Human rights lawyer Hossein Raeesi from Iran will deliver a special free lecture entitled “Speaking Truth to Power in Iran” on Feb. 14 at VIU’s Cowichan Campus from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m. in Room 140.
In 2016, VIU joined the Scholars at Risk Network, an international organization dedicated to protecting threatened scholars, preventing attacks on higher education communities and promoting academic freedom.
This was one of several actions that the university undertook as part of its response to the unfolding refugee crisis in the Middle East.
“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,” said Raeesi.
He has plenty of experience to draw on. He practiced law in Shiraz, Iran, for 20 years, and defended political prisoners, journalists, and women and children who were sentenced to the death penalty.
In 2012, Raeesi moved to Canada with his daughter and son to escape pressure from the Iranian government.
“They try to discourage you in your methods and your practice,” he said.
Raeesi and his family found sanctuary in Canada with the support of the Scholars at Risk Network.
“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.
Darrell Harvey, VIU’s international projects coordinator, agrees.
“Hosting a Scholar at Risk is an opportunity to broaden our perspectives on the world,” he said.
“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.”
Raeesi is currently an adjunct professor of law in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Ottawa’s Carleton University. Previous to that, he served as an in-house scholar at Carleton and the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.