№ 052/2013 from Mar 18, 2013
On March 21 and 22, Freie Universität Berlin will be hosting a workshop in partnership with the Scholars at Risk Network, which campaigns to protect scholars from political persecution and to promote academic freedom worldwide. The workshop will address the issue of how to protect scholars and higher education communities who are under attack. Participants from other parts of Europe and the United States are expected to attend. Keynote addresses dealing with the concept of academic freedom will be given by the philosopher and pro-rector of the University of Oslo, Dr. Inga Bostad, and the legal scholar of Freie Universität, Prof. Dr. Markus Heintzen. The opening session is open to the public, and there is no charge for admission. The workshop is being held in partnership with the Scholars at Risk Network and UNICA (Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe).
Freie Universität became a member of the Scholars at Risk Network at the end of last year. So far it is the only German university to participate in the network. The president of Freie Universität, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, stated that the university’s involvement in this important network corresponds with “our historically evolved identity as a university that was founded during the Cold War and sees the promotion of academic freedom as part of its mission. Furthermore, the university’s participation emphasizes the role of internationality in securing academic freedom.”
The first scholar at risk to be supported by Freie Universität is the Iranian literary scholar, Neda Soltani. She became known in connection with the protests against the 2009 Presidential elections in Iran because she was confused with a student with a similar name who was shot by militiamen during the riots. The Iranian government then put pressure on Neda Soltani to say that the death of the student was a hoax that the Western media had used to discredit the government in Teheran. As she was unwilling to do so, Soltani was forced to flee from Iran. The Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) at the Institute of International Education worked with Freie Universität to organize the placement for Neda Soltani.
On Friday, March 22, from 10:30 am to 12:30 p.m., Freie Universität is also hosting a meeting for German higher education institutions to discuss forming a Scholars at Risk-Germany section. This section would represent Germany in the global Scholars at Risk network and would organize and coordinate activities at German higher education institutions in support of threatened scholars and higher education communities.
Neda Soltani and representatives of the Scholars at Risk Network and the Scholar Rescue Fund will be available for interviews with journalists.
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