Feb. 2, 2022

Free Fariba Adelkhah, French academic held in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

Free Fariba Adelkhah, French academic held in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

French academic Fariba Adelkhah has been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran since 5 June 2019. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for Fariba’s immediate release and denounced her incarceration as “totally arbitrary”. President Macron also stated that “Fariba Adelkhah is a scientific prisoner”. Scholars At Risk have called for Fariba’s immediate release and for the protection of academic freedom in Iran and beyond. On this episode, we have the honour of speaking to Fariba’s colleague and member of the Free Fariba Support Committee, Sandrine Perrot.

Sandrine walks us through what happened to Fariba, her background, the conditions she’s being held in, her health issues as well as her unfair trial and sentence. Sandrine also talks about how the Free Fariba Support Committee was created, the toll Fariba’s imprisonment has taken on her loved ones, what the French government and European Union can do to free Fariba as well as how journalists and the public can help.

If you prefer, you can watch the video version of this interview on YouTube.
 
For more information on Fariba Adelkhah and her partner, Roland Marchal, please check out the following:

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Transcript

Free Fariba Adelkhah, French academic held in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

SPEAKERS

Daren Nair, Sandrine Perrot

 

Daren Nair  00:05

Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world. Together with their families, we share their stories every week, and let you know how you can help bring them home. I'm Daren Nair, and I've had the honour of campaigning with many of these families for years. These are some of the most courageous and resilient people among us. People who have never given up hope, people who will never stop working to reunite their families. And we will be right there by their side until their loved ones are back home. Thank you for joining us. And now, let's meet this week's guest. Fariba Adelkhah is a French academic. She has been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran since 5th June 2019. French President, Emmanuel Macron, has called for Fariba's immediate release and denounced her incarceration as totally arbitrary. The French president also stated that Fariba Adelkhah is a scientific prisoner. On 12th January 2022, the French Foreign Ministry released the following statement on Fariba. "We were astonished to learn that the Iranian authorities have decided, without any prior explanation or notification, to re-imprison our compatriot, Fariba Adelkhah. Miss Adelkhah, first jailed on 5th June 2019, had been put under house arrest on 3rd October 2020 with an electronic tag. As we have repeatedly emphasised, Miss Adelkhah's conviction is based on no serious evidence. It is purely political and arbitrary. The decision to imprison her again, which we condemn, can have only negative consequences on the relationship between France and Iran, and reduce the trust between our two countries. France demands Miss Adelkah's immediate release." That was a statement from the French Foreign Ministry. Scholars At Risk, an international network of institutions and individuals, whose mission it is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom, has stated that Fariba is wrongfully detained. On 11th February 2020, Scholars At Risk joined 18 academic associations and human rights groups in calling for the immediate release of Dr. Fariba Adelkah and to protect the right to academic freedom in Iran and beyond. Today, we are joined by Fariba's colleague and member of the Free Fariba Support Committee. Sandrine Perrot. Sandrine, we're very sorry for Fariba and her family, friends and colleagues campaigning for her release like yourself. We will do everything we can to help. Thank you for joining us.

 

Sandrine Perrot  02:51

Well, thank you for having us.

 

Daren Nair  02:53

Now, can you please walk us through what happened to Fariba?

 

