Hardline forces increasingly view environmentalism as a threat to national security, and are throwing innocent experts in jail
In early 2018, nine environmental experts and activists from the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF) were arrested in Iran. Disregarding their international reputation for tireless efforts to protect Iran’s endangered Asiatic cheetahs, the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) accused them of being agents of the CIA, Mossad and MI6. The IRGC, which acts as an alternative, hardline centre of power in Iran, claimed that PWHF was using environmental activism as a cover for a mission to disrupt national security. It accused them of collecting “sensitive” environmental information and using camera traps to monitor Iran’s ballistic missile programme.
A few weeks later, one of them, Kavous Seyed Emami, died suspiciously in an alleged suicide at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. His grieving wife, Maryam Mombeini, is still banned from leaving the country to join her two sons in Canada. The rest of the group are still in “temporary detention”. Four of them have been charged with “spreading corruption on the earth”, a crime that can carry the death penalty. The rest face serious security charges for “cooperation with hostile governments” and “acts against national security”. Their 300-page indictment was finally disclosed to them in a trial behind closed doors that began a few weeks ago.