Dual nationality Iranians jailed in Iran

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has said that an American-Iranian man and his wife was arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in July and have been held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. They have been detained without charge and do not have access to a lawyer.

The detainees, Karan Vafadari, a Baha’i, and Afarin Niasari, ran an art gallery in the capital. Ghaemi said that the couple’s case is another alarming example of a continuing problem with the Iranian judicial system that is run by intelligence agencies without any respect for the law. 

A couple of months ago, representatives of the Baha’i religion accused the Iranian government of trying to “destroy” the Baha’i community. Since Rouhani entered office in 2013 there have been more than 151 Baha’i arrests and 388 acts of economic discrimination (including threats, closure of businesses with Baha’i owners, and intimidation). The Baha’i community also claim that 28 people have been expelled from university and thousands have been denied entry based on their religion which the Islamic Republic has outlawed.  

The Tower reported: “Iran also has a history of arresting dual nationals, with at least six held in July. According to Reuters, this comprised “the highest number of Iranians with dual-nationality detained at one time in recent years to have been acknowledged. One more dual national, a former member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, was arrested in August. Many analysts believe that Iran is ‘seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing’ dual nationals, the Associated Press wrote that month.”

British-Iranian businessman Kamal Foroughi and charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are two other dual nationals that have been detained in Iran. Businessman and Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father were arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for advocating closer ties between the United States and Iran. Reza Shahini, 46, from San Diego was arrested by the IRGC and sentenced to 18 years in prison for espionage and “collaborating with a hostile government”.

Nizzar Zakka, a U.S. resident and internet freedom activist, was invited to Iran by a vice president and then sentenced to 10 years in prison. Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian scholar Homa Hoodfar, visited her family in Iran earlier in 2016. The Tower explains that she was released at the end of September “on the same day that Iran announced that it was holding talks with the Canadian government about reopening embassies in each other’s countries”. Hoodfar, after returning to Canada, told reporters that she was told she was arrested for “dabbling in feminism” and was told by interrogators that her dead body would be sent back to Canada. 

Jason Rezaian had a similar experience. The Washington Post reporter was released in January with four other American hostages. The Tower states: “Rezaian and two family members have filed a federal lawsuit against Iran, claiming that Rezaian was taken hostage and tortured in order to ‘extort’ concessions from the United States during nuclear negotiations. The suit also alleges that Rezaian ‘suffered such physical mistreatment and severe psychological abuse in Evin Prison that he … will require specialized medical and other treatment for the rest of his life’”.