Sandrine Perrot  02:57

Yes, of course. So, Fariba, as you said, is a... is a senior researcher based at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Sciences Po, in Paris, and she has been detained in Iran for the last two and a half years. She was arrested in June 2019, the same day as her partner, Roland Marchal,  another French researcher that you know already, and that you interviewed some time ago. He had just arrived in... in Iran to visit her during the fieldwork that she was doing in Iran. They were both detained in the wing of Evin Prison, overseen by the Revolutionary Guard Corps, so the Pasdaran. And even if Roland was released after 10 months, after a prisoner swap deal between France and Iran, Fariba is still detained. So, she was sentenced to five years of detention, being unjustly accused of undermining state security and of propaganda against the Islamic Republic, which is totally phantasmagoric for those who really know Fariba, who really know her work and research in Iran for the last 35 years now. So, Fariba Adelkhah, as you said, is innocent, and the Iranian authorities know this. She is unfortunately used for, let's say, cynical political purposes. So, this is very clear, and all these accusations were never grounded in... in any way. When... when she was allowed, in October 2020, to be under house arrest, so she had an electronic bracelet and the obligation to stay within 300... 300 metres of her home. But now, she's... she was really very brutally and unexpectedly re-incarcerated in Evin in mid January, which the Iranian Judiciary claims to justify by her alleged failure to comply with the rules of her house arrest, which is again, a false and easily refutable accusation. So, we are now in another unbelievable episode of this sad and completely Kafkaesque series of events in which Fariba, again an internationally distinguished academic researcher, is... has been caught up in an imbroglio of diplomatic or, well should I say, undiplomatic negotiations, bargaining of prisoners, of internal and international power rivalries that have nothing to do with her or with her work. But which is also a very classic way of doing things for Iranian authorities, unfortunately, who are... They... they are using our colleague and other Iranian and international researchers or bi-nationals for external and internal political purposes that remain totally opaque.

 

Daren Nair  06:14

Can you please talk to us about Fariba's background? You mentioned she's a world-renowned academic. Can you just give us more details?

 

Sandrine Perrot  06:23

Yes, of course. So, Fariba was born in 1959 in Tehran. She has spent most of her life in France. She arrived in France in 1977. She studied Psychology at the University of Strasbourg, where she still has a lot of friends. She wrote a PhD in Anthropology at the Paris School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), about the Iranian revolutionary women who align with Islam. And so she never cut her ties with... with Iran, where, um actually, she really continued to travel there each year to see her family, but also to carry out her field research. So Fariba, in fact, is known to be one of the best specialists of the Iranian society, and of the region. She worked on Afghanistan, for example, as well. She has worked on religion and politics, on gender and more generally on the... the complex issues of daily religious and political interaction in Iranian society. So, Fariba is really a very rigorous, very experienced and independent field researcher, and an internationally renowned anthropologist. And let me tell you that for the last 35 years, this is not the first time that her work irritates in Iran. She had already experienced mishaps and the Iranian authorities have long tried to intimidate her. She had her passport confiscated once. She was among several times to explain what she was doing as her research etc so and it's important to know also that she has irritated the regime as much as the opponents of the regime by her work. I think it's important to say that. So, her work is that of an anthropologist and not of an... an ideologue at all. This is why we insist to say that Fariba Adelkhah is an academic prisoner and not a political prisoner, meaning that she's not an activist. She has never engaged in politics. And she was really arrested not because of her political opinion or activities, but because of her research. And by the way, the interrogations of the Pasdaran never focused on anything else. Anything other than... than her research. So, it tells a lot about the place of research in... in Iran, I think.

 

Daren Nair  09:03

So, what are the conditions she is currently being held in in Evin Prison?

 

