Death of Environmental Activist Prompts Questions in Iran
The death of an imprisoned environmental activist last week prompted questions and demands of an investigation after Iranian officials claimed that he committed suicide.
Kavous Seyed Emami, a 63-year-old environmentalist and sociology professor, was among a group of environmental activists arrested by the Iranian government two weeks ago.
Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, Tehran’s public prosecutor, said that Iranian intelligence forces arrested Emami and others for “collecting classified information about the country’s strategic areas under the guise of carrying out scientific and environmental projects,” reported the New York Times.
“This person was one of the accused,” Dolatabadi said, as reported by CNN, “and as he knew that many statements were made against him and he had confessed himself, he unfortunately committed suicide in prison.”
However, others doubted the validity of the government’s claim.
Emami’s son, Ramin, posted a statement on his Instagram account: “The news of my father's passing is impossible to fathom. Kavous Seyed Emami was arrested on Wednesday 24 January 2018, and the news of his death was released to my mom, Maryam, on Friday the 9th of February. They say he committed suicide. I still can’t believe this.”
The Iran Sociological Association, of which Emami was a member, also questioned his demise with the following released statement: "The information published about him is not believable and we expect officials to respond and to provide the public with information concerning his death.”
Emami taught at the Imam Sadegh University in Iran’s capital. He was also among the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an organization based on raising public awareness on endangered species and fragile ecosystems in the region, where he served on the Executive Board as Managing Director of the foundation at the time of his death, according to the organization’s website.
AFP also reported that the head of the Department of the Environment, Kaveh Madani, was also recently arrested by authorities, although he has since returned to work.
Emami’s death in solitary confinement comes hardly a month after the deaths of three protesters also ignited social unrest. Two of the young men who died were said to have killed themselves, while the third died in an apparent clash with authorities. However, as reported by the New York Times, many Iranians demanded an investigation into the deaths, possibly signifying a shift in the existing social and political paradigm within Iran.