This article was updated on Tuesday, September 27, at 10:33 a.m.
On Wednesday, September 21, demonstrators gathered in Norman Bethune Square to raise awareness for Concordia anthropology and sociology professor Homa Hoodfar’s illegal imprisonment in Iran. Around 300 participants came to the demonstration, which lasted two hours and ended with the collection of signatures for a petition demanding Hoodfar’s immediate and unconditional release.
Hoodfar was arrested and detained during a familial and research visit to Iran in March, and has been held in solitary confinement at Evin prison since June. According to the Tehran Public Prosecutor, Hoodfar is being investigated for “dabbling in feminism and security matters.” She has been denied access to legal support.
The demonstration was held on the 107th day of her imprisonment. Each passing day raises more concerns for her health, as Hoodfar has Myasthenia gravis, a serious neurological condition that requires frequent care and medication.
Hayley Lewis, Hoodfar’s former student, organized the rally through social media and word of mouth.
“I hope that more people become aware of what the situation is,” said Lewis in an interview with The Daily. “I think that visibility is a huge factor – the more people who know about it, hopefully the more pressure there is to bring her home.”
Canada currently has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran. However, as Hoodfar is also an Irish citizen, activists hope to reach Irish embassies internationally through petitions and call for more action.
“We’ve gotten a lot of signatures today to add to our petition, which is one of the only tools that we have in such a delicate situation,” Lewis said.
During the demonstration, attendees chanted “Free Homa,” and “Liberez Homa,” calling for action. Students, colleagues, and friends of Hoodfar carried homemade signs of support and wore t-shirts featuring the Free Homa logo.
Speaking to the crowd, Alex Tyrrell, an environmental science student at Concordia and the leader of the Green Party of Quebec, said, “Members of the Concordia community and the public should not underestimate the gravity of what’s taking place here. Her life is on the line. We as a community have a collective responsibility to ensure her prompt release.”
Professor Martin French, Hoodfar’s colleague in the sociology and anthropology department at Concordia, spoke to The Daily about the importance of raising awareness.
“Everyone’s here to raise awareness and bring some pressure to bear on our governments [and] the Iranian government, of course, and the Irish government,” he said.
In an interview with The Daily, Tyrrell expressed how he felt “very encouraged” by the turnout at the demonstration. “But it’s also only the beginning of what could be a very long battle to get her back,” he noted.
Hoodfar’s imprisonment is “a huge blow to academic freedom,” he continued. “When it touches home, you feel it particularly strongly.”
When asked to describe Hoodfar, Louise, Hoodfar’s long time family friend, told The Daily, “She just loves people, she was a great professor, and loves her students. She just wants to do the best research possible.”
“I’m hoping that the government will see that they can’t just say, ‘Well, yeah, we’re doing everything that we can.’ That they will do everything that they can and […] other organizations [like] Amnesty should get her out on humanitarian reasons,” she added.
For Lewis, Homa’s imprisonment is “devastating and shocking and wildly unjust. It’s the kind of injustice that you know exists in the world, but I’m learning what it actually feels like to have someone you know be subjected to political prisonership.”
Update: On September 26, Hoodfar was released from Evin prison in Iran.