Sandrine Perrot  09:08

So, the... the conditions of detention have evolved a lot over the last two years. She's remained... she remained seven months in the aisle of the Revolutionary Guards, which was for her like the hardest time of these... of the time that she spent in detention. She was never physically abused but psychologically, yes, she was. She was subjected to a lot of psychological pressure, humiliation, bullying. She was deprived of books, which is important for her, which... is who is really an inte... an intellectual by nature. She was in isolation for long time. She underwent very long hours and hours of interrogations with multiple and very hard pressures. And of course, she had very, very few contacts with her family at that time. She didn't know what had happened to Roland, for example. And, as you may know, she also did a 49-day hunger strike from December 2019 to February 2020, which was, of course, a very difficult time, but also because she did not receive adequate treatment after... after her hunger strike. So again, that was really like, I think, the worst time she... she had in... in Evin. So, when she was transferred to the women's wing, which is an aisle where... which is for prisoners under common law. So, after this long and difficult period, we can say that her... her situation improved a little She was then in charge at the library. She kept herself busy by doing some arts. And, of course, she had discussions with... with her... her fellow inmates. So, that was... that was a big change. When, in October 2020, she obtain to be under house arrest, that was really a relief for her, and for us, I must say, considering that she could at least take care of her physical and mental health. But of course, we have like an electronic bracelet and to be restrained to a perimeter of 300 metres was not freedom at all. And she had very... she had many, many restrictions, like a 12-page booklet of restrictions. And she was under a lot of pressure. She underwent very regular checks by a security agent. She had a lot of administrative obligations, and all this. So, now she's back in the women's aisle, which is better than the... than when she was with the Pasdaran, of course, but, as I said, that was totally unexpected and with no due warning. So, of course, you can imagine how it impacted... how this re-incarceration impacted her. And today, I must say that we are a little worried because she was talking about starting a hunger strike again, because she was furious when she was said about the false allegations for which she was put back in prison. So, it's quite understandable. She's facing unfounded allegations again, and we are also very worried by the sanitary conditions in Evin, as the COVID pandemic continues there. Of course, again, it is very difficult to communicate with her and to give her support or to get some news. So, that's... that's really, again, a reason for concern for us.

 

Daren Nair  13:07

I'm very sorry to hear that. Now, you mentioned she went on a hunger strike for 49 days, I believe. That's the number you stated. And obviously, if you go on a hunger strike for that long, there's going to be health repercussions, kidney problems, or perhaps liver problems. And you mentioned she didn't get the appropriate medical care. So, does Fariba, right now, have any significant health issues that require medical care?

 

Sandrine Perrot  13:35

Well, today, she's not in bad health, even though her health is still fragile, I must say. But she was able to have a proper medical follow up while she was under house arrest. So, her health had improved; she was doing better. Right now, she does not need any special treatments. But like all inmates, she has her ups and downs. And but, well, we know that she's very combative, which is very reassuring. She's a strong woman, who has shown a lot of courage and determination to have these accusations recognised as false. So, that gave her strength to fight for her profession as a researcher and for academic freedom. So, that's really an incredible struggle that she's waged, and she's very strong and inspiring. So, right now, let's hope that she will be okay.

 

Daren Nair  14:35

Now Fariba is a French citizen. Has she been allowed consular visits from the French Embassy?

 

Sandrine Perrot  14:42

No. Well, this answer to this question will be very short and very clear that, no, dual nationality is not recognised in Iran. And so for Iranians, Fariba is Iranian only and therefore is not entitled to have any consular visit.

 

Daren Nair  14:58

Yeah, so, this is... this is what they do for all the dual national prisoners. It's very rarely that they've been given consular access. Now, you mentioned that she was sentenced to five years. Was Fariba provided access to an independent lawyer during this trial? And the reason I ask is because Iran's judiciary is notorious for being unfair. So, what was the experience like for Fariba? Did she get an independent lawyer? And can you just talk to us a bit more about the trial and sentence?

 

Sandrine Perrot  15:30

Well, she had one that was chosen by the French Embassy first. But she did not see him when she was in prison. In fact, he used to wait for hours and hours in front of the prison to try and see her, but he had a lot of administrative hindrances. It took a lot of time to get access to Fariba's file, to know the charges and... and all this. And the second point, that is important to know is that in Iran, the lawyer has to be approved by the Iranian judiciary authorities. And this lawyer who left then for Canada, and all this, left his assistant to be in charge, and this assistant was rejected by the... by the judge. So, he was not allowed to plead during the trial. And another lawyer was named by him... by the judge who was not truly like, the proper person to defend Fariba. So... But the situation has changed now. She has changed her lawyer she... she chose him personally. And I must say that, first of all, he is really... he has been approved... approved by the judge, so he will be able to plead which is a very big change, and he's not only extremely qualified in these kinds of cases, but also very active, very human and very person. So we're hopeful that it will give the point by point a refutation of all the... the false allegations that are now against Fariba.

