American citizen Xiyue Wang, a Princeton PhD student, was conducting research on the Qajar dynasty when he was arrested by Iranian Authorities and later sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Xiyue Wang had previously visited Iran from 25 January to 10 March 2016 to attend a Farsi language programme. He returned to Iran on 1 May 2016 to continue studying Farsi and to carry out research for his doctoral dissertation. In applying for access to archived material Wang was transparent about his purpose for visiting Iran, to access documents as part of his study into late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history to gain information for his dissertation. He was travelling on a student visa and had obtained the necessary permissions to access material on the Qajar dynasty from the National Archives. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had approved his study plan.
Xiyue Wang’s arrest in August 2016 was kept confidential until July 2017, when it was announced that Wang had been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on charges of espionage. The International Science Council’s predecessor, the International Council for Science (ICSU), wrote to Iranian Authorities in August 2017 to appeal for a review of the case. Recently, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council reviewed Xiyue Wang’s case. During this process, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has not provided any evidence of how Wang has co-operated with a foreign state against Iran, nor how accessing historical archives could amount to an attempt to overthrow the Iranian Government. The Working Group ruled that there is no legal basis for Wang’s arrest and imprisonment, and called for his immediate release.
The International Science Council endorses the United Nations’ appeal to release Xiyue Wang. ISC promotes equitable access to data, information, and other resources for academic researchers and opposes imprisonment of researchers based on their peaceful conduct of scholarly research. ISC President, Prof. Daya Reddy, has written an open letter calling for the immediate release of Xiyue Wang.