Kian Tajbakhsh

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Kian Tajbakhsh (Persian: کیان تاجبخش‎‎) is an Iranian-American scholar, sociologist and urban planner. He is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, and has taught at both American and Iranian universities. Tajbakhsh is also an international expert in the areas of local government reform, urban planning, public health, and social policy. He has consulted for several Iranian government organizations, including the Municipalities Organization, the Social Security Organization, and the Ministry of the Interior, and with international nongovernmental organizations such as the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, and the Netherlands Association of Municipalities. His work in Iran has included evaluating humanitarian relief and rebuilding projects in the aftermath of the devastating 2003 earthquake in Bam.

Academic career[edit]

Tajbakhsh's academic research examines the evolving nature of Iranian state institutions and the policy-making process in Iran. In 2006, he completed a three-year study of the local government sector in Iran. He is the author of two books, The Promise of the City: Space, Identity and Politics in Contemporary Social Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 2001), and Social Capital: Trust, Democracy and Development (Tehran: Shiraze Publishers 2005, in Persian). He has also published numerous scholarly articles, as well as non-academic writings on cinema and culture.

From 1994 until 2001, Tajbakhsh taught Urban Policy and Politics at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He received his BA from Imperial College London in 1983, his M.Sc. from University College London in 1984, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1993. He is a member of the American Sociological Association. For a brief period Tajbakhsh was an advisor to the Open Society Institute. He discontinued his work with OSI following his 2007 arrest.

Tajbakhsh was set to begin a full-time academic teaching position at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York City on September 8, 2009, but was unable to do so as a result of his incarceration.[1] As of April 2010, Tajbakhsh has been granted "Temporary Release" from prison, but is prohibited from leaving Iran.[2]


Tajbakhsh was arrested at his home in Tehran on May 11, 2007,[3] as the fourth Iranian-American, after Ali Shakeri, Haleh Esfandiari and Nazi Azima, to be incarcerated, detained, or put under house arrest in 2007. He was held without charge in Evin Prison for more than four months.

According to the Free Kian website, Tajbakhsh was allowed to leave Evin Prison and be reunited with his wife in Tehran on September 19, 2007.[4]

Tajbakhsh was arrested again in Tehran on July 9, 2009.[5][6] He was among the thousands of people detained in the protests that followed the presidential election and he appeared at a mass trial in Tehran. Then he was charged with a number of offenses including espionage [7] Tajbaksh was one of many politicians, academics, journalists, and others arrested in the wake of the protests, and was one of the defendants in a widely condemned mass trial. The charges against him included his work for the OSI, which the Iranian government had approved earlier, and his subscribing to the Gulf/2000 mailing list run by Gary Sick[8]

On October 18, 2009, Tajbakhsh was convicted on two charges of espionage, "contacting foreign elements" and acting against national security and sentenced to 15 years in prison..[8][9] Tajbakhsh appealed the sentence and on February 7, 2010 the appellate court threw out the charges of espionage and convicted Tajbakhsh to five years imprisonment for acting against national security.

After approximately eight months incarceration, Tajbakhsh was permitted to serve the remainder of the term on parole (or furlough) with his family in Tehran. Tajbakhsh is currently waiting for a complete resolution of his case (as of July 2015).


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