MESA Academic Freedom Award
Joan Wallach Scott and Akbar and Manuchehr Mohammadi
MESA recognized Scott, a renowned labor historian and now Harold Linder Professor of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, for her indispensable efforts as chair of the academic freedom committee of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). In that capacity she ensured that the AAUP stood firmly against increasingly serious affronts to academic freedom by the U.S. government as well as officials representing state and local governments and universities.
“Over the years since September 11, Joan Scott again and again showed great courage in insisting that the right to exchange ideas freely also belongs to those who contest the wisdom of the Bush administration’s policies in the Middle East,” said MESA president Juan Cole. “She deserves the thanks of all who value academic freedom.”
At its meeting in Boston MESA also gave an Academic Freedom Defender Award to Akbar Mohammadi and Manuchehr Mohammadi, for their leadership roles in the struggle of Iranian university students to achieve and uphold academic and intellectual freedom in Iran. Iranian authorities first arrested them in July 1999, and in the years since they have at various points been held in incommunicado detention, subjected to torture, and denied medical treatment, Akbar Mohammadi died in Tehran’s Evin prison in July 2006 under suspicious circumstances while on hunger strike to protest prison conditions. InAugust, Manuchehr Mohamadi, while on leave from prison to attend his brother’s funeral, managed to flee Iran.
“Official restrictions on academic and intellectual freedoms, as well as other basic rights, have intensified over the past year,” Cole said. “We make this award tonight to Akbar and Manuchehr Mohammadi to salute their brave defense of these principles and to acknowledge the risks and enormous odds that Iranian academics, teachers and students face as they try to promote the rights of free expression and academic inquiry in Iran today.”