Message of thanks from Kian

Dear Friends,

I would like to thank all those family members and friends – official and unofficial – who expended great effort over the course of many years to help resolve my case, finally allowing us to leave Iran for the US.

I would like to thank the US and Swiss governments for their tremendous diplomatic efforts and support.

In particular, I would like to thank my friend Pamela Kilpadi, who launched a formidable campaign in my defense and worked persistently year after year to coordinate and facilitate various efforts on my behalf.

My oldest friend, Andrew Parker, did not hesitate to offer help at critical moments.

President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University has been a source of steadfast support, as have colleagues at Columbia and The New School.

I look forward to getting back to work in academia and rebuilding a life in the US.



Kian and family in the USA
Kian and family in Phoenix, Arizona (Jan. 30)

Is Aung San Suu Kyi a Racist?

By Claude TRUONG-NGOC (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIs Aung San Suu Kyi a Racist? by Kian for The Wire

“Such is the fate of ambiguity in the world of social media, where with one iteration of likes and clicks the world of tragic paradoxes is easily transformed into a picture drawn in only black and white.”

Columbia University announcement on Kian’s return

Columbia University announcement and statement by the president on Kian’s return:

“We are delighted to welcome Graduate School of Arts and Sciences alumnus Kian Tajbakhsh back to New York and to his alma mater,” said University President Lee C. Bollinger. “We look forward to him resuming his career of teaching and scholarship in urban planning and contributing to Columbia’s academic mission – and only regret that he and his family had to wait so long to return to our university community.”

[Link to full announcement]

Media coverage of Kian’s return from Iran

The Reality of Journalism Overseas.

Penelope Eaton wrote in The New School Free Press about one of the first public events that Kian was able to attend in several years:
“From 2010 to 2016, Tajbakhsh could not teach, work or publish and had to serve under house arrest with his family in Tehran. The first Tajbakhsh has been heard from [by some at the New School] since house arrest was March 12th, where he tweeted the panel discussion and was after seen at the event on Monday night.”

Iranian-American academic accused of spying returns to US

Natasha Bowler of IranWire – a news service founded by Kian’s ‘co-defendant’ in the 2009 mass show trial in Iran Maziar Bahari – wrote an article about his return to the US, quoting several friends including Maziar and philosopher Ramin:
“I’m very happy that he’s now back at his old job at Columbia,” says Ramin Jahanbegloo, who also spent time in an Iranian jail. “Kian is a bridge maker between the US and Iran and therefore he’s like a bird that needs to fly out of its cage between different cultures.”

On January 31, just days after he had left Iran, Dr Kian Tajbakhsh posted a message on the “Free Kian” website – a site that has chronicled his case and campaigned for his release since 2009 – thanking all his family, friends and colleagues that have worked tirelessly over the years to secure his freedom and enable him to return to the US…[Tajbakhsh] was rearrested in July 2009, alongside thousands of other people who were detained in the protests that followed the 2009 presidential election. He was then included in a mass trial held for more than 100 reformers and election protesters, which included journalist and IranWire founder Maziar Bahari. All of those tried were were accused of trying to topple the government.

“Kian is a patriotic and honest person who left the US and went to Iran to help his country,” says Maziar Bahari. “In a country with a better government, someone like him, with his unique experience and qualifications in urban planning, would have been celebrated. Even certain people within the Iranian government thought Kian could help Iran and so gave him permission to work. But, unfortunately, Kian became the victim of a paranoid scenario envisioned by the Ministry of Intelligence in 2007, and then again by the Revolutionary Guards in 2009.” …

“The fact that Kian was unjustly jailed and has now been forced to leave Iran is a loss for Iran,” says Maziar Bahari. “But, I’m happy for him and his family that they’ve been reunited and can live in peace in the United States, a country that has welcomed him and will benefit from his knowledge.”

Detained and confined for 6 1/2 years, Iranian-American academic finally allowed to leave Iran.

Scott Lucas wrote about Kian’s release in his EA Worldview news service:
“The academic finally received travel papers last month, about the same time that four Iranian-American prisoners were freed amid the implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal.”

Departure from Iran!

We are thrilled to report that Kian, his wife Bahar and daughter Hasti received their travel papers in the days leading up to January 16th, and were able to leave Iran on January 28th!

Kian and Hasti on the plane


Statements by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on Implementation Day

Statement by the President on Iran:

THE PRESIDENT: This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy… For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests… As I’ve said many times, the nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all of our differences with Iran. But still, engaging directly with the Iranian government on a sustained basis, for the first time in decades, has created a unique opportunity – a window – to try to resolve important issues… And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East…

This brings me to a second major development – several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home. In some cases, these Americans faced years of continued detention. And I’ve met with some of their families. I’ve seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons and husbands. I gave these families my word – I made a vow – that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we have been tireless. On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to release our Americans. I did so myself, in my conversation with President Rouhani. After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our governments accelerated. Yesterday, these families finally got the news that they have been waiting for…

But I do want to once again speak directly to the Iranian people. Yours is a great civilization, with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute to the world – in commerce, and in science and the arts. For decades, your government’s threats and actions to destabilize your region have isolated Iran from much of the world. And now our governments are talking with one another. Following the nuclear deal, you – especially young Iranians – have the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world. We have a rare chance to pursue a new path – a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.

