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'Day of Action' planned for detained graduate student Xiyue Wang

Asian man stands behind Asian woman and toddler seated. There is an empty glass in the frame and the toddler is in a high chair eating dinner.
Xiyue Wang GS with his wife Hua Qu GS ‘21 and their son.
Courtesy of Hua Qu for the Office of Communications

Several months after the United Nations concluded that Xiyue Wang, a history Ph.D. student imprisoned in Tehran, should be released immediately, the University community will host a “Day of Action” to raise awareness about Wang’s detainment and to call for his immediate release. The Day of Action on Wednesday, Feb. 20, will include a “call-a-thon” at Campus Club and a rally at Chancellor Green Library.

As of Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, Wang has been imprisoned in Iran for over 900 days.


In Aug. 2016, Wang — who was in Tehran to research late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history — was arrested and imprisoned by Iranian police under charges of espionage. Since his incarceration at Evin Prison was made public in July 2017, he is allowed to call his family almost every day.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., third-year graduate student and “Free Xiyue Wang” president Michael McGovern and others will host the “call-a-thon” in the Campus Club Library. They plan to provide coffee, pastries, and lunch as students and faculty members phone political representatives and mail postcards.

Following the “call-a-thon,” McGovern; third-year graduate student Taylor Zajicek; Wang’s cohortmate Joshua Bachner; History Department Chair Keith Wailoo; Dean of the Graduate School Sarah-Jane Leslie; Senior Program Officer of Scholars at Risk Daniel Munier; and Hua Qu, Wang’s wife, will speak in the Chancellor Green Rotunda in a rally organized by Zajicek. This will be followed by a moment of silence for Wang and his family.

McGovern hopes that, through the Day of Action, “people have in mind the issue, and that they take the issue and go to their families and work through their networks to advocate for Wang.”

“We see this as a continual movement,” he continued. “Persistent activism is necessary for helping Wang.”

McGovern believes that Wang’s case speaks to the more general issue of academic freedom. “In the future we hope to have an event about scholarly safety,” he said. “It’s a big discussion to have. We need to know the kinds of risk that people could be in to get that story, to write that dissertation.”


He also acknowledges that, though he has had more success in attracting graduate students to similar events in the past, he encourages all students, faculty, staff, and inhabitants within the greater Princeton area to take part.

“It could happen to any of us,” he said. “This is something that could happen to your friend. He is not just a graduate student that got into a bad situation.”

Members of the community can also support Wang through subscribing to a newsletter and signing up for volunteer opportunities on

The “Day of Action for Xiyue Wang” will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Campus Club Library, to be followed immediately by a rally in Chancellor Green Library that will last until 6:30 p.m.

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