VUB backs Amnesty International’s action to prevent threatened execution of Ahmadreza Djalali

VUB backs Amnesty International’s action to prevent threatened execution of Ahmadreza Djalali

VUB rector Pauwels calls for response from Belgian government and European Union

In the fight against the imminent execution of the Iranian-Swedish emergency doctor and VUB guest lecturer Ahmadreza Djalali, who has recently been placed in isolation in Iran, the university is calling on its students, staff and sympathisers to support Amnesty International’s #SaveAhmadreza action. Rector Caroline Pauwels, with Prof Gerlant van Berlaer, a colleague of Djalali and emergency doctor at the UZ Brussel, will also inform the Belgian government and the European Union about the worrying development in Djalali’s situation, in the hope that foreign minister Sophie Wilmès will be able to ask the ambassador of Iran for further explanation.

VUB rector Prof Caroline Pauwels: “The fate of Ahmadreza is very close to our hearts. He has been languishing in prison in Iran for more than four years. However, he is not a criminal, but a victim of a harsh, repressive regime that does not tolerate contradiction and compassion. His health has deteriorated dramatically in recent years. The corona crisis makes Ahmadreza’s plight even more painful. As an emergency doctor, he could have helped make a difference in tackling the pandemic. Today’s situation is terribly inhumane. Political, economic and diplomatic pressure is really needed now! Today, therefore, we renew the appeal to those in power to use that power to save Ahmadreza’s life. Together with Amnesty International,we call foreign minister Sophie Wilmès, the Swedish government and the European Union high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, for continued efforts to secure the release of Professor Djalali.”

According to Amnesty International, Djalali telephoned his wife, Vida Mehrannia, yesterday to say goodbye. He said he would be placed in isolation in a prison in the city of Karaj. This is often seen as the last step before a prisoner is executed. The many international efforts to secure his immediate release have been fruitless in recent years.

This is very worrying,” says van Berlaer. “It is possible that this is a manoeuvre by Iran to put pressure on him, following the trial of the foiled attack that is about to start, but unfortunately it is very possible that he is also in imminent danger of execution.


In addition to calling for a political response, VUB is also calling on its community to support Amnesty International’s action en masse, thus increasing pressure on the Iranian authorities.

Interviews with Caroline Pauwels or Prof Van Berlaer can be requested via VUB’s press relations:, 0484.59.05.50


The world needs you

More than ever, VUB wants to be the university that takes scientific and social responsibility. The university is strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and works according to the principles of the Enlightenment: critical thinking, free research and radical humanism. It aims to be an ‘urban engaged university’. The university puts its strengths to work on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which it has translated into five Ps: People, Peace, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership. VUB has added a sixth P – Poincaré – referring to the French philosopher Henri Poincaré from whom it derives the principle of free research. To realise this dream of activism, VUB has set up the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig (The World Needs You). Initiatives are brought together, launched and developed around each P. Rector Caroline Pauwels announced one such initiative at the Academic Opening: the VUB Caroline Pauwels Emergency Fund for students.

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Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

The World Needs You

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.


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