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Letter of Support regarding Kavous Seyed-Emami

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
President, American Sociological Association

Kavous Seyed-Emami, 63, an Iranian-Canadian professor, who received his PhD in sociology from the University of Oregon, and who was to become one of Iran’s foremost environmentalists, died in Tehran’s Evin prison under suspicious circumstances on February 9, 2018. He was taken into custody along with other environmentalists around two weeks before, on January 24, 2018, and confined in Tehran’s Evin prison on charges of “espionage,” associated with the Iranian government’s current attempt to suppress civil dissent in response to recent protests. On February 9, his wife was notified that he had committed “suicide” while in custody and was deceased. According to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, he is the third leading activist to die in prison under similar suspicious circumstances in the last few weeks. Seyed-Emami’s family and environmental and human rights worldwide are calling for an independent autopsy and an international human rights investigation into the causes of his death.

Seyed-Emami, who had dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, received his PhD from the University of Oregon Department of Sociology in 1991.  Upon completion of his dissertation he returned to Iran and taught Sociology and, particularly, Environmental Sociology at Immam Sadiq University, a major university in Tehran.  He was the founder and managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and one of the most famous and respected environmentalists in Iran.  His life-long goal was to introduce Iranians to the natural world and its preservation. One of his most important projects was the conservation of the Asian Cheetah, an animal revered in Iran.

In our view as in the view of so many others around the world who knew him, it is simply impossible that Seyd-Emami could have committed suicide.  The Iranian authorities have resisted requests for an independent autopsy. This has only heightened widespread suspicions that he was murdered to stop him from pursuing his conservation projects and as an attempt to intimidate the environmental movement and civil society movements more generally in Iran.

The Department of Sociology, faculty, students as well as former students, former faculty and graduate students demand that the Iranian authorities allow an independent autopsy. The causes of his death should be subjected to a full international human rights investigation. We request that the American Sociological Association write to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. State Department insisting that they lodge direct protests with the Iranian government calling for an international human rights investigation.



Ellen K. Scott
Head, Department of Sociology

CC: Executive Office, American Sociological Association
Canadian Sociological Association
American Association of University Professors
Chris Sinclair, President, University of Oregon Senate
Michael Schill, President, University of Oregon
United Academics