Former Concordia professor was jailed in Iran for over 100 days

Montreal (NUWire)“I’ve had a bitter seven months,” said Homa Hoodfar on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 29.

The former Concordia professor had just stepped off a plane from Oman to greet press at the Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. After spending over 100 days in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, Hoodfar is finally back in Canada.

“It’s wonderful to be home and to be united with family and friends again,” Hoodfar said, adding that she feels weak and tired. Hoodfar suffers from a rare neurological condition called myasthenia gravis, a disease that caused her to be hospitalized in Iran earlier this month.

Amanda Ghahremani, Hoodfar’s niece and a key player in the Free Homa Hoodfar campaign, joined her aunt at the airport gate. The two greeted friends as members of the press snapped photos.

The charges laid against Hoodfar include “dabbling in feminism” and propaganda against the state. Her anthropological research has focused on dispelling stereotypes of Muslim women and sexual diversity in Muslim contexts.

In a press conference following her arrival, Hoodfar expressed thanks to Global Affairs Canada, Iranian officials who helped secure her release, and the Omani government for hosting her in the days following her release.

Hoodfar especially thanked the academic community, as well as human rights and feminist advocates who campaigned and mobilized for her freedom.

Members of the press were asked not to pry about Hoodfar’s time in prison, but she said the scariest part was her initial detainment in June. She explained she was unable to communicate with anyone, including her lawyer, and didn’t know what would happen next.

Before her release, Hoodfar had no idea what was going on. Iranian officials simply told her to get ready at 8 a.m. the following day.

“I didn’t feel that I would be released until I was in the jet and the jet was in the air,” she said. This jet took her to Muscat, Oman.

In Oman, Ghahremani and Hoodfar reunited, which Hoodfar called the most wonderful moment of her release.

“That was just wonderful. To spend the time with her knowing that she has been working hard to get me out. I felt free, and with family again,” Hoodfar said.

Hoodfar said she felt exhausted—she hadn’t slept in 20 hours, but she’s happy to be home.

“It is just wonderful to feel you are in a place where you feel secure.”

The Canadian-Iranian scholar has travelled to Iran several times in the past few years, and even has a home in the nation’s capital, Tehran. However, after this summer’s incidents, she’s doubtful on whether she’ll ever return.

Hoodfar’s health significantly deteriorated while she was in prison, but she said she felt better than she did two months ago.

Ghahremani said she noticed her aunt had lost weight and looked more tired than usual, but added that in the last few days she has seen a change for the better.

“I hope to see her in the next couple months in the same state she was in before,” Ghahremani said.

Hoodfar is most looking forward to spending time with her friends and family, and walking in her neighbourhood.

“I missed the summer—I love the summer in Montreal,” she said.