Imprisoned Scholar Cases

Ahmadreza Djalali

Ahmadreza Djalali is a scholar of disaster medicine who has been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. Iranian authorities recently put Dr. Djalali into solitary confinement and are preparing to carry out his death sentence at any moment. Dr. Djalali is an Iranian-born resident of Sweden, who teaches at universities in Italy and Belgium, and whose work involves frequent international scientific collaboration. You can read more about Dr. Djalali and take action here.

UBC students have been undertaking monitoring and advocacy work on Dr. Djalali’s case since 2019 and have engaged in countless forms of advocacy on his behalf.  Such advocacy has included letter-writing campaigns to Canadian officials urging them to take action, the production of an awareness-raising video, and efforts to urge Iranian authorities to consider the humanitarian issues involved in this case through ongoing petition work—signatures are still being collected.

Professor Gokarakonda Saibaba

Professor Gokarakonda Saibaba is a professor and human rights activist wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Professor Saibaba is a scholar of English literature at Delhi University who has engaged in human rights activism on behalf of vulnerable populations in India, including tribal groups who suffer from poverty and human rights violations. You can read more about Prof. Saibaba and take action here.

UBC students ran a series of solidarity events, raising awareness of Prof. Saibaba’s work and celebrating his writing and poetry.


Niloufar Bayani

Niloufar Bayani is a researcher, conservationist, and scholar, who was arrested in January 2018 on charges of espionage. On November 23, 2019, authorities convicted and sentenced Ms. Bayani to ten years in prison. Ms. Bayani is the program manager of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a former McGill University research assistant. You can read more about Ms. Bayani’s case and take action here.

UBC students engaged in a range of forms of advocacy on behalf of Ms. Bayani, including launching a petition advocating for her release. They also created a series of TikTok videos to raise awareness of her case and to raise awareness on the topic of academic freedom more generally.


Professor Ilham Tohti

Professor Ilham Tohti, a public intellectual and economics professor was convicted on charges of separatism and sentenced to life in prison in September 2014. Professor Tohti is a scholar of economics at the Central Minzu University in Beijing and an advocate for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority group. Professor Tohti promoted dialogue and reconciliation between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. You can read more about Prof. Tohti and take action here. 

UBC students were successful in organizing a petition urging the Canadian government to call for the release of Dr. Tothi. The petition has now been certified for presentation to the Canadian House of Commons.


Patrick George Zaki

Patrick George Zaki is a postgraduate student at the University of Bologna, Italy, who is detained in Egypt in apparent retaliation for his peaceful human rights research. Mr. Zaki is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Bologna and also conducts research and advocacy on gender issues and human rights. You can read more about Mr. Zaki and take action here.

Seminar students felt a deep connection to this case in particular as they were advocating for a fellow student.  Several acts of advocacy were undertaken—including collaborative forms of advocacy and solidarity with other SAR advocacy students from around the globe.  One of these collaborations included the Free Zaki Poster campaign, a video on which can be seen here.