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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The University of Iowa has joined the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) Alliance, a global network of partners offering practical support to scholars threatened by war and persecution.

The IIE-SRF Alliance launched in August 2020 to assist the unprecedented number of threatened and displaced scholars globally. It builds upon IIE’s 100 years of providing resources and support to vulnerable professors and university students, including academics facing Nazism and Fascism, Black South Africans being denied educational opportunities under apartheid, and hundreds of scholars who are continually threatened by conflict and repression.

“The University of Iowa is proud to support the IIE-SRF alliance,” says UI President Bruce Harreld. “Freedom of inquiry and academic freedom are critical cornerstones of a healthy society that must be protected at all costs. When one of our colleagues needs us, we will always provide a safe haven.”

While academics historically have been persecuted for their scholarly work and are among the first to be targeted during conflict and instability, the magnitude of the current crisis is unprecedented, says Allan Goodman, IIE’s president and CEO.

“We are extremely grateful to the University of Iowa for taking this concrete step to support scholars in need,” says Goodman.

This effort is not new or unfamiliar to the UI, however. The UI’s International Writing Program (IWP) has a long history of hosting writers and scholars at risk.

“The International Writing Program has, from its beginning in 1967, provided refuge for writers from all around the world. We welcome this alliance with IIE-SRF, which could not come at a more important moment with authoritarian governments on the march and scholars and writers in ever-increasing danger,” says IWP Director Christopher Merrill. “Truthtellers are always a threat to those who seek to oppress their citizens, which is why we are committed to advocating for those who are determined to tell the truth. This alliance gives us new tools to keep the truthtellers alive.”

The IWP and UI’s International Programs previously worked with the IIE, bringing a writer at risk from Uzbekistan, Sabit Madaliev, to the UI in 2004. At the time, the prominent Uzbek poet and journalist had published numerous articles on sensitive topics of human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of information, corruption, and democracy in Central Asia, as well as more than 14 selections of poetry and fiction in Russian. He had been subjected to difficulties in his home country because he was an outspoken defender of other writers, journalists, and members of the media, as well as a member of the advisory committee for the Art and Culture Program of the Open Society Institute’s branch in Tashkent, and a member of PEN International.

UI joins a network of hundreds of individuals, institutions, and organizations through the IIE-SRF Alliance, spanning nearly 30 countries and multiple sectors. The IIE-SRF Alliance includes:

  • Host and commitment partners that welcome IIE-SRF fellows to their campuses, providing safe haven and a temporary academic position.
  • Organizational partners that offer services such as access to training or courses, free or discounted memberships, and other critical support.
  • Ambassadors who share their time, skills, and networks to empower these scholars on their journeys to rebuild their lives and careers.

“The University of Iowa's participation in the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund Alliance demonstrates the UI's commitment to scholars whose lives and livelihoods have been threatened by upheaval across the globe,” says Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs Russell Ganim. “As turmoil and displacement can take many forms, the goal in belonging to this organization is to show support for intellectuals, artists, and researchers whose valuable work has been disrupted by events beyond their control. The UI has provided a haven to these colleagues in the past, and in turn, they have enriched our community with their wisdom and insight regarding the cultures and contexts from which their work originates and evolves.”

To learn more about IIE-SRF, the IIE-SRF Alliance, and ways to get involved in supporting threatened and displaced scholars, visit