And to my fellow Americans, today, we’re united in welcoming home sons and husbands and brothers who, in lonely prison cells, have endured an absolute nightmare. But they never gave in and they never gave up. At long last, they can stand tall and breathe deep the fresh air of freedom…”

[Link to full statement]

Remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Implementation Day and the return of captives held in Iran

“In the military, as you all know, and in other dangerous callings, the most sacred pledge that you can make is to never leave a buddy behind. Like most pledges, it’s a lot easier to say than to do…

So I will tell you, frankly, that a week ago on Saturday was really one of the days that I enjoyed the most as Secretary of State. It was also perhaps the most nerve-wracking. I have to tell you that we had 12 hours of delay working through complications on implementation day, last-minute negotiations. And then after we had announced implementation day, I came out of that announcement and Javad Zarif came up to me and said, “We can’t find [Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezanian’s] wife and his mother.” Now, from some people, that might make sense. But Iran couldn’t find – (laughter) – the wife and mother?

So there was an enormous amount of activity – very, very, very quickly. And to the credit of Javad Zarif, he moved, and moved rapidly. And he got a number of people moving in Iran, including the president’s brother, and they woke up a judge in the middle of the night, got papers signed that needed to be signed to release Yegi, and now we all know the end of this great story…”

[Link to full statement]

Further Extension of Temporary Release Approved, Freedom to Travel Requested

Kian’s request for a further extention of his temporary release has been approved, allowing him to remain at home. He and his family are well, and are free to travel within the country. While he is currently unable to leave Iran, Kian is optimistic that his request to travel internationally will receive a positive reply. He sincerely hopes to be able to assume his academic post at Columbia University as soon as possible.

Many thanks again for the kind wishes and support.

Temporary Freedom Extended!

Kian and his family are pleased to report the approval of their appeal to extend the period of his release.

They sincerely hope to be able to remain together, while further legal procedures are underway in an attempt to resolve his case.

Thank you again for your wishes and support.

Kian temporarily freed for Persian New Year (Nowruz) celebrations!

At around 9pm Tehran time on Saturday, March 13, Iranian officials freed Kian from the Evin prison complex and permitted him to go home for a 15-day leave to celebrate the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, with his family.

Kian would like to take this opportunity to extend his heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all his supporters and warm greetings to his many relatives and friends around the world. He asks members of the media to kindly respect his privacy as he enjoys a precious reunion with his loving family and some long-awaited rest and respite from this 8-month-long ordeal.

If you wish to send Nowruz greetings to Kian, please click here.

Links to related reports:
Associated Press –  Iran Press TV –  France24Chronicle of Higher EducationNew York TimesAssociated Press (March 16th)

Kian Tajbakhsh: Still Captive in Iran (Source: Columbia News)

Kian’s colleagues at Columbia University reported on their recent efforts urging his release:

“Columbia alumnus Kian Tajbakhsh was supposed to join the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation last fall. Instead, the Iranian-born scholar was arrested in July and jailed at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, accused of supporting the uprising that followed the country’s disputed elections last June and of spying for the United States.

Now, many of those in the Columbia community who expected to welcome Tajbakhsh as a colleague and teacher are working to win his freedom.

Last month, some 20 members of the Columbia faculty—including the deans of the School of General Studies , the Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)—signed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking her assistance in securing Tajbakhsh’s release.“There’s nothing political about his work,” says Professor Ken Prewitt , vice president for Global Centers and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs. “He’s being persecuted, as far as we can tell, for being in Iran at the wrong time. This is a violation of the principles of freedom of mobility for scholars.”

“The Iranian government has established a pattern of harassment of scholars,” the letter stated. The arrest “is a destructive and pernicious act that does not address the problems confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, now or in the future.”

Secretary Clinton wrote back Feb. 1, saying that “the espionage charges against him are groundless” and that the State Department “is using every available diplomatic tool to achieve Dr. Tajbakhsh’s release.”…

Columbia professors have posted video appeals on In one, Mark Wigley , dean of the architecture school, describes Tajbakhsh as “one of the leading experts in the evolution of the city and the way that leaders can best provide services to local populations.” Wigley emphasizes the architectural leadership of Iran and notes that Tajbakhsh was to be the first full-time Iranian scholar at the school.

“It’s incredibly important for our faculty, our professors, our colleagues, our students to learn from Iran,” he says. “If Kian was going to do any of the things he’s been accused of doing, he certainly would not have accepted this full-time academic position here in New York City.”

Ira Katznelson , a professor of political science and history at Columbia, says he first met Kian in the late 1980s, and sponsored his dissertation. Through “long conversations, I discovered what so many of us know: that Kian is a person of luminous intelligence, moral commitment and fierce desire to understand the world and make it better.” …

[Link to full article]