On September 26, Iran released retired university professor Homa Hoodfar from Evin prison. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Iranian authorities confirmed the release of the dual-national who had been held since June. She is believed to be in poor physical condition, due to a rare neurological condition that weakens her muscles, compounded by the poor treatment she reportedly received during her time in prison. Due to Canada’s lack of diplomatic representation in Iran, third-party countries played a major role in securing Hoodfar’s release, most notably Switzerland, Italy, and Oman, according to Trudeau.
After her release, Hoodfar was taken to Oman where she was greeted by Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. She also underwent medical examinations.
In early June 2016, the 65-year-old scholar was arrested following nearly three months of questioning by Iran’s intelligence service, her sister told The Guardian. She was taken to Evin Prison for allegedly “co-operating with a foreign state against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Hoodfar returned to Iran in February 2016 primarily for personal reasons, but also to conduct academic research. The Concordia University professor emerita was “conducting historical and ethnographic research on women’s public role,” according to her family. The trip coincided with Iran’s parliamentary elections that resulted in gains for reformist and centrist supporters of President Hassan Rouhani, including a record number of women. Hoodfar’s research focuses on women in the Muslim world.
In March, the counter-intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps stormed Hoodfar’s apartment the day before she was due to fly to London to see family. Her belongings and three passports were confiscated. She was initially detained on March 10, but then released and told that she could not leave the country. Hoodfar then went through a series of interrogations until she was transferred to Evin Prison in June 2016. Hoodfar suffers from a rare neurological illness that often leaves her with very painful headaches, according to her sister.
On July 11, 2016, Tehran’s prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, announced that Hoodfar had been indicted, but did not specify the charges. Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion said that the government was working to help her.
The following is the full text of Trudeau’s statement on her release.
“Canadians are relieved that Dr. Hoodfar has been released from jail and will soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues.
“The Government of Canada has been actively and constructively engaged at the highest levels in Dr. Hoodfar’s case – since her ordeal began – working for her release and return to Canada.
“Our officials have also been providing consular assistance to her family and will continue to do so until their loved one has arrived home safely.
“In the absence of diplomatic representation of its own in Iran, Canada worked closely with others who were instrumental in helping secure Dr. Hoodfar’s release – most notably Oman, Italy and Switzerland. I would like to extend our sincerest appreciation for their support.
"I would also like to recognize the cooperation of those Iranian authorities who facilitated her release and repatriation. They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations.
“We ask all to respect the family’s wish for privacy at this time.”