Kian serves as an academic advisor to the International Policy Fellowship Program of the Center for Policy Studies at Central European University. The program has released a statement to the press about his arrest:
We are issuing this statement to draw your attention to the arrest in Iran of respected American Iranian scholar Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh. On May 11, 2007, agents of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry arrested Dr. Tajbakhsh at his home in Tehran. Dr. Tajbakhsh is currently being detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison, without access to legal counsel. It is difficult to imagine why a brilliant scholar, advisor and friend like Dr. Tajbakhsh would be incarcerated. We strongly appeal for your help in revoking the decision to detain him.
Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, an American citizen, is a leading scholar with an international reputation. He taught at the New School in New York City for seven years and remains a senior research fellow there. He has published two widely praised books, The Promise of the City: Space, Identity and Politics in Contemporary Social Thought (University of California Press, 2001) and Social Capital: Trust, Democracy and Development (published in Persian, 2005). In addition, he has published over 20 articles in leading scholarly journals and delivered lectures at major international conferences on urban planning, public health, and municipal government. Dr. Tajbakhsh has had a long affiliation with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the leading academic organization for social scientists in the United States. He has served as a Steering Committee Member for the SSRC’s Middle East and North Africa Program and contributed in significant ways to the SSRC’s academic projects. Throughout the course of his career, Dr. Tajbakhsh has earned a reputation as a distinguished and respected scholar throughout the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, and the United States.
In addition to his academic career, Dr. Tajbakhsh has worked as a consultant for several organizations including Iran’s Municipalities Organization, the Social Security Organization, and international organizations such as the World Bank and the Dutch Association of Municipalities. Following his arrest, it was reported by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s own state-run website Baztab that: “An Iranian government source also announced on Tuesday, May 22 that Tajbakhsh has also worked as a consultant for a number of the Islamic Regime’s own ministries as well; he is also said to be a very well-respected sociologist among members of Tehran’s regime.” His work in Iran was a natural extension and practical application of his academic training as an urban planner and social scientist.
For over three years, Dr. Tajbakhsh has served as one of the international research advisors of the Central European University International Policy Fellowships (IPF) program. The IPF program is a graduate certificate (Master’s level) program of the Central European University, funded by Open Society Institute. In his capacity with IPF, Tajbakhsh provided year-round direction and supervision of academic and policy research conducted by a number of students from around the world.
At the time of his arrest, Dr. Tajbakhsh was preparing a regional IPF workshop scheduled for June 1-4 at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. This workshop, which is now cancelled due to his arrest, was entitled Devolution As Freedom? Devolving Power and Building Nations in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Apart from providing commentary on the work of various IPF scholars and other researchers, Dr. Tajbakhsh was scheduled to present his own study entitled Local Democracy, Decentralization and Reform in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“I last heard from Kian on May 8,” said IPF Director Pamela Kilpadi. “When he did not respond to an urgent message on May 9 and I learned about Iranian American Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Haleh Esfandiari’s arrest, I immediately had a sickening, sinking feeling,”
“With Kian it’s always about the ideas, but more importantly the people behind the ideas, and people in general. His outstanding record of public service and scholarly contributions should be respected,” she said. “Kian is one of the most intelligent and considerate people I know, and he provided everyone in the program with uncommon guidance, wit and inspiration. His arrest was a terrible mistake, and we are deeply concerned for his well-being. We call for Kian’s immediate safe return to his family and friends. We miss him terribly.”