On Friday 14 January, scientist and VUB guest lecturer Ahmadreza Djalali will turn 50 in an Iranian cell, where he has been unjustly detained for almost six years. With the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Université libre de Bruxelles, Amnesty International is organising a solidarity vigil on the eve of Dr Djalali’s birthday. Fifty candles will be lit on the evening of Thursday 13 January in front of the ULB campus on Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, opposite the Iranian Embassy in Ixelles. Representatives of VUB, ULB and Amnesty International will address the supporters present.
“We will never stop reporting on Ahmadreza Djalali. We will never stop calling for action until he is released,” says VUB rector Caroline Pauwels. “Scientists around the world must be able to work safely and freely. The extreme situation in which Dr Djalali has found himself for almost six years makes it clear that this is not the case everywhere and at all times. Today, Ahmadreza Djalali continues to face solitary confinement and the denial of medical care. This is unacceptable.”
Gerlant Van Berlaer, head of the emergency department at UZ Brussel and a friend and colleague of Dr Djalali: “I am disappointed that European politicians are unable to force a change in this unbearable situation after such a long time. I sincerely hope that they will put this back on the agenda and keep up the pressure.”
Musicians Gregory Frateur (Dez Mona) and Chantal Acda made an intimate interpretation of Happy Birthday to You for the occasion. The song will be heard for the first time during the vigil. On 14 January, the song and accompanying video will be shared on Amnesty International’s social media channels.
On 27 April 2016, Ahmadreza Djalali was unjustly arrested in Iran. What followed was a long ordeal: he was sentenced to death after a manifestly unfair trial and locked up in the notorious Evin prison. Dr Djalali has been tortured, his health is poor and he lives in constant fear that he will be executed. Moreover, he has not been allowed to call his wife and children in Sweden since November 2020, making the situation almost unbearable for them.
“Dr Djalali and his loved ones have been going through this nightmare for almost six years. We renew our call on policymakers at all levels to step up their efforts to end this inhumane situation. We continue to support the family of Ahmadreza Djalali in their struggle to get him home,” says Wies De Graeve, director of Amnesty International Flanders.
More than 130,000 people in Belgium have signed Amnesty International’s petition calling for the death penalty against Dr Djalali to be lifted and for him to be released. Read here how the innocent professor ended up in prison.
- When will the event take place? Thursday 13 January, at 19.00.
- Where? In front of ULB, Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 48, Brussels.
- What? Solidarity vigil* on the eve of Dr Djalali’s 50th birthday, organised by Amnesty International and the Brussels universities VUB and ULB.
- Who will participate? Wies De Graeve, director of Amnesty International Flanders; Gerlant Van Berlaer, head of the emergency department at UZ Brussel and ex-colleague of Ahmadreza Djalali; Annemie Schaus, rector of ULB.
***The vigil is taking place with respect for the Covid-19 safety measures: all people present will remain physically distanced from one other and will wear face masks.***
Dr Djalali specialises in disaster medicine and was arrested in April 2016 during a working visit to Iran and charged with espionage. For the first 10 days, no one knew where he was being held. In late October 2017, he was sentenced to death after a manifestly unfair trial. He was forced to confess by means of psychological torture and spent the first three months of his detention in solitary confinement. His lawyer was only allowed to visit him seven months after his arrest.
Gerlant Van Berlaer
0476 28 4242
Amnesty International Flanders press office
0486 75 55 10