 

Daren Nair  17:14

What was the trial itself like? Was it a very short trial? Or did they sentenced to five years after 10 minutes? Or was it a long drawn out trial?

 

Sandrine Perrot  17:27

Well, that was a longer waiting for her for a short trial. Needless to say, she had no proper trial, not only because she was not... she could not defend herself properly or to be properly defended. And this is the problem with Iranian justice system, as you said, the system itself. It was a very long also very, very slow process, we with only a very few information that we could get to try and build... to build her defence. But the trial was also unfair because of the lawyer, as I said, when... when the first lawyer was rejected by the judge, the lawyer appointed by the judge was not familiar with the case at all, so he could not fully fulfil his role during... during the trial. So, even after the... even after the judgement, we were... we were not sure about the judgement itself, about the fact that the lawyer made an appeal or not with, I mean, we have no information about... about all this. And of course, the judgement itself is totally unfair. I mean, Fariba was accused by many charges, the charges of being a spy or of spying have been dropped very quickly. And that was easy, of course. And we thought then that the others would be dropped also. But in fact, the two charges that remain in our case, have a very political dimension. So, they're... in fact, the file is empty. And we can clearly see that the two charges that... that remain are really for political purpose. So, today, we have... we have the same Kafkaesque judiciary imbroglio. Fariba is accused now of, is charged with having violated the conditions of house arrest, although she has complied with the long, restrictive stipulations, and she's accused of points that are really easy to contradict, to refute. She... she's accused, for example, of having gone to the French Embassy, but she never went there, and it's easy to... easy to prove. She's... she's been charged with having violated the perimeter, um, to which was restricted at a time when she was at home signing papers with other people. So, it seems that... that the information given by the electric brace... um, bracelet are not really very reliable, it seems. And then she was charged again, of having violated this perimeter when she had their permission to go to the doctor's or to go to the grave of her parents. So, again, it's very Kafkaesque... Kafkaesque, but the lawyer, the new lawyer and Fariba are now working very hard to refute these points, one by one, so that this decision is reviewed. So, we'll see how it goes.

 

Daren Nair  20:50

You're a member of the Free Fariba Support Committee. So, when I interviewed Roland Marchal, Fariba's partner, he said, you guys did amazing work. And thank you for all that you do. And I've interviewed many families held hostage or wrongfully imprisoned around the world. And this support committee, this concept of the support committee seems to be unique to France. I was reading about the history of support committees. I understand a French journalist, who was held hostage, established the first support committee. The objective of it is to kind of give plausible deniability to the family of the hostage and because the... the support committee is independent from the families, and from the hostage itself, it consists of friends and colleagues and volunteers. So, when either the government or the hostage-takers threaten the family to keep quiet, family can say, "well, we didn't do anything. It's not our fault. It's the support committee. They are acting independently from us." So, it kind of shields the family from any blowback from the government or the hostage-takers. Now, it's an amazing concept, and I wish it would be implemented around the world, because there are so many hostages and people who are wrongfully imprisoned who could benefit from support committees like this. So how was the Free Fariba Support Committee created? And what have you all been doing so far, since 2019, as part of this committee?

 

