“We wish a clear investigation,” mentioned Mehran, who denied any and all accusations that his father was a spy.
Whereas the demise of Mr. Seyed Emami was a tragedy for his household, it has turn out to be one thing of a rallying level for middle-class Iranians. Till Mr. Seyed Emami was arrested together with six other environmentalists in late January, he had stood for a lot of as a logo of hope, the star of an inspirational video about the potential for change.
“My father was at all times stuffed with hope, he made me consider change is feasible, even in locations you least anticipate it,” mentioned Mehran. “He had a present for bringing folks from all walks of life collectively.”
Now, his demise in Evin Jail is feeding right into a rising anger and disaffection in Iran over a system many concern won’t ever be modified . These emotions erupted in nationwide demonstrations earlier this 12 months, and helped drive numerous girls to take off their headscarves just lately in public to protest necessary veiling.
Mr. Seyed Emami can be amongst a rising variety of outstanding Iranians and Westerners, at the very least six of them Iranian-Individuals and others with twin passports, who’ve been imprisoned in what analysts say is a lethal critical competitors between conservatives in Iran clinging to the revolution and people attempting to reply to widespread yearnings for change.
Currently, the hardliners have discovered new power, analysts say, their anti-Western place bolstered by rising threats from President Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mohammed bin Salman, the younger crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
“The pillars of our revolution are beneath assault greater than ever, so it’s pure for the intelligence unit of the Guards to become involved,” mentioned Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst.
A Pragmatist ‘in Love With Nature’
In lots of respects, Mr. Seyed Emami was an sudden goal of the hard-liners. Softspoken, he at all times most well-liked to cooperate quite than problem the authorities. A sociologist instructing on the conservative Imam Sadiq University, he had at all times stood out for his liberal, pragmatic method, believing in gradual change and particular person accountability for making it occur. The one shaven professor on the school, he held a Canadian passport and was a fan of the American political thinker John Rawls.
In his free time, Mr. Seyed Emami, a youthful 64 when he died, led an influential non-public environmental group, the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, based in 2008 by Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American entrepreneur. Along with his Canadian passport, gotten as many Canadian-Iranians had within the 1980s and 1990s, he may have lived in Canada. However he selected to remain in Iran and work for change right here.
In his lessons and thru the inspiration, he urged his fellow Iranians to work inside the system to construct the nation they desired, regardless of setbacks they could expertise. However these days some authorities clearly discovered his work on the basis, which had continued for almost 9 years, suspicious.
As a part of its preservation of endangered species, the inspiration had arrange digital camera traps to trace uncommon animals just like the Persian leopard within the wild. These cameras, in addition to the inspiration’s frequent invites to international specialists, would determine within the spying prices.
The primary indicators of hassle emerged in state information media shops managed by the Revolutionary Guards, with a number of hit items on the inspiration, most of them specializing in Mr. Tahbaz, its founder. One article, which was revealed in November, accused him of “developing playing homes within the U.S. and Israel.” Weeks later he was arrested, and he stays in custody.
All his life, Mr. Seyed Emami had “documented the whole lot, by no means had secretive conferences, at all times public,” Ramin mentioned. “His purpose was to realize the best good for the best variety of folks by calculating and measuring his each transfer.”
An Arrest and a “Ridiculous” Cost of Spying
On reflection, nevertheless, it appears there was nothing he may have completed to keep away from arrest. Whereas visiting pals close to the Caspian Sea on Jan. 24, he acquired a telephone name telling him to report back to the prosecutor’s workplace within the close by metropolis of Chalous.
“When his good friend and my dad arrived there, earlier than he even entered the door, 15 folks jumped out of automobiles, grabbed and handcuffed them, positioned hoods over their heads and drove them round for an hour,” mentioned Ramin. The good friend was launched and returned residence, deeply shaken. Mr. Seyed Emami was taken to Tehran and thrown into Evin Jail.
The Iranian authorities say that Mr. Seyed Emami was a spy working for the USA and Israel. He and the others arrested with him had “put in cameras within the nation’s strategic places to observe Iran’s missile actions, sending info to foreigners,” the Tehran prosecutor, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, mentioned.
To Mr. Seyed Emami’s household, these assertions are ludicrous. “It’s simply all so ridiculous, we don’t even know the place to begin,” Ramin mentioned. “These cameras, for example, are for taking pictures wildlife, their vary doesn’t transcend 25 meters. They’re low cost and may be purchased wherever. Even when they wished — which they didn’t — how may they spy on the missile program with these?”
He and his brother have been overseas on the time of the arrest. “Once I heard it, I wasn’t that fearful,” Mehran mentioned. “Everyone advised us it could all blow over.”
A day after the arrest, the Seyed Emamis’ home in Tehran was raided by at the very least 30 brokers who spent eight hours ransacking the place. They took household picture albums, computer systems and sound playing cards for Ramin’s musical devices, amongst different issues.
The following day, a distraught Mrs. Seyed Emami was pushed again to Tehran from Chalous by a good friend, as her automotive had been impounded. A couple of days later, she was alone in her household’s residence when the telephone rang. It was her husband. He sounded horrible. “I’m O.Okay.,” he mentioned.
“That was the final time she ever heard his voice,” mentioned Ramin.
A Funeral within the Rain
His sons returned to Iran the day after their father died, though many individuals warned them in opposition to it. “We wished to be right here,” mentioned Mehran. “We wished to be with my mom and people we beloved.”
Ramin concurred. “I couldn’t stay with myself,” he mentioned, “if I didn’t come again residence to bury my father.”
The funeral happened on a windy hilltop in a village outdoors Tehran, with intelligence brokers photographing the ceremony. Fittingly, maybe, the rain Iran so badly wants got here pouring down, an indication of nature’s tribute to Mr. Seyed Emami, many mourners mentioned.
Some days later, after Ramin posted his grievances and doubts on his Instagram page, the brothers have been known as into the Tehran prosecutor’s workplace. There, a deputy prosecutor flipped via his telephone displaying photos of an post-mortem of their father, “as if he was displaying photos of his trip,” Ramin mentioned.
He then produced a surveillance video. “I noticed my father coming into his cell, pacing via the room,” Ramin mentioned. “They’ve taken his eyeglasses, with out which he can barely see. He makes the mattress, locations a shirt round his neck and enters the toilet. Seven hours later he’s introduced out, lifeless.”
“I can’t decide what occurred there,” the son went on. “Why would he make his mattress? How can he cling himself in a high-security jail?”
Because the brothers have been leaving the prosecutor’s workplace, the Tasnim information company was reporting that they’d seen the surveillance video and accepted the official discovering that their father had killed himself. “That they had calculated your complete factor,” Ramin mentioned.
Each sons doubt the official account of his demise.
“He was at all times constructive, on the lookout for the upside in the whole lot,” they mentioned. They have been denied the prospect for an impartial post-mortem as a result of the official one had already been carried out, with out their permission.
The Iranian authorities have seized the deed to the Seyed Emamis’ home, so the household can’t promote it and go away the nation. And influential social media voices have been advised to not talk about the case.
However the brothers say they’re decided to proceed to talk out, even on the danger of imprisonment, till they know the actual story. “We’re able to do no matter it takes to clear his identify,” Ramin mentioned, as Mehran nodded in settlement.
Ramin says he thinks typically of a dialog he had together with his father just a few days earlier than his arrest, when he had been feeling depressed. “We spoke about the best way to stay life,” he mentioned. His dad laughed, and had a single reply. “The bottom line is to present love. That’s the place happiness comes from.”