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Homa Hoodfar says it is 'wonderful' to be back home

Homa Hoodfar smiles as she speaks to the media after arriving at Trudeau Airport Thursday, September 29, 2016 in Montreal. Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian academic was held in Iran's Evin prison for more than 100 days. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
September 29, 2016 - 9:38 AM

MONTREAL - A Canadian-Iranian woman who spent nearly four months in prison in Iran was greeted with hugs and flowers as she landed in Montreal on Thursday and declared it was great to be back in Canada.

"It's wonderful to be home and reunited with family and friends again," Homa Hoodfar told a news conference at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, a few days after being released from prison and flown to Oman.

Hoodfar, 65, said she feels frail and tired after her ordeal but that her health is improving.

The retired anthropology professor said she didn't believe she was actually on the way home until she was aboard the plane out of Iran.

"I didn't feel I would be released until I was in the jet," she said. "As they say, in Iran, nothing is possible and everything is possible."

And Hoodfar made it clear that returning to Iran is not in her plans.

"I think for a while I'm going to stay in Montreal," she said laughing.

"I love the summer in Montreal and I miss the fact that this summer I didn't have my geraniums."

Hoodfar had been detained since June 6 at Tehran's notorious Evin prison on allegations of "dabbling in feminism" and security matters.

The ex-Concordia University professor, who did not speak specifically about her detention, said the most difficult part of her imprisonment was not being able to speak to friends and family.

"Not knowing what is happening and knowing my family are very worried and not being able to talk to me," she said, holding the hand of her niece, Amanda Ghahremani.

Hoodfar is known for her research on Muslim women in various regions of the world and there were suggestions Iranian authorities were particularly struck by her research on homosexuality and women's sexuality in the context of Muslim countries.

She travelled to Iran in February to see family and do academic research but was arrested in March, just as she was set to return to Montreal. She was released on bail and then rearrested in early June.

But although she won't be heading back to Iran, Hoodfar said she wouldn't be stopping her work any time soon.

"Not only has (my imprisonment) not stopped me from that, it's opened me to new avenues I maybe wouldn't have pursued in the same way before," she said.

Hoodfar even joked about her ordeal, saying she'd previously been media shy and reluctant to speak publicly about her work.

"Now you see what the Iranian government has done," she said with a laugh, gesturing to the dozens of media assembled around her.

Her family had feared the worst in recent weeks, saying her health was deteriorating while in solitary confinement.

Since Canada has no diplomatic presence in Iran, the governments of Oman, Italy and Switzerland stepped in to help free her.

Canada has not had an embassy in Iran since 2012, when the Stephen Harper-led Conservative government cut diplomatic ties over Tehran's contested nuclear program and other issues.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement earlier this week the Canadian government had "actively" worked for Hoodfar's release.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance.

Trudeau also recognized "the co-operation of those Iranian authorities" who helped her cause.

Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Monday that Hoodfar had been freed on humanitarian grounds.

Hoodfar's supporters had pressed diplomats to discuss her case during the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the meeting last Wednesday.

On Thursday, Hoodfar thanked the governments of Canada and Oman, as well as the Iranian officials who helped to secure her release.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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