Fariba Adelkhah, a year behind bars in Iran

Fariba Adelkhah AFP

Text by: Nicolas Falez Follow

The Franco-Iranian researcher has been in prison for a year. On June 5, 2019, the anthropologist was arrested at the same time as the French researcher Roland Marchal. He has since been released, but Fariba Adelkhah has been sentenced to five years and another to one year in prison. France denounces a "political" verdict and requests the release of the researcher. What do we know about the situation of Fariba Adelkhah, a year after his arrest?


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“  There are days when you are ready to fight the whole world to set the record straight and get your rights. And then there are other days when you have a feeling of abandonment and asking yourself the question from the outside becomes quite painful.  " Roland Marchal recalls his mood swings during his nine-month detention and today he imagines that his friend and colleague Fariba Adelkhah through the same moments in his cell in Evin prison in northern Tehran .

During contacts she may have with her loved ones, the 61-year-old Franco-Iranian researcher explains that she is not subjected to ill-treatment. But she still suffers from the consequences of the 49-day hunger strike that she observed from December to February. While the Covid-19 epidemic is still extremely virulent in Iran, relatives of Fariba Adelkhah worry about his health, even if reassuring information has reached them about the precautions taken by the prison establishment.

In detention, Fariba Adelkhah continues her job as a researcher," says Béatrice Hibou, researcher at the CNRS and who chairs its support committee, she writes, she reads and she takes care of the prison library.  The anthropologist specializing in Shiism receives visits from his Iranian family, but no French diplomat has been able to meet them, because the Islamic Republic does not recognize dual nationality and therefore refuses any consular visit.

Graceful without everyone losing face  "

Fariba Adelkhah's trial ended last month with a conviction for each of the two charges against her. Five years in prison for "  collusion with a view to attacking national security  " and one year in prison for "  propaganda against the system  ". But according to his Iranian lawyer, Fariba Adelkhah would only serve the longest sentence, five years therefore. For Béatrice Hibou, this verdict is “  a condemnation of the profession of researcher. Fariba Adelkhah is an anthropologist, she has only done her job and besides, in the accusations, only her work is mentioned.  "

“  A call must take place during the summer. Then another before the Supreme Court  , "hopes Roland Marchal. For the latter, the trial and the conviction led to a new phase: "  You have changed your status, you are no longer in education and therefore you are pardonable without anyone losing face.  "

Geopolitical tensions

After the arrest of the two French researchers on June 5, 2019, France did not immediately make the information public. Confirmations and calls for their release came in July for Fariba Adelkhah and in October for Roland Marchal. Today, Paris demands an "  immediate release  " from the anthropologist. In a press release published this Friday morning June 5, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs denounces "  the trial without any serious element and which is of a political nature  " and mentions "  the negative impact  " of this case on the relationship between France and the 'Iran.

If this affair complicates the relationship between Paris and Tehran, it also has its origin in the geopolitical tensions around Iran. The climate has worsened since 2018 with the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement and the reinstatement of American sanctions asphyxiating Iran. The case of Fariba Adelkhah is not isolated, since the Anglo-Australian researcher Kylie Moore-Gilbert is imprisoned in Iran, where she was sentenced to ten years in prison for spying. Her arrest had been confirmed in September 2019 but, according to her family, she had been imprisoned several months earlier. She has always denied being a spy.

Exchange scenario

Arrested at the same time as Fariba Adelkhah, Roland Marchal was released last March, when an Iranian detained in France was traveling the other way. Jalal Rohollahnejad had been arrested on French soil at the request of the United States, who demanded his extradition, accusing him of having attempted to violate the American sanctions targeting Iran. Paris preferred to send him back to Tehran to get Roland Marchal back.

This exchange scenario has been regularly repeated for several months: between Iran and Germany last February and even between the United States and Iran despite the high degree of hostility between the two countries. In recent hours, Americans and Iranians have thus proceeded to a new exchange of prisoners: Michael White , an ex-soldier of the American Navy arrested in July 2018 in Iran, will be "  very soon with his family in America  ", said in a tweet Donald Trump, who thanked Iran. At the same time, Tehran said that an Iranian scientist, Majid Tahéri, imprisoned in America "  for fallacious reasons  ", had been released by Washington.

If such an exchange were to allow the return of Fariba Adelkah, it remains to be seen which Iranian citizen could be concerned in return. It is likely that Tehran wants to obtain the release of one of its nationals suspected of having planned the foiled attack on the gathering of the People’s Mojahedin (an organization of Iranian opponents in exile) in June 2018. But Assadollah Assadi was arrested in Germany before being extradited to Belgium, where he is now imprisoned pending trial.

To listen: Conviction of Fariba Adelkhah in Iran: "She never did anything other than her job"

► On the occasion of this sad anniversary, Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, supports researcher Fariba Adelkhah in a message relayed by Olivier Duhamel, president of the National Foundation for Political Science (FNSP), and Frédéric Mion, director of Political science.

Shirin Ebadi: "I wish the release of Mrs. Adelkhah"

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