Sandrine Perrot  22:25

Well, the first point also to... to tell is that Fariba's family is in Iran itself. So, they are in a very sensitive, very problematic situation. And it's... it's really more sensitive than for any other kind of cases. So, at first, I must say that there were only a few people, a few friends and colleagues were aware of the situation for the... for the few first weeks, I would say. In fact, we had the CERI Sciences Po, which is like the academic family of... of Fariba. She is a founding member of this network of European researchers. There were colleagues, of course, from CERI and from Sciences Po were very shocked and mobilised, and there CERI... CERI research support staff and did a great job to... to help us to try and organise the support committee.  The director and management team of Sciences Po helped us a lot also and were very mobilised. We had Fariba's friends from high school, for example, and from South of France, who were really very supportive to try and organise a network of support. But for months, we had to mobilise, let's say, behind the curtain. We wanted to help, but above all, we didn't want to harm. So, it was hard to see at the beginning what we could do, or how we could do it. And we thought also, that there... there could be a possibility that the situation could be brought to a happy end quickly, so we didn't want to hinder that this possibility. But then, the news of Fariba's arrest came out in the Iranian press, it was not known in the French press. And we... we had kept it silent. So, for us at that time, when the news was known, it was absolutely necessary to take strong public positions to make Fariba and Roland, at the time, to make Fariba's and Roland's voice heard. We could not remain silent in front of the official Iranian version. So, we decided to create this official support network. And we decided also to create it around researchers and academic personnel and to fight for Fariba and Roland's libera... liberation, but also for academic freedom. So, at first, I think that our first job was to be very proactive. We had a very proactive quest for information. We were desperate to have information at first. For long, we needed very basic information to try and know what was happening in Evin. We didn't know the charges; we didn't know the conditions of detention. And we also had very sensitive decision to make, for example, it was not known publicly that Roland had been arrested also. So, should we tell that Roland was also one of... one of the researchers who had been arrested? Would it make pressure, would it, um, hinder his chance to be freed quickly and all this? So... so really, at first, we worked to collect as much information as possible, to cross-check them, to find reliable interlocutors to mobilise, to inform, and of course, to refute also false... false information or false accusations. So, that was for us, I guess, lots... a lot of learning about the complexity of the Iranians, the Iranian institutions, the entanglements of elements that were at stake, of actors involved, also the complexity of internal power relationships in Iran, as much as inter... international relationships. So, and we also learned how to be efficient in our organisation, I mean, to work efficiently, all together. We learned to create blogs. We became kind of geeks, webmasters, community managers, media specialists, so we really, we shared the work with the people who were really involved to mobilise to make signs. We learned to set up street. events, and also, we... we tried to be as present as possible in the... in the... in the media. So, we really had a single motto, that was, we wanted to help without harming. So, we organised demonstrations to inform and do proper advocacy about her situation. We had mobilisations around artistic events, for example, because Fariba has very deep artistic friendships. We got the support from the City Hall of Paris that put a poster on the... on the wall of the City Hall. In Strasbourg, also, we had the support from fellow universities, of course, from international networks of... of researchers. So, it was also for us, very important to keep Fariba's research alive and active when she was not able to do her work herself. So we... we created a seminar at Sciences Po, a research seminar, to think of Fariba by thinking with her, with her work, so that was a seminar about the work of... of Fariba, about her ideas. Several issues of journals and a book have been devoted to her contributions to the social sciences. And of course, on... on a more personal level, we collected a lot of support messages, hundreds and hundreds of messages of videos, of poems, of tweets, to support her and her families. Of course, she has... she had no access to... to Internet. But we knew that she would get them at some point or another when she would have a chance to talk to her family or to some co-detainees, for example. And I think it was, we know that it has been very important for her. And I think it was also important for us as a support community, for us who felt so powerless and frustrated, not to be able to do anything more. So. I think it was important for us at that time to unite for some specific events like Norouz, her birthday, New Year, and to be really all together to celebrate these moments and to support her in these moments.

 

Daren Nair  29:49

You guys have done some amazing work so far. So, thank you for that and keep it up. Now, what toll has this wrongful imprisonment taken on Fariba's loved ones, her colleagues and friends like yourself?

