic community and as a renowned scholar who has been falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned,” said a graduate student involved in the campaign who was granted anonymity for security reasons. “The charges are nonsense. Kian is a dedicated scholar, and someone who cares deeply about Iran. He has worked throughout his career to foster understanding between Iran and the rest of the world. I was looking forward to seeing him continue that work at Columbia this year, and it is terribly sad and frightening to know that he is in prison right now, instead of in a classroom here.”

“We, the undersigned faculty of Columbia University, call for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh,” the letter begins. It emphasizes his academic achievements and status as “an internationally recognized scholar who has taught at both American and Iranian universities.”

“Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to fostering better understanding between the United States and Iran,” it states…

[Gary] Sick, a senior research scholar at the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, called the charges against Tajbakhsh “absurd … the best evidence of the underlying paranoia in the Iranian revolution government. They are persuaded that America is part of the revolution and trying to overthrow their government. They are looking for anybody that has associated with foreign government. … Some go to jail, others go to death,” he said.

“I have never been a CIA agent,” Sick added, stating that the accusation was invented by “an Iranian journalist or publisher.” He called it “disappointing” that there was “no effort to verify that it is true,” considering that “this is supposed to be a court case.”

“They can give you 15 years of jail for a rumor,” Sick said…”

[Link to article]


Iran: Overturn Death Sentences, Other Unfair Convictions (Source: Human Rights Watch)

By , October 26, 2009 11:10 am

Human Rights Watch has issued a report calling on Iran’s Judiciary to overturn convictions that have been handed down by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran since the end of September against defendants accused of inciting post-election unrest including Kian:

“The Iranian Judiciary should immediately quash the convictions that have been handed down by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran since the end of September against defendants accused of inciting post-election unrest, Human Rights Watch said today. The convictions all stem from unfair trials in which the accused were denied access to lawyers.

The authorities repeatedly denied the prisoners’ requests for access to lawyers during pre-trial detention that in many cases lasted months, and their requests at their trials for lawyers of their choice were refused, Human Rights Watch said. The wife of one of the sentenced prisoners told Human Rights Watch that her husband was told he would not leave the prison any time soon if he did not agree to write a confession…

On October 20, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, to more than 12 years in prison. Authorities arrested Tajbakhsh, 47, on July 9 and later charged him with acting against national security for participating in Gulf 2000, an internet forum housed at Columbia University, and for working for the Open Society Institute. At Tajbakhsh’s trial, the appointed lawyer simply called the accusations against his client “untenable,” but did nothing else to challenge the accusations…

Tajbakhsh, Tabatabai, Aghaei, Bastani, and Hajjarian were put on trial on August 26. After being held in solitary confinement for weeks, denied access to their lawyers throughout their detention and trial, and permitted very limited access to their families, they testified against themselves and their colleagues.

Four post-election trials have been held at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Authorities have allowed only reporters from pro-government media to cover the proceedings, which were presided over by Judge Abolqasem Salavati. Local and foreign reporters, families of detainees, and their lawyers were not permitted to attend the trials.

Under Iranian law, individuals may appeal their sentences, which must be upheld by both the appeals court and the Supreme Court before they are carried out…”

[Full report]

Three Columbia University leaders discuss Kian Tajbakhsh

By , September 10, 2009 2:24 am

Kenneth Prewitt
Vice-President for Global Centers and
Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs

Mark Wigley
Dean
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Robert Beauregard
Professor and Director of Urban Planning
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Bollinger calls for release of detained Iranian scholar (Source: Columbia Spectator)

By , September 9, 2009 3:48 pm

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has again called for Kian’s release:

“Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American urban planner who was supposed to teach at Columbia this semester, has been detained along with scores of dissenters and is on trial in Iran for fomenting a “velvet revolution.”

The U.S. Department of State and University President Lee Bollinger have called for the release of Tajbakhsh, a scholar who earned his Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia…

In an August statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to Tajbakhsh as a scholar “who has spent his career working to enhance mutual understanding between Iran and the United States.” Clinton added that “Iran should immediately release Mr. Tajbakhsh from detention and allow him to depart Iran to continue his academic pursuits.”

“We share the concerns expressed by the U.S. Department of State about the reported arrest of Kian Tajbakhsh and many others in Iran,” Bollinger said. “We concur in urging his release from detention and express our heartfelt support for his family, friends, and colleagues who are anxious over his wellbeing.”

[Full article]

Family and Friends of Detained American-Iranian Scholar Kian Tajbakhsh Decry Decision by Iranian Authorities to Refuse to Receive Petition Calling for his Release

By , July 28, 2009 7:16 pm

Officials at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York have refused to receive a petition including some 800 signatures by individuals calling for the unconditional release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh from detention in Iran. Those signing the petition, organized by the New School for Social Research in New York, “strongly deplore and condemn [the] detention and persecution of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh…call for his immediate and unconditional release, and urge the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties to which Iran has long been a signatory.”

New School Professor Arien Mack confirmed that an attempt was made to deliver two envelopes containing the petition, addressed to Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i care of the Ambassador, to the Iranian mission to the UN on Wednesday, July 22, but the envelopes were refused. The New School left a message with the Mission’s legal department inquiring about the refusal, but has yet to receive a response.

Other prominent groups including the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, the International Cooperation Agency of Dutch Municipalities, Columbia University, and the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives in Pakistan have called for Kian’s release. PEN, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression, stated in their appeal that they are “deeply concerned that Kian Tajbakhsh has been swept up in a crackdown on peaceful scholars and journalists following the disputed presidential elections in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.”

Iranian agents arrested Kian Tajbakhsh, an American citizen, and took him away from his wife and small daughter at their home in Tehran at 9:00pm on July 9, 2009. We still have no information about where Kian was taken. We are concerned that he is being held in an attempt by the Iranian authorities to obtain forced statements from him to use in a televised show trial to falsely accuse ‘foreign powers’ of interference in Iran’s postelection crisis. Such statements are repeatedly extracted under conditions of torture for the sole purpose of staging televised show trials in an attempt to deceive the Iranian public.

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Columbia University President Lee Bollinger calls for the release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: Columbia Spectator)

By , July 15, 2009 10:56 am

The Columbia Spectator, the daily newspaper of Columbia University and Morningside Heights, had an article about the arrest of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, an alumnus of Columbia University.

A brief excerpt of the article is shown below:

Kian Tajbakhsh, a scholar who earned his Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia, has been detained in Iran once again, according to news reports and a New School Web site. The U.S. Department of State and University President Lee Bollinger are calling for his release.

Sources told CNN that during the Thursday night arrest, security forces took his computer and ravaged his home.

“We’re deeply concerned [about] reports that an Iranian-American scholar has been unjustly detained in Iran,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

“We share the concerns expressed by the U.S. Department of State about the reported arrest of Kian Tajbakhsh and many others in Iran,” Bollinger said in a statement issued to Spectator. “We concur in urging his release from detention and express our heartfelt support for his family, friends and colleagues who are anxious over his wellbeing.”

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