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Public Health Student Receives Global Health and Human Rights Award; Appeals for Brother, Imprisoned in Iran

Dr. Kamiar Alaei, an AIDS doctor and UAlbany public health doctoral student, was imprisoned two and a half years in Iran. (Story and Homepage photos courtesy Paul Buckowski, Albany Times Union.)

Albany, NY (June 17, 2011) — An Iranian doctoral student in the University at Albany's School of Public Health, along with his imprisoned brother, were honored Thursday as recipients of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights for their decade-long work establishing HIV/AIDS centers and prison health programs in Iran.

In receiving the award from the non-profit Global Health Council, Kamiar Alaei, 37, appealed for the freedom of his brother, Arash Alaei, 42. The two were jailed by the Ahmadinejad regime in 2008. Kamiar was freed last fall and has maintained his silence to protect his brother from retribution. Arash, also a doctor, remains in Tehran's Evin prison and is scheduled to be released in 2014.

"I hope my brother can be released soon so he can get back to his family and continue his work," Kamiar Alaei told USA Today. (See full story.)

Before their arrest in 2008, the brothers established a tiny HIV/AIDS clinic in their hometown of Kermanshah, a western town near where heroin flows across the Iraqi border into Iran.Their work flourished until President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. The two were arrested without warning.

Kamiar, who holds a master's degree in international health from Harvard University, was swept up on a visit to Iran from UAlbany, where he is pursuing his doctorate in public health. The two were convicted for alleged crimes against the state, including "fomenting a velvet revolution."

Philip Nasca, dean of UAlbany's School of Public Health, said, "We were shocked. We didn't understand why two brothers who were simply trying to bring medical and preventive care to the Iranian people would be seen as somehow subversive."

Kamiar was sentenced to three years in prison. He was released in November after 2½ years. Arash was given a six-year sentence. Kamiar says the two often spoke with health experts at AIDS and other public health meetings, but they have never plotted against Iran.

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