 

Sandrine Perrot  30:05

Well, that was a great shock for sure for... for all of us. And, at the beginning, we had two colleagues in prison. And now we have one who was unjustly accused. So, of course, we, as a support community, as a support committee, we also have our... our ups and downs, I would say. But as I said, Fariba's determination is really very inspiring. And we try to be her voice in a way, and to be as courageous as she is. So, we are trying our best to represent her and her courage and determination. But it's been a hard time for ourselves. So, you know, at first, like the very first day, we thought they were dead, because we had no news at all. So, then it was a short relief when we learned that they had been arrested, and that they were... so that they were still alive. But we were, I think that at that time, we were still very naive, because we thought that it was a mistake, or that there would be need for clarifications only. So, we were soon disillusioned... disillusioned, when we found out that they were in the hardest wing of the... of the prison, so that of the... of the Pasdaran of the Corps of the revolution, which... with the terrible conditions, conditions of detention that it... this represented, but also the political meaning that it gave to their incarceration. And personally, I remember relief. Fariba's 49-day hunger strike as a terrible moment for her, of course. But for all of us, I must say, at that time, we were receiving messages, especially from her co-detainees, who were desperately asking her to stop her hunger strike before she died, you know, and she would ask us to try and convince her but on our side, we had no access to her. So, that was really a time of big frustration and concern. So, at the same time, we have sometime a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of a waste of time for Fariba of course, for her talent, a waste of years of research, of life restrained, and [unclear] one, but all in all, we also have, like a strong, strong determination to keep on supporting her. And she supports also her fight for academic freedom. And, you know, Fariba is very present at Sciences Po. There are posters everywhere, with her face everywhere. That was really one of our missions, like, to have her face known by everybody. So, we put a lot of posters in a lot of place... in a lot of places so that people know who Fariba is, you know. We also... it also had the effect of repositioning us as colleagues, as researchers, as academic personnel, I would say, to really have a strong position in defence of academic freedom, as Fariba was asking... was asking for from her prison. So, during her hunger strike, for example, she called. She asked us to save the research, to save researchers, to save history. And that's exactly what we have tried to put forward in our mobilisation because, as you know, she does not fight only for her own release, she also fight for academic freedom, because beyond her own case, her fight is also that of academic research. And in this sense, her fight is our fight. So, that of the academics, the academic community, of course, but also the whole society our fight is to allow academic debates around academic arguments only. To fight for the freedom to think, to better understand our societies and academic freedom is not just threatening in Iran. It's also in Africa, in Europe, in America and in other parts of the world... world where the... the promotion of an academic serene and apolitical debate is not as easy as it seems. So, at a moment when the value and usefulness of the social sciences are questioned in so many countries, and in so many ways, it's really our job to explain why academic research matters, how much it is important to be aware of the importance of research, of academic freedom for the good health of the whole society. So, it has kept us busy, I must say, for the last two years and a half, and we will continue for that.

 

Daren Nair  35:28

Obviously, I can understand. I've been campaigning for families of wrongful detainees and hostages for six years. It does take a significant part of your life. And there is a mental health cost as well, because you have to follow the news. And you have to keep reacting with all the geopolitical events going on. Suddenly, you see one tweet, someone's been taken back to prison or some... some escalation somewhere, and it's hard to plan for something. So, sometimes just to practice self care, you decide to avoid Twitter for a week, or something like that, or just only checking for 30 minutes a day, just to keep your own sanity.

 

Sandrine Perrot  36:15

You're right. I mean, it has taken a lot of our energy, a lot of our time that we have now. I mean, we're also... we have a good group of people who are mobilised, we share the work with very... we are very reactive, we have learned to be efficient. Also, that was, I think, that all this has changed us, all of us, for a long time. And yes, it's tiring. It's... we... that's a lot of concern. Also, I must say, that's also... we are very... we are trying also to be, as I said, as strategic as we can. I mean, we have to think very quickly, about the decisions that we made, so yes, that's... that's an experience, an experience for all of us, for all of us for sure. Yeah, lots of learning, lots of learning.

 

Daren Nair  37:11

But, I'm sure, I have no doubt that Fariba and Roland will be grateful to you guys for the rest of their lives, and their families, too. So, thank you for what you're doing. Now, what level of support has Fariba been getting from the French government? And what should they be doing better? For instance, I know President Macron has released his public statements. And when I interviewed Roland Marchal, he was quite complimentary of the French government and President Macron. He said they did everything they could do. I just hope they can keep... keep that momentum, keep doing that to bring Fariba home as well. So, in your opinion, what... what do you believe the French government and French President, Macron, can do better? Or... or what else can they do?

