Kian Tajbakhsh, a scholar who earned his Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia, has been detained in Iran once again, according to news reports and a New School Web site. The U.S. Department of State and University President Lee Bollinger are calling for his release.
Sources told CNN that during the Thursday night arrest, security forces took his computer and ravaged his home. Tajbakhsh's family and friends said in a statement, "two people who identified themselves as Iranian security officials arrived at his residence in Tehran late Thursday. The officials questioned him and his wife and searched the residence for three hours, before taking him away along with two computers and other items."
"We're deeply concerned [about] reports that an Iranian-American scholar has been unjustly detained in Iran," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.
"We share the concerns expressed by the U.S. Department of State about the reported arrest of Kian Tajbakhsh and many others in Iran,” Bollinger said in a statement issued to Spectator. “We concur in urging his release from detention and express our heartfelt support for his family, friends and colleagues who are anxious over his wellbeing."
Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American, is one of many prisoners abducted by the Iranian government in its attempt to quell the demonstrations that have cropped up since current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner of the country’s June election over candidate Mirhossein Moussavi.
“Although Kian Tajbakhsh had no involvement in the recent protests surrounding the contested re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he was arrested for the second time on July 9th, 2009 by security forces who took him from his home and are holding him in an undisclosed location,” reported the site maintained by the New School, where Tajbakhsh has taught. “The charges against him which again are baseless seem to be that he was once again engaging in subversive activities.”
For Tajbakhsh, the arrest comes shortly after he was granted freedom. In 2007, he was one of several Iranian-American scholars arrested in Iran. Tehran’s Evin prison held him in solitary confinement under charges of espionage and fomenting revolution.
During his captivity, Bollinger and John Coatsworth, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, lobbied against Tajbakhsh’s arrest. Tajbakhsh also had backers in the Open Society Institute, an organization financed by businessman George Soros. Supporters formed freekian.org to petition for his release.
Four months later, Iran released Tajbakhsh on the day Bollinger announced that Ahmadinejad would be speaking on campus. According to the New York Times, Tajbakhsh and his family first had to pay about $107,000 in bail money.
In the introduction to Ahmadinejad’s speech, Bollinger extended an invitation to Tajbakhsh to become a visiting professor, presumably in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. In October, Bollinger told Spectator he had received a thank-you e-mail from Tajbakhsh.