Further attacks on the academic freedom of Dr. Soroush

Honorable President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

The Presidency

Palestine Avenue

Tehran, Iran


Your Excellency

The Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa of the Middle East Studies Association is writing to express its concern at the continued violations on the part of your government of the rights of our colleague Dr. Abdul-Karim Soroush.  A distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Soroush has contributed greatly to the field of Islamic thought and philosophy.

The Middle East Studies Association comprises 2600 academics worldwide who teach and conduct research on the Middle East and North Africa.  The association publishes the respected International Journal of Middle East Studies and is committed to ensuring respect for principles of academic freedom and human rights throughout the region. 

This is the second time in two years that we are writing to you pleading the case of Dr. Soroush, and bringing to your attention the predicaments he has faced in Iran in his academic and  intel-lectual life.  In 1995 he was physically assaulted by club-wielding groups, with semi-official status, who disrupted his lectures in Tehran and Isfahan; the ensuing threat and intimidation not only greatly reduced his academic freedom but also endangered his life.  After a brief journey abroad and upon his return in April 1997, he was denied his teaching position at the University of Tehran and was ousted from a research institute. 

We are gravely alarmed by this dismissal without any regard to the due process of law that is required in academia.  And now, in a new disturbing development, his freedoms of movement and expression have been severely compromised by the direct action of your government.  The international press has reported that authorities have confiscated his passport, thus preventing him from attending major academic conferences, including the one sponsored by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, where he was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at Oxford.  We have found it quite ironic that the freedom of expression of this original Islamic thinker, who has offered the world a new perspective on Islamic pluralism and tolerance, is restricted by the  government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  His freedom to engage in academic research and philosophical inquiry is too valuable to be subjected to political vagaries of a government.  As scholars, we would also like to assert our right, as well as our desire, to hear him expound on his ideas in international conferences. 

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the infringe-ment of rights of one of our colleagues stands in violation of a number of its provisions.  We urge you to direct your personal attention to the plight of Dr. Soroush.  We respectfully request that you  take immediate steps to reinstate him in his rightful position as a professor of philosophy, lift the ban on his freedom to travel, and prevent any further mistreatment and harassment by the officials from the Ministry of Information.  We respectfully ask your response to this letter so that the membership of our organization can be informed of appropriate measures taken on behalf of Dr. Soroush.    


Anne H. Betteridge

Executive Director


Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamene`i

Hojatolislam Muhammad Khatami, president-elect

Iranian Mission to the United Nations

Dr. Mohammed Reza 'Aref, Dean of Tehran University

Dr. Golpayegani, Ministry of Higher Education

Dr. MirSalim, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance

Dr. Shariatmadari, Head, Academy of Science


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