 

Sandrine Perrot  38:00

Well, as you said, President Macron has made very strong statements several times, and especially recently in front of French academics, authorities. As you're reminded, now, of course, he must put his commitment into action. So, we are really expecting a lot from this. French authorities, I must say, have been very mobilised since the beginning of all this. But we have to keep in mind that it's a very complex situation, that it's very difficult to get information, that there are several levels of interlocutors in a game of complex and multi-level relationships. And I guess, I think that they were as surprised as we were by Fariba's re-incarceration and they really now consider it's a diplomatic outrage, which is again, a strong statement. So, that's really important that they have said that, but there are several things, several elements at stake, international negotiations, of course, informal negotiations. Of course, we know nothing about this. We have no information on this subject. Iranian internal power relationships are very complex, also. There are fluid rivalries, internal rivalries. So, diplomatic relations are only part of the work done. And part of the stakes that are currently in the balance where several actors are involved. So, but of course, the diplomatic pressure should remain as much as they're called for an immediate... an immediate and unconditional release of Fariba. So, this really keep Fariba's case on the front burner. And it should be the basis, also, and the priority in each and every discussions or negotiations, of course.

 

Daren Nair  40:05

What can the European Union do to help? 

 

Sandrine Perrot  40:08

So, it's difficult for the European Union. It's difficult in Europe, because you have several countries who have bi-nationals unjustly detained in... in Iran. But all do not... do not have the same links with Iran or not the same alliances with countries which, or the country are not well seen by Iran. So, they don't have the... the same diplomatic traditions or alliances. So, the European countries don't feel as much involved. I mean, they don't feel... all of them don't feel involved the same way. And it's also difficult to find a common position. Again, these are complex fights, complex issues, with different... different levels of understanding and of possible actions. But this being said, if I refer to Fariba's case, maybe one entry point for consensus, for a European consensus, might be one... might be the one of academic freedom, because for wrongful, or arbitrary imprisonment, led really to reflect on the risks of social science fieldwork, and the need to protect research. And one idea could be that the European Union could think about a special status for researchers, for example, a kind of protection that they could provide, so that it will allow researchers to minimise the risks of doing their job. I think that... that may be a point that... that they could... that the European Union could work on in... in a more consensual way.

 

Daren Nair  41:57

Now, what can journalists and the news media do to help? Because ultimately, the government makes statements, the European Union makes statements, but the public only find out through the media. So, what can journalists and the news media do to help?

 

Sandrine Perrot  42:16

Well, sometimes press briefings or media briefings are too brief, I would say. Some media don't take time to explain the complexity of this situation leading to misunderstanding about Fariba's situation. So your programme, or a journalist who really take time, like you, to let people explain the details of these affairs is really essential for all these unjustly detained prisoners who don't have a voice. So, and I must say that from... from the beginning, some journalists in France, in France especially, but also in Europe, some of whom, Roland and Fariba know or whom... whom they collaborated with, do really have a very regular follow up of this affair and ask about her and report about the last events and try to be as precise as they can, respecting really the position that we have,  like when we want to be cautious on some words, and they're... they're very sensitised due to this necessity for us to use that word and not that word. So, of course, this is very important to have this mutual respect, of course. And that's also, I must say, friendly support that show also the respect that journalists have for Fariba's work, for Fariba's expertise. And that's also important for... for us to have these teams of journalists and these media coverage around the committee. Yeah.

 

Daren Nair  43:56

I absolutely agree. It's one of the reasons why I created this podcast is because, usually, if you're lucky, you will get...

 

Sandrine Perrot  44:05

Five minutes. 

