Open Letter by Former Cellmates of Imprisoned Conservationists in Iran

Former female cellmates of a group of wildlife conservationists who’ve been unjustly imprisoned in Iran since January 2018 penned the following letter as a tribute to their nature-loving friends on the occasion World Environment Day, June 5, 2022.

The letter was initially written in Persian and provided to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) along with the English version printed below.

The signatories—formerly imprisoned in Iran on trumped-up charges with two of the conservationists, Sepideh Kashani and Niloufar Bayani—recognize the group, as well as their colleague Kavous Seyed-Emami, who died while held for interrogations in an Iranian prison in February 2018, as the jailed saviors of Iran’s endangered climate and wildlife.

“Who else, in this troubled time, walked the coastline of the Persian Gulf to save turtles?… Who else has led the conservation of Iran’s precious and endangered species?” says the letter.

To learn more about the conservationists’ unjust imprisonment, click here, and read this recent letter by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and 50 conservationists urging clemency for the prisoners.

To all those who care for nature and freedom,

The truth and urgency which demands this letter is the absence to which every cheetah, dolphin, black bear and everyone who has known Sepideh Kashani, Niloufar Bayani, Kavous Seyed Emami, Houman Jowkar, Sam Rajabi, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Taher Ghadirian, and Morad Tahbaz is witness to.

For it is they who know to live life with love by devoting themselves to the fundamental relationship of human and nature. Who else, in this troubled time, walked the coastline of the Persian Gulf to save turtles? Who, alongside local farmers worked to preserve Iran’s indigenous fauna? Who, in the absence of any state infrastructure or governmental support, year after year, fought to save natural ecosystems and threatened water resources? Who recalled and shared the richness of Iranian nature and wildlife by introducing it to international conservationist communities, through research, publications, field work, talks, work with local groups, researchers, and international advocates? Who else has led the conservation of Iran’s precious and endangered species?

The story of these eight dedicated conservationists in the past 1591 days, which has entailed almost two years of solitary confinement, the shocking loss and death of their colleague and pioneering conservationist, Kavous Seyed Emami , during his first weeks of detention in solitary confinement, and over four years of group imprisonment, have a clear meaning. Those who want human relations and their connection to nature subjugated and truth silenced imprison such citizens, who with the truth of their knowledge strive to rescue nature from extinction and protect its vitality and endurance.

Today more than ever, across the world, environmental preservation has become a critical issue. Many know that our hope for a better life is through our coexistence with nature. Such awareness could not exist in Iran without those who have created and nurtured it at the high price of their own hardship and resistance they have faced.

Steadfastness, determination and a profound and subtle respect and curiosity for nature and life is how we know Sepideh and Niloufar through the pattern of our days with them in prison; through them we also learnt the same about Houman, Sam, Amir Hossein, Taher, Morad, Abdorreza and Kavous; and from them we learnt and could appreciate more deeply a sensitivity to nature and the environment of our planet and how it is the true wealth of its each and every citizen.

On the occasion of 5th June, World Environment Day, we share and pay tribute to the love and concern that has been their life and dedication, and with respect to all who walk this path, we too, recognise and share this role in supporting our environment and those who are its guardians.

A group of ex-prison mates of Niloufar and Sepideh:

Atena Daemi, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Parisa Rafiee, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Negin Ghadamian, Shokoofeh Yadollahi, Aras Amiri, Sepideh Farhan, Nazi Oskouee

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