Former Iranian Environmental Official Reveals He Was Spied on Since Returning to Iran
Kaveh Madani: State Supporters “Created Many Problems For Me”
In a resignation letter posted on his Twitter account, the former deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment (DOE) Kaveh Madani revealed that he was spied on from the moment he returned to Iran.
“As you are aware, since I made a determination to return to the country, the friends and concerned supporters of the state have created many problems for me on the margins to the point that since my return to Iran, in the absence of any judicial permission, not only have my personal hardware and accounts been broken into, but my ‘citizen rights’ to privacy have also been violated,” wrote Madani, who confirmed his resignation on April 15, 2018, via tweet he posted after he had left the country.
The 36-year-old former researcher at the Imperial College in London and water management expert left Iran just seven months after returning to his country of birth to serve in the government of President Hassan Rouhani.
Madani was arrested in February 2018 during a crackdown on environmentalists by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and interrogated for at least two days before he was released.
“Although I had worked at my post for several months and my goals, thoughts, behavior and actions had become well known to the aforementioned [friends and concerned supporters of the state], nevertheless, they reviewed all available documents containing the smallest details of my personal and professional life during the years I lived abroad,” said Madani in his resignation letter.
After Madani published his resignation letter, the DOE posted an excerpt of it where Madani thanked DOE Director Isa Kalantari for his “unsparing support” in “paving the way for the return of experts and young people to their homeland.”
Many Iranians, including members of Parliament (MPs) and journalists, had taken to Twitter to lament Madani’s departure, but hardliners accused him of trying to “escape” an investigation.
“If some people prefer to escape that’s because there were important preliminary investigations going on and they realized that we were getting close to the truth,” said Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Dowlatabadi on April 18 without mentioning Madani by name. “He will come back one day. We will get him sooner or later.”
Madani and at least 11 other environmentalists who remain detained since being arrested in January and February have been accused of spying for foreign governments.
No evidence has been provided to substantiate this claim, which has been touted by hardline media sites. One of the detainees, Iranian Canadian academic Kavous Seyed Emami, died under suspicious circumstances in Evin Prison on February 19.
His wife Maryam Mombeini has been banned from leaving the country.
Some officials have pointed to Madani’s departure as a reminder of Iran’s brain drain problem.
In 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that Iran had one of the world’s highest rates of brain drain— emigration of highly educated individuals—with an annual loss of 150,000 to 180,000 specialists.
“From one angle, we might reach conclusions based on some actions and reactions, but from other angles, we are destroying our social resources and causing a brain drain that will result in general mistrust,” said Reza Tabesh, the leader of Parliament’s Environmental Affairs faction, on April 18.
Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, the leader of the parliamentary faction for citizens’ rights added: “In the past couple of decades, we have witnessed the wide exodus of the educated class from the country. We definitely have to come up with a transparent strategy about this when individuals like Kaveh Madani return to their country because of their love for their homeland and want to serve the people and make a difference.”