WASHINGTON - Drs. Kamiar and Arash Alaei, known for putting issues related to HIV/AIDS on Iran’s national health care agenda, are winners of the 2011 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. They were honored this evening at the awards ceremony of the 38th Annual International Conference on Global Health.
Dr. Arash Alaei
“Drs. Kamiar and Arash Alaei have worked tirelessly throughout their careers to promote the rights of marginalized populations in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Jeffrey L. Sturchio, president and CEO of the Global Health Council. “Their efforts have served as an inspiration for everyone who cares about human rights and public health around the world.”
"I struggle every day"
The Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights was established in 1999 to honor Dr. Jonathan Mann, a tireless advocate who worked to end global poverty and social injustice, and to highlight the vital link between health and human rights.
For their activities, particularly promoting international dialogue and collaboration on public health, Drs. Kamiar and Arash Alaei were accused by Iranian officials of "fomenting a velvet revolution.” Their plight has been a rallying point for the global health and global AIDS movements since their arrests in June 2007.
After being convicted for “communicating with an enemy government” and “seeking to overthrow the Iranian government,” Kamiar Alaei received a three-year prison sentence and Arash Alaei received a six-year sentence.
The brothers’ struggle has galvanized public health advocates around the world, gaining support from the World Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the International AIDS Society, among other organizations. Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International spearheaded the campaign to secure the brothers’ release from prison.
Dr. Kamiar Alaei was released in October.
Dr. Kamiar Alaei is the former executive director of the Iranian NGO Pars Institute, working on the prevention, care, and support for carriers of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr. Arash Alaei is the former Director of the International Education and Research Cooperation of the Iranian National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. With his guidance, Iran instituted a nationwide needle-exchange program and a condom distribution program in health-care clinics across the country.
Dr. Arash Alaei remains in prison.
The Global Health Council is the world’s largest membership alliance of public health organizations and professionals dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the world. The Council’s members work in more than 150 countries on six continents.
PUBLIC STATEMENT by Amnesty International
17 June 2011
AI Index: MDE 13/060/2011
Amnesty International welcomes the award to Drs Kamiar and Arash Alaei, who are brothers, of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. The organization launched a campaign for their freedom after their arrest in Iran in June 2008.
Dr Kamiar Alaei, and his brother, Dr Arash Alaei, who are both experts in the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS, were sentenced in January 2009 to three and six years' imprisonment respectively, for “cooperating with an enemy government” after months in pre-trial detention without access to a lawyer and an unfair trial in which secret evidence was produced which they were not allowed to see or challenge. Their arrest is believed to be related to their links with foreign academics and civil society organizations, including in the USA. Both doctors were highly respected AIDS specialists who had not been politically active. Amnesty International, along with a wide range of health and human rights organizations, regarded them as prisoners of conscience who should never have been imprisoned. and called for their unconditional release.
In May 2009, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the detention of Drs Arash and Kamiar Alaei is “arbitrary, being in contravention of articles 9, 10, 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, 14, 18, 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is a State party.” The Group also concluded that “the detention of the above-mentioned physicians is also contrary to articles 12 and 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to Principles 11-1, 17-2 and 18-1 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment” and called on the Iranian authorities to immediately take the necessary steps to redress the situation.
Although Dr Kamiar Alaei is now free, with his sentence completed, Dr Arash Alaei remains in prison in Tehran and Amnesty International is urging that he be released immediately and unconditionally and allowed to return to his important work.
The Jonathan Mann prize recognizes the valuable work Kamiar Alaei and his brother Arash Alaei, have done to provide necessary care to people living with HIV in Iran, and both doctors should be free to put their knowledge to good use in the service of people living with HIV.
The continuing challenge of HIV as well as the persistent reports of prisoners in poor health in Iran being denied adequate medical care - in some cases contributing to their deaths, as in the case of Hoda Saber who died on 12 June 2011 after the prison authorities reportedly beat him and failed to provide adequate treatment following a hunger strike in protest at human rights violations - underline the need for doctors in Iran to be able to practise medicine rather than face imprisonment on spurious political charges.
The Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights honours a key figure in the 20th century fight against global poverty, illness and social injustice. Dr Mann, who died in a plane crash in 1998, was the founding director of the World Health Organization's Special Program on AIDS (1986-1990) and a vocal advocate of both health and human rights.
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