A veteran human rights lawyer from Iran – and Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) inaugural Scholar at Risk – will speak at the Cowichan campus Feb. 14 as part of VIU’s International Development Week.
Hossein Raeesi practiced law in Shiraz, Iran for 20 years, and defended political prisoners, journalists, and women and children who were sentenced to the death penalty. His talk, entitled “Speaking Truth to Power in Iran,” will be given twice: in Nanaimo on Feb.7 and at the Cowichan campus on Feb. 14 at 9:45 A.M. in Rm 140. “I’m going to talk about my personal story – and how power has been used to try and discourage me, and many other lawyers who have stood up for human rights in Iran,” he says.
In 2012, Raeesi moved to Canada with his daughter and son to escape threats and pressure from the Iranian government. Raeesi is currently an adjunct professor of law in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Ottawa’s Carleton University.
Raeesi and his family found sanctuary in Canada with the support of the Scholars at Risk Network, an international organization dedicated to protecting threatened scholars, preventing attacks on higher education communities and promoting academic freedom. VIU joined the Scholars at Risk Network in 2016. “This program, I believe, is the best way to support academics and intellectuals in many areas of the world that are experiencing human rights abuses, civil war and other crises,” he said.
“Hosting a Scholar at Risk is an opportunity to broaden our perspectives on the world,” adds Darrell Harvey, VIU’s international projects coordinator. “It’s also a way to stand in solidarity with members of the wider academic community who face violence and persecution for challenging the status quo.”
Despite the challenges that Raeesi faced in Iran as a human rights lawyer, he’s also optimistic about his home country’s future thanks to factors including improvements in women’s rights and a growing and modernizing middle class.
For more details on VIU special events, visit the website and look under Cowichan.