PICTURED: Top row from left to right, Sam Rajabi, Houman Jowkar, Niloufar Bayani, Morad Tahbaz, and bottom row, from left to right Sepideh Kashani, Amirhossein Khaleghi, Taher Ghadirian, and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh.
Iran, August 3rd 2019. The 8 Iranian wildlife conservationists who were taken into custody by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Crop (IRGC) February of 2018 on charges of espionage have embarked upon a hunger strike.
Sources close to World at Large who have chosen to remain anonymous confirmed that “after over 560 days, there is still no transparency or perspective to a solution at all”.
“Because of this situation, at least two of them, Niloufar Bayani and Sepideh Kashani, have been on hunger strike since Saturday August 3rd”.
Niloufar and Sepideh are just two of the conservationists resorting to the hunger strike, and sources have confirmed that through phone calls with the detained, Houman Jowkar and Taher Ghadirian were also fasting, likely in solidarity with their colleagues.
The conservationists Sam Rajabi, Houman Jowkar, Niloufar Bayani, Morad Tahbaz, Sepideh Kashani, Amirhossein Khaleghi, and Taher Ghadirian were working for the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF) studying the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah.
The enigmatic sprinter, while once roaming from the Arabian Peninsula to Western India, now survives only in Iran; with a population that might number fewer than 50.
Any Hope For Nature, an organization of conservationists, scientists, and others dedicated to raising awareness of the Iranian biologists’ plight started a hashtag on Twitter after it was confirmed the hunger strike was taking place.
#JusticeforEnvironmentalists (in Farsi #عدالت_برای_محیط_زیستیها) and #FastForAnyHopeForNature were the calls to action, where people begin to join the hunger strike in solidarity.
#NiloufarBayani & #SepidehKashani are on #hungerstrike since 4 August to protest their continued detention after +550 days of wrongful imprisonment.
I will fast as long as they do, join us by fasting and distributing their message. #FastForAnyHopeForNature #anyhopefornature pic.twitter.com/KAdhkgUnFR
— Leili Khalatbari (@LeiliKhalatbari) August 8, 2019
“They demand that they be either released on bail until a verdict is issued, or transferred from the secluded section 2A of Evin prison, in which they are held under the custody of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to the public sector of the prison,” sources said, explaining the demands of the hunger strike.
According to the English human rights organization Article 19, they have reportedly been subjected to months of solitary confinement and psychological torture, including being threatened with death, threatened with injections of hallucinogenic drugs, and threatened with the arrest and harm of family members.
Sources tell World at Large they can neither confirm nor deny these reports.
Managing Director and co-founder of the PWHF, Kavous Seyed-Emami, died in prison on the 9th of February, just weeks after his arrest, of alleged suicide. The suicide could not be confirmed as his death took place outside of CCTV cameras.
Continue Reading — Wildlife Researchers Trying To Save Iran’s Last Remaining Cheetahs Could Face Death Penalty
Yet the international scientific community, who knew him as a great scientist, a top conservationist, as well as a kind and gentle man with a deep love of natural Iran, is demanding an independent investigation because of the lack of evidence. At the time of writing there has still been no independent investigation allowed into Seyed-Emami’s death.
A letter of concern on behalf of the PWHF conservationists was written on the 21st of November 2018, and signed by 337 scientists, academics, and esteemed conservationists such as Iain Douglas Hamilton and Jane Goodall, was sent to the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei which can be found at Any Hope For Nature’s website.
“Now, people everywhere are starting to join their strike to amplify their plea, tweeting about it with the hashtag #FastForAnyHopeForNature. Even though this had to be organized on very short notice (given the late confirmation and the already long starvation of our friends), I think we might see a big wave of people joining the campaign and going hungry for the conservationists today. Hopefully, this will finally trigger some positive progression”.
World at Large will continue to monitor the news as it comes.