The Iranian judiciary recently announced that Xiyue Wang, a doctoral candidate in history at Princeton University, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for “espionage.” This petition generated by a group of historians to provide an opportunity for scholars to show their support for Mr. Wang’s release, and was originally posted to the American Historical Association website (from which this text has been excerpted.)

Mr. Wang was originally detained on August 7, 2016, while conducting research on his dissertation.

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our support for the safe recovery of Xiyue Wang, a Ph.D. student from Princeton University who has been detained in Iran since August 7, 2016. As members of the academic research community, we are profoundly concerned about his well-being and urge Iran to release him.

Wang is an exceptionally hard-working and gifted scholar of history who was in Iran conducting archival research on the Qajar dynasty during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visiting archives and libraries to examine historical documents and to copy them for further study is an essential part of and a common practice in historians’ training, and is expected of graduate students who hope to receive a doctorate in history. Historians all around the world are engaged in similar archival research in the pursuit of historical knowledge.

Scholarly exchange is a mainstay of intellectual freedom and a benefit to all of humanity, including the people of Iran and the United States. Widespread expressions of grief for the passing of the talented Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani in recent days have reminded us all that scholars are valued all over the world. Wang’s imprisonment may discourage scholarly exchange everywhere and sets an unfortunate example. Scholars should never be imprisoned for peacefully conducting their studies within the rule of law.

Wang’s wife and young son in New Jersey await his safe return. As members of the academic research community, we encourage the Iranian authorities to set aside political differences and free Wang so that he can return home to his family and his studies.

You can sign the petition here.