On Friday, a New York-based rights group announced that an American-Iranian dual national and his wife have been detained in Iran after first being arrested in July. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) released the information that Karan Vafadari and his wife, Afarin Niasari, have been held without charge since their arrest by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Corps and have been forbidden from having access to any lawyers. The pair run an art gallery in Tehran and were said to have originally been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and has been targeting American-Iranians for persecution for over a year.
The executive director of the ICHRI, Hadi Ghaemi, said in a statement that this is “yet another case of a dual national snatched and held without charge or access to a lawyer represents an alarming continuation of a judicial system run by intelligence agencies with no respect for the law and no accountability.”
The sister of Karan Vafadari, Kateh Vafadari who lives in the United States, wrote a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, about the detained couple. She said that the couple had been subjected to “extortion, property seizure, and national security threats.” She also called for their immediate release.
In the letter, she explained that her sister-in-law, Afarin Niasari, was “detained by IRGC agents at Tehran airport in late July 2016 as she was about to board a flight to attend a family wedding abroad.” The statement added that she was told to “call her husband and ask him to come to the airport. When he arrived, he, too, was arrested and both were taken to Evin Prison.”
The statement says that the next day the couple was brought to their house in Tehran in handcuffs where agents “took down works of art hanging on walls, smashed some of them in the yard and confiscated others.”
They added that the agents were then taken to their art gallery where they continued to remove, smash, and steal the art.
Iran has continuously targeted Iranian-Americans to detain and imprison as a means to punish America, so much so that the State Department issued a travel warning months ago saying that “Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security.”