Iran Frees Silva Harotonian

TEHRAN (–Aid worker Silva Harotonian, who has been in an Iranian prison for more than twenty months, has been released, reports The Armenian Reporter.

In a March 10 statement, her employer, the U.S.-funded International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), thanked “the Government of Armenia for their engagement in securing Silva’s release.” Details of that engagement have not been made public.

Harotonian, an Iranian citizen, was arrested on June 26, 2008, while on a business trip to Tehran for IREX’s Maternal and Child Health Education and Exchange Program (MCHEEP). A Yerevan-based administrative officer for the program, launched in 2007, she was the only IREX staff member working in Iran at the time.

The arrest only became public in February 2009 when Harotonian was sentenced to three years in prison on charges that she was involved in activities directed against the Iranian government; Harotonian was reportedly forced to implicate herself under duress.

In subsequent months, Harotonian’s family received help from the US government and Iranian human rights activists who publicly campaigned for her release, establishing a dedicated web site at and holding media events in Paris and New York.

On July 1, Iran’s ambassador in Armenia expressed hope that Harotonian would soon be granted clemency.

Soon after, Harotonian’s family suspended public campaigning, reporting on their website that there were hopeful signs pointing towards her release, which eventually came this month.

The IREX statement that announced Harotonian’s release last week also asked “that the media kindly respect Silva and her family’s privacy.”


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