John Besche

On Wednesday, leadership from the Graduate Student Assembly, in coordination with their counterparts at Princeton, rallied behind Xiyue Wang — a Princeton graduate student and American citizen currently imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges — and urged other students to advocate on his behalf.

Members of the assembly’s Service Committee organized for representatives to do outreach in the McDougal Center and Bass Library. Passersby were encouraged to read an official statement summarizing Wang’s situation, reach out to their congressional representatives and sign a letter to President Donald Trump. Wang was arrested in Tehran in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation in Eurasian history and is now in his third year of a 10-year sentence. The Princeton Graduate Student Government reached out to Yale’s graduate assembly and student governments of other peer institutions to coordinate a “Day of Action” for the 38-year-old graduate student.

“Mr. Wang is in ill health and suffering from the difficult and dangerous conditions of his confinement,” Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber wrote in a letter to Trump late last year.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention maintained that Wang’s arrest has no legal basis and that he should be released immediately.

In a November statement, the European University Association called Wang’s situation “deeply troubling for scholars around the world and has a chilling effect on historical research and all scholarly exchange.”

Steering Committee member Katie Fuselier, who organized a station in the McDougal Center, commented that Yale’s graduate assembly intended “to echo Princeton’s efforts as closely as possible” to ensure a coherent message. She stressed the apolitical nature of academic work important for all students.

“Beyond the human rights issue, there is a concern about academic freedom and the ability of scholars to travel internationally,” Fuselier told the News.

Michael McGovern, the Princeton graduate student leading the effort, anticipated that 200–300 people would attend a rally of “inspiration and commemoration” to cap off a day of action on the Princeton campus despite rough weather conditions. According to McGovern, Princeton students have hosted a vigil service for Wang in years past but hope to engage more actively in 2019. McGovern intends to incorporate undergraduates at Princeton and other peer institutions in the Graduate Student Government’s campaign to demand action from the American government. McGovern and others are urging students to draw on networks connected to the Iranian government to make up for a lack of diplomatic relations.

Wang received approval from authorities relevant to his research as well as the Iranian Interest Section at the Pakistani Embassy before traveling to Iran.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu