Introduction: On August 7, 2016, Xiyue Wang, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of History at Princeton University and a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2009, was detained and confined to Evin Prison in Tehran while in Iran solely for the purpose of studying Farsi and doing scholarly research in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation. His field is late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history. His dissertation will study regional governance practices across multiple countries during that time period, and after he left Iran he was planning to continue his research in Russia. In Iran he was interested in studying decades-old archival materials that pertained to the administrative and cultural history of the Qajar dynasty, which ruled from 1785-1925. In February 2017, Mr. Wang was charged with two counts of espionage. In April 2017, he was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The appeal of his sentence was denied.
What was the purpose of Mr. Wang’s visit to Iran?
Mr. Wang visited Iran between January 25 and March 10, 2016, to attend a Farsi language program at the Dehkhoda Lexicon Institute & International Center for Persian Studies. He returned to Iran on May 1 to continue his language studies and conduct dissertation research at libraries in Iran. Before traveling to Iran he sent letters explaining his research plan to the Iranian Interest Section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C. (which issued his visa) and to the libraries in Iran that he planned to visit. He was very transparent about what he wanted to study and why, and about his desire to access documents housed at Iranian libraries and archives. He was not involved in any political activities or social activism; he was simply a scholar trying to gain access to materials he needed for his dissertation.
What are the charges against Mr. Wang?
Neither Mr. Wang’s family nor the University has seen the indictment, records of the trial proceedings or the verdict. His Iranian counsel has advised that he was convicted of two counts of espionage under the Iranian Criminal Code. The recent Iranian announcement says that he was “sent” by Princeton to “infiltrate” Iran and that he had connections to intelligence agencies. These charges are completely false. Princeton does not determine where students will conduct their research; like all of our scholars, Mr. Wang made his own judgments about what research he needed to do and where he needed to do it for his dissertation. He was not connected to any government or intelligence agencies.
Who provided the funding for Mr. Wang’s travel to Iran?
Mr. Wang received $8500 from the Department of History at Princeton University and just under $8800 from the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton to support his travel, language classes and research. After Mr. Wang was arrested, he was required to deposit $12,000 with the Iranian Ministry of Justice.
What is the Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies?
The Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies is an interdisciplinary center at Princeton University. Its academic mission is to serve as a non-political and non-governmental educational resource that supports scholarship on Iran and the Persian Gulf, including research into the history, literature, art and culture of the region, from ancient Iran to today. The center does not conduct its own research, but it supports and brings public attention to the independent academic research of students, faculty and scholars, as well as cultural activities including art exhibits, music, films and translations.
What is Mr. Wang's citizenship?
Mr. Wang, 37, was born in Beijing, China, in 1980 and immigrated to the United States with his mother, an American citizen, in 2001. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. HIs wife and child are Chinese citizens.
Where is Mr. Wang being held captive?
Mr. Wang has been at Evin Prison since August 7, 2016. He spent his first 18 days in solitary confinement. He has been in multiple wards over the course of his confinement. The prison conditions are difficult and have contributed to a worrisome decline in Mr. Wang’s health.
Has anyone from the U.S. communicated with and provided support to Mr. Wang while in prison?
Yes. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran and Mr. Wang has had four consular visits by the Swiss embassy since his confinement. Also, he has been permitted to make phone calls to his wife on an almost weekly basis and has had several visits from his attorney. However, it has been 15 months since Mr. Wang last saw his wife or his four-year-old son.
What actions has the University taken since learning of Mr. Wang’s arrest?
The University has been working on a daily basis to try to secure Mr. Wang’s release and to support him and his family. It also retained counsel for Mr. Wang in Iran. The University is continuing its support for Mr. Wang and his family as well as its efforts to secure his release.
Why didn’t the University initially discuss this matter publicly?
Until the Iranian judiciary announced his conviction and sentence in July 2017, the University and Mr. Wang’s family kept this matter confidential on the recommendation of multiple knowledgeable advisers who counseled that publicity would likely impede efforts to secure Mr. Wang’s release. Even though the Iranian judiciary has now publicized his situation, we hope that the appellate authorities in Iran will recognize that Mr. Wang’s actions in Iran were devoted solely to scholarly research and will allow him to return home to his doctoral studies and his family.
Are there any new developments in the case?
As of December 2018, Mr. Wang, a sixth-year graduate student at Princeton, remains imprisoned.
On Sept. 10, Princeton University released a statement noting that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Mr. Wang has been improperly held and should be released immediately.
On Aug. 7, the two-year anniversary of his being detained, the American Council on Education released a statement calling for Mr. Wang's safe release.
On Jan. 11, 2018, Mr. Wang’s wife and mother filed a petition with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for his immediate release. The petition asserts that his trial suffered from substantive and procedural defects and that his detention violates Iranian and international law.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is an organ of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It receives petitions from prisoners around the world who claim to have been imprisoned in violation of national or international law. It issues opinions in response as to whether their detention is legal. In some cases, the Working Group may communicate directly with the country of detention to ask for the prisoner’s release. In the past, the Working Group has found that several other U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran were unlawfully detained.
In fall 2018, the Working Group issued a report, concluding that there was no legal basis for Mr. Wang's arrest and detention, and calling for his immediate release.
Posted July 20, 2017
Updated July 28, 2017; Nov. 29, 2017; Jan. 12, 2018; Jan. 18, 2018; May 31, 2018; Aug. 12, 2018; Dec. 27, 2018
王夕越在2016年1月25日到3月10日期间访问伊朗，目的是为在德胡达学会暨国际波斯研究中心（Dehkhoda Lexicon Institute & International Center for Persian Studies）进修波斯语课程。2016年5月1日，他回到德黑兰，在德黑兰的一些主要的图书馆档案馆中开展博士论文档案研究，并继续进修波斯语。在前往伊朗之前，他向华盛顿巴基斯坦大使馆下属的伊朗利益代表处（伊朗签证的签出机构）以及计划访问的图书馆档案馆都发出了公函，向他们解释了自己的研究计划。在信件中，他非常坦率诚恳地陈述了自己的研究目的和内容，并表达了查阅伊朗图书馆和档案馆中馆藏文件的意愿和申请档案文件的范围。他完全没有卷入任何政治活动与社会运动，仅仅作为一名学者查阅其博士论文所需史料。
王夕越的家人和学校至今都没有看到伊朗方面对他的指控书、庭审记录以及裁决书。据他在伊朗的辩护律师称，根据伊朗刑法，他被定为间谍罪和与伊朗有敌对关系的国家合作罪。伊朗政府在一项最新声明中说，王夕越是被普林斯顿大学“派遣”并“渗透”到伊朗来的，并声称为王夕越提供研究经费的普林斯顿大学摩萨瓦－拉玛尼伊朗和波斯湾研究中心（Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies）以及与王夕越围绕博士论文研究进行正常学术交流的美国和伊朗历史学教授是伊朗的敌人。这些指控是完全错误和没有依据的。普林斯顿大学从来不会指示自己的学生选择哪些地方去开展自己的研究（也不会签署和接受任何不能公开发表的科研合同和基金）。就像所有其他学者一样，王夕越为了博士论文需要查阅什么史料、到哪里去查阅，都出自本人的学术判断。王夕越与历史学家就其博士论文进行学术交流和讨论，是正常的学术行为。王夕越没有与任何政府部门或情报部门有任何联系，也没有将其查阅获得的档案文件发送给任何机构。
普林斯顿大学历史系为王夕越提供了8500美元的研究经费，同时，普林斯顿大学摩萨瓦－拉玛尼伊朗和波斯湾研究中心（Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies）也为他提供了不到8800美元研究经费，这些经费都是校内经费（需要由学生和导师提出申请），主要用来支持他在伊朗的旅行、语言课程与学术研究。在其被捕后，王夕越被伊朗政府要求向伊朗司法部交付12000美元的罚款，该罚款实际由普林斯顿大学支付给了伊朗司法部。
摩萨瓦－拉玛尼伊朗与波斯湾研究中心（Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies）是什么组织？