A German-Iranian woman brushed aside her family’s fears of arbitrary arrest before she travelled to Iran to become the latest western dual national to be detained at Tehran’s Evin prison.
Nahid Taghavi, 66, was arrested in mid-October last year but her daughter remains in the dark about the reason for her detention, she told The National. She received her first visit from relatives last week after 100 days in custody.
Her detention bears the hallmarks of other arrests of western nationals who have been accused of spying on spurious grounds and used as bargaining chips to secure the release of Iranian prisoners abroad, or to pursue Tehran’s political ambitions.
During a 30-minute meeting with a guard in attendance, the retired architect told her brother only that interrogators had been probing deeply into her life. She did not say what crime she was suspected of committing, they reported.
“She’s been travelling between Iran and German for 15 years,” said Ms Taghavi’s daughter, Mariam Claren. “We said what about the dangers but she said there’s no problem – a lot of dual nationals go back.”
Ms Taghavi, a long-standing women’s rights campaigner, had shuttled between her family in Germany and friends in Iran for six-monthly visits without problems.
Her arrest came amid questions over the future of the Iranian nuclear deal, of which Germany was a signatory, in the run-up to the US election. An Iranian diplomat, arrested in Germany, was also due to go on trial the following month in Belgium, accused of masterminding a plot to blow up a gathering of dissidents near Paris.
But Ms Claren said that German officials had not been able to say why she had been detained and the family’s visit last Sunday cast little light on the situation.
“My uncle asked her: What do they want from you?” Ms Claren said. “The only thing my mother told them was they are asking a lot of stuff about her life. I think the interrogator told her not to talk about the charges,” she said.
“I haven’t heard the voice of my mother for more than 100 days. That’s very cruel and that’s a play to put pressure on her and me.”
She was initially held in solitary confinement in an area of Evin jail controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a common occurrence during months of questioning. Her family said she has recently been moved to a shared cell.
in October, her arrest prompted Germany’s foreign ministry to warn dual nationals against travelling to Iran because of arrests happening, “often without comprehensible reasons”.
“Further detentions of people who also possess Iranian citizenship cannot be ruled out. Unnecessary travel by people who are also Iranian nationals is strongly discouraged,” it said.
Ms Taghavi is believed to be one of a small number of German detainees.
The freed Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert last week highlighted her case among other Austrian, American, French, Swedish and British dual nationals, some of whom have been held for as long as five years.
Human rights group IGFM said Ms Taghavi should be viewed as a political prisoner because she had for years been fighting for human rights in Iran, in particular for women’s rights and freedom of expression.