Dr. Fariborz Rais-Daana

The Middle East Economic Association has condemned the arrest of Iranian economist, Fariborz Rais-Daana who was arrested on Sunday, December 19, by Islamic Republic security forces in Tehran.

The MEEA website described Rais-Daana a “well-known and highly respected scholar for his contributions to the study of the Iranian economy” and one who “has taken his professional and social responsibility seriously by taking part in the public policy discourse.”

The association expresses concern that while in democratic societies scientists and scholars are encouraged to speak out openly and participate in public dialogue, Dr. Rais-Daana was arrested for expressing his views about the Islamic Republic economic policies.

Fariborz Rais-Daana was arrested on Sunday morning on the day that the government began the implementation of its plan to phase out government subsidies on energy and a number of food staples such as bread and sugar. Rais-Daana had been critical of the plan and in an interview with Persian BBC television had said that the government has created an illusion for the deprived classes by depositing some money in their accounts and is using this “illusion” to carry out its plans for government subsidies.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration has handed out $74 to about 6.5 million households which he proposes to continue every two months in order to help them adjust to the changes that the cutting of subsidies will affect in their lives.

Since Sunday the price of gas has been quadrupled along with household utility rates.

Rais-Daana had told Persian BBC that the opposition cannot challenge the problematic nature of cutting government subsidies because the reform governments of Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khatami had also"dreamed of" restructuring the government subsidies.

Azadeh Farghani, wife of Rais-Daana told Radio Zamaneh that eight people in plain clothes arrived at their home around 1am on Sunday to take her husband for questioning. She adds that they confiscated his laptop, cellphone, writings and telephone book and while they assured her that he would return soon, so far they have made no official statements regarding his whereabouts and the charges against him.

The Middle East Economic Association states that “the arrest of Dr. Rais-Dana in response to the expression of his professional views on economic policies is a violation of his human rights and academic freedom,” and goes on to demand his immediate release from custody.