 

Daren Nair  44:06

Ten... Yes, five minutes. I mean, if you're lucky. Some people get eight minutes. I know the American families, some have been able to get eight minutes on CNN, or Fox News. And some others get five minutes. But many don't get much coverage at all. They do have articles written about them. But, like you said, they don't give you the full story. And so that's why I created this platform, to give them an opportunity to tell their story at length. I've also got feedback from journalists that says, "we like your podcast, we use it for our research," and then they go on and write articles. So, it's helping, and I'm glad. Now what can the French public and just people around the world do to help? 

 

Sandrine Perrot  44:55

Well, that's... that's... that's amazing. You know, because in... in the committee, we have received so many support messages from... from really very different people. And not only from Fariba's friends who are numerous already, but also not... not even colleagues but also from... from the general public, like, for example, Odette Joanny in Ardeche, who really got... really... who really got into Fariba's uncommon trajectory and story and got very sensitised to the working conditions of researchers and very involved. And she was sending a lot of plans and mobilising friends and all this. So, in fact, that... that's really interesting, because, of course, all this is very, very useful, very, very useful. And Fariba, we know that Fariba was very touched by all the support coming from different parts of the society. Because, as I said earlier, academic freedom is not only about researchers, that's really about the whole society. And really, all... all these messages really helped her and her family to go through all this. So, please continue to send support messages. We will put them... put them on our website or on our social networks. And I'm sure that they will find their way to Evin in a way or another. So, it's very important for Fariba's support. And I also think that beyond Fariba's case, as absurd and revolting as it is, there... then it could be used, her situation, her current situation should be used also as a source of learning. Let me explain. I think that her trial and detention could be used as a case study for children, for example, for students, to understand what is academic research, to encourage them to practice and develop critical thinking in schools, of course, at university. So, by using cases like this, off of my cases of unjustly detained academies or citizens, I think it's... it's really, it let them think about how academic freedom and the liveliness of scientific and academic debate is really an indication of the good democratic health of our states. So if, in all this, if... if this terrible situation, if this dramatic situation could help a little bit for awareness, and for constructive... to encourage constructive critical thinking, to help understand a little bit more on this situation, this complex situation, then at least, it would give a bit of sense to this completely strange situation in which Fariba is caught. So again, Fariba's fight is really inspiring. And I think that if it can help this awareness raising, then I think that we will have done a little part of... of our work.

 

Daren Nair  48:31

Shining a light on this definitely helps reduce the likelihood of it happening again, and makes it more likely that the people in power will take action to prevent this from happening again. Now, Sandrine, we're at the end of our interview. Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

 

Sandrine Perrot  48:48

Well, I think that, yes, I would like to thank you. Thank you very much for having us today. Thank you very much for documenting, for archiving, for disseminating this information of on... on all these cases of arbitrarily detained people and for dedicating this podcast to Fariba. So, even... even if she can't hear it today, even if she can't know what you're doing, or what we are doing today, I think it's really very important work for her, for her family, as well as for all the prisoners and their families, for the meaning for... to give some meaning to their detention. So, all these little things that we do all together that we do on one side of the world, on the other side of the world, make sense when they are put together and, really I thank you for the energy, for the time that you devote to this. Free Fariba, free academic prisoners and fight for academic freedom-makers. Our struggle continues.

 

Daren Nair  50:00

You're very welcome. I'm honoured to help. And I'm not alone. There are so many people, people listening that help out, too. Sandrine, will be right here campaigning by your side until Fariba's back home in France. Thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Sandrine Perrot  50:15

Thank you very much.

 

Daren Nair  50:22

Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We're not just a podcast, we're a community. If you're on Twitter, and would like to post a message of solidarity to the families or have any questions for us, please tweet it using the hashtag #PodHostageDiplomacy, and we will get back to you. If you like what we're trying to do, please do consider supporting the show financially. You can do this using the support the show link in the description of this podcast episode. We're grateful for any contributions, no matter how small. Thanks again for listening. And we'll be back next week. Take care.