TCU Senate passes resolution calling for alumnus’ release from Iranian prison

A Tufts Community Union Senate resolution that pledged support for the release of American-Iranian citizen Siamak Namazi (LA ’93) and his father, Bagher Namazi, from an Iranian prison passed on Sunday night’s meeting by a vote of 24-1-1.

The two each received a 10-year prison sentence in October for “espionage and collusion with an enemy state,” according to the resolution. The resolution stated that “Namazi’s only crime had been to speak out against the negative effects of [U.S. sanctions on Iran].”

President of Tufts Amnesty International Emma Plankey, who co-submitted the resolution, noted that the Namazis’ case is not well-known on campus or within alumni circles

“What I find particularly interesting and frightening about this case is that the people who enjoyed their time at Tufts with Siamak don’t know where he currently is,” Plankey, a junior, said.

The resolution urges the Tufts administration to “publicly express support for Siamak Namazi and Bagher Namazi and their immediate release” and asks that the university “make this case known to the Tufts University alumni network.”

Executive Director of Public Relations Patrick Collins said that the university does not believe it was “appropriate or helpful” to make a statement regarding the situation because they had “no independent knowledge” of it.

“[The university appreciates] the TCU Senate’s concern for the welfare of Siamak and Baghar Namazi and share its desire that justice is done in their case,” Collins told the Daily in an email.

Amy Dunlap (LA ’93), a college friend of Namazi who co-submitted the resolution, told the Senate that alumni outreach was the most critical aspect of the resolution.

The resolution’s submitters, which also included TCU Diversity and Community Affairs Officer junior Benya Kraus, said that they were hopeful about the potential for alumni of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy to advocate for the Namazis’ release.

The Namazis’ advocates were hopeful that Fletcher’s alumni network includes “people who can take more concrete actions than concerned citizens,” Plankey said.

Before Senate debated the resolution, Plankey advised that anyone who had family ties to Iran refrain from asking questions.

“Having a public opinion about this resolution may not be advisable,” she said, noting that the Iranian government could use any negative sentiment as grounds to jail family still in the country.

TCU Parlimentarian Adam Rapfogel, a sophomore, facilitated the debate, during which a number of senators questioned lines 34 and 35 of the resolution. In the original resolution, the lines read, “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the TCU Senate condemns the abuse of the Namazis’ human rights by the Iranian government.”

According to the resolution, Siamak Namazi is currently being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, which is known as one of Iran’s most notorious prison.

Some senators felt that it was not the place of TCU Senate to condemn a foreign government’s actions, while others believed it was Senate’s duty to speak out.

“Human rights abuses are wrong, no matter what,” TCU President Gauri Seth said.

Seth, a senior, further explained that the international politics surrounding this case should not have a bearing on the Tufts community’s response.

After a period of debate, Plankey, Kraus and Dunlap agreed to remove lines 34 and 35 from the resolution. The passed resolution does not include any formal condemnation of the Iranian government.

Plankey later said that while she had not anticipated that the lines would be a point of contention, she recognized the senators’ hesitance to include a formal condemnation.

“I understand that the way in which it was phrased sounded like an attack on the Iranian government,” Plankey said. “I understand concern for people who might in their future be working on policy, be working in the government and might have to interact with the Iranian government. To not want to have that in their past is more than understandable.”

The Tufts chapter of Amnesty International was first made aware of the Namazis’ case when Dunlap contacted the group the day after Namazi’s sentencing, according to Plankey.

“We held an emergency meeting to brainstorm things we could be doing on [Namazis] behalf,” Plankey said.

Now that the resolution has passed, Plankey said that Tufts Amnesty will continue to advocate on the Namazis’ behalf. This will include participating in Somerville Amnesty International’s annual “Get On The Bus” campaign, in which activists are bused to New York City for a day of protest outside foreign embassies, according to Plankey.

While the Namazi case has not yet been chosen as a focus case for the “Get on the Bus” campaign, Plankey is hopeful that it will be selected. Plankey said that the Somerville chapter will vote on its cause on Dec. 5.