Kurdish Human Rights Network (KHRN): Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani, the environmental activist who was arrested On Sunday, February 17 by security forces in Sanandaj, has been able to make a brief call to his mother. However, his family is still unaware of the reason for his detention and whereabouts.

Negar Nasri Moghadam, mother of Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani, has told KHRN that “I have been commuting to the hospital and the Intelligence Office of Islamic Revolutionary Guards corps (IRGC). When security agents entered our house to arrest Afshin, they showed him a court order but they did not mention what their affiliation was. They arrested him and did not say to[which branch of Intelligence agency they belonged. After all this time, we still do not know where our son is kept and how he is. The Intelligent Office denies holding him there. The IRGC authorities once claimed that they did not know anything about him and once asked me to refer to them later. I’m ill myself. I was admitted to the hospital this weekend for heart angiography. My Husband is old and sick. In fact, my son returned to Iran from the United States to take care of us and he wanted to spend his time with us for several months. I have now asked my relatives to follow up Afshin’s case because his father and I are too old to refer to the Intelligence Office and court every day.“

Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani, a civil engineer, had travelled to Iran several times without any problems since he immigrated to the US. He is a well-known activist in Kurdistan. “ Like many other people, Afshin is concerned about his country and people. He has been active in different fields. If someone was supposed to be executed, they tried to prevent it. Moreover, he cooperated with environmental and charity associations. They were also consulted by other activists for political affairs. None of these activities is illegal. I also have another daughter who was arrested her a few years ago and then she had to leave the country. When the officers asked me how many children we had, I said that we had two children. You made one to flee from the country and put the other one in jail. One of the agents promised us that Afshin would be released soon and he even asked us to be prepared for his release on bail. But we have not heard about his bail condition for the past few days.” Nasri Moghadam said.

In the past, Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani has been arrested and interrogated many times by the Iranian regime due to his civil and political activities. He was arrested alongside a number of other political and civil activists at Habibullah Latifi’s house in Sanandaj eight years ago following an attempt to stop the execution of Habibullah Latifi. The execution sentence of Habibullah Latifi was reduced to life imprisonment as a result of such activities.

Human Rights activists and organisations such as Amnesty International and other activists opposed to the death penalty and condemned the arrest of Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani at the time.

“As an independent human rights organization operating in the Kurdish region of Iran, we warned against the continued arrests of environmental activists and members of the Kurdistan branch of the National Unity Party from the very beginning. The large number of detainees and the violence imposed on them during their arrest, the allegations which were quickly made by the Sunni Imam and the head of the Kamyaran City Council against the detainees, and information from various sources on this subject all indicate that the intelligence institutions intended to create a security scenario against these detainees. A number of detainees released on bail during the past few days have confirmed that they had been detained in solitary confinement, faced unfounded allegations, and subjected to pressure to confess during detention.”, Kaveh Kermanshahi spokesman for KHRN said while expressing his concern over the continued detention of Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani and other recent detainees in Sanandaj and Kamyaran.

“Mr. Sheikholeslami Vatani is one of the well-known activists in Kurdistan.On the one hand, his arrest was illegal as there has not commited anything to be arrested. On the other hand, his family has the right to know which institution has arrested him and where he is being held. His immediate family should be able to visit him. Moreover, according to the promises given by the authorities to the mother, we expect the release of Afshin before the Newroz holiday.” Kermanshahi added.