Concordia rally calls for release of Homa Hoodfar from Iranian prison

Homa Hoodfar, a Concordia professor, has been in prison in Iran since June. Organizers of a Montreal rally are demanding for her “safe and speedy release from prison.”

Montreal university professor recently hospitalized after time in solitary confinement following June arrest

Supporters of Homa Hoodfar hold a demonstration calling for her release Wednesday, September 21, 2016 in Montreal. Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian academic has been held in Iran's Evin prison for more than 100 days. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Supporters of Homa Hoodfar, the Montreal academic imprisoned in Iran since June, took to the streets outside Concordia University Wednesday to call for her release.

The gathering took place at Bethune Square at the corner of de Maisonneuve Boulevard West and Guy Street.

The rally united around 300 friends, students and colleagues of the jailed Concordia anthropology professor, who is being kept in solitary confinement and whose health is reportedly failing. It also featured the Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theatre.

In a news release, organizers said their key demand is for Hoodfar's "safe and speedy release from prison."

"She is a gentle, kind, loving person," said Fay Devlin, who drove from Ottawa to support Hoodfar, who taught her at McGill University in the late 1980s.

Canadian-Iranian scholar Homa Hoodfar has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since June 6. (Canadian Press)
Iranian authorities have charged her with collaborating with a hostile government against national security and with propaganda against the state — charges her family calls trumped-up.

The charges were never presented to her lawyer and instead were published in the Iranian press, quoting the prosecutor as saying Hoodfar was "dabbling in feminism."

Hoodfar writes frequently on sexuality and gender in Islam. She went to Iran in February to see family and conduct research in a visit that coincided with Iranian elections.

Supporters of Homa Hoodfar, the Montreal academic imprisoned in Iran since June, held a rally on Wednesday. Fay Devlin drove from Ottawa to attend the rally for her old professor. (Elysha Enos/CBC)
Hoodfar, who suffers from a rare neurological condition, was hospitalized at the end of August.

"Prof. Hoodfar's teachings have been, above all else, respectful, firsthand accounts of the intricacies of Muslim women's lives for the betterment of cross-cultural understanding," rally organizers said in their news release.

"It is with heavy hearts that we read about, and imagine the suffering to which our beloved professor and mentor is subjected."

Rosalind Boyd, a longtime friend and colleague of Homa Hoodfar, said she's working with political leaders in her network to win the academic's release.

Former Director of McGill's Centre for Developing-Area Studies Rosalind Boyd, a longtime friend and colleague of the jailed academic, said she's actively working with political leaders in her network to win Hoodfar's release. 

"It's an internal struggle that she's caught up in," she said. "I'm optimistic for the people of Iran, many of which elected this more open government and obviously they want to have a more open society.

"But there are always hardliners in that complexity, so I don't know what's going to happen but I believe in human endurance," Boyd said. 

With files from Elysha Enos