By Natasha Phillips (Kayhan Life)
German-Iranian dual nationals have been warned not to travel to Iran by the German government, after a 66 year-old Cologne resident was arrested in Tehran.
Nahid Taghavi, a retired architect who has lived in Cologne since 1983, had been commuting between Tehran and Cologne to spend time with her parents. She was arrested on October 16. Ms. Taghavi has been placed in solitary confinement in Evin prison, without charge or legal representation, for almost two months.
Germany’s foreign ministry advised its Iranian dual nationals against traveling to the Islamic Republic, following Ms. Taghavi’s detention.
“There have been several arrests of German-Iranian dual nationals in the past, including most recently in October 2020, often without comprehensible reasons,” the updated travel warning issued by the ministry said.
Ms. Taghavi’s daughter, Mariam Claren, told Kayhan Life she could not see any reason for her mother’s arrest.
“My mother was not politically organized or part of a political organization. I don’t think she ever expressed any politically charged views online. She’s 66 years old, she understands the regime. Any opinions she held on gender equality and human rights which may have run contrary to the regime’s own views were deeply personal to her, and not in the public domain,” she said.
Ms. Claren grew concerned about her mother’s welfare when Ms. Taghavi failed to answer her texts and voice messages. Ms. Claren’s uncles then traveled to her mother’s apartment to find it had been turned upside down. Ms. Taghavi was not in the apartment, which had been raided by officials who had removed her computer, German passport and photos of her and her daughter.
Ms. Taghavi’s neighbors confirmed to her uncles that she had been taken by security forces on October 16 at 7pm Tehran time. Her uncles traveled to Evin prison to ask for an update on their sister’s condition and were told by prison officials that Ms. Taghavi could not have any visitors as she was in solitary confinement and would not be moved from her cell until they had completed their investigation.
Since her arrest, Ms. Taghavi has only been able to make two short telephone calls, both to one of her brothers.
In the first call, made 12 days after being taken into custody, Ms. Taghavi called to say she was alive. During the second call, which took place on December 3, she said she was in good health and to tell her daughter not to worry.
Ms. Claren said her mother had not been able to call her because officials had said international calls from the prison were not allowed.
Dr. Heribert Hirte, who is acting as Mrs. Taghavi’s godfather, is a member of the Bundestag (German parliament) and a professor of law at the University of Hamburg.
The German government implements what it calls a ‘godparent’ system for Germans detained abroad, which allows a member of parliament to take on the prisoner’s case and try to secure their release where appropriate.
Speaking to Kayhan Life, Dr. Heribert said the detention could be linked to the current geopolitical instability.
“Having talked to the Armenian ambassador this week about the struggle between Armenia and Azerbaijan, that in this time of political uncertainty arising from changes in the United States and the near east, states may be trying to take advantage of the situation. One such way is taking hostages, particularly from countries which are not directly involved in this conflict in order to use them to get their agendas pushed through.”
A meeting between Germany’s ambassador in Tehran and Ali Bagheri Kani, a diplomat and advisor to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council to discuss detained German-Iranian dual nationals took place last week, according to a report by BBC Persian. Dr. Heribert said the German government had not been made aware of the meeting. He reached out to the ambassador for more information about the discussion, but did not receive a response.
Omid Nouripour, a German member of parliament and a member of Germany’s Committee on Foreign Affairs is also looking into Ms. Taghavi’s case. Nouripour told Kayhan Life Ms. Taghavi’s detention could be linked to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We are seeing a trend. In the past, UK citizens have been regularly targeted by Iran without provocation, but in my view it was because of bad relations between the two countries. Iran used to treat Germans with more caution, but this is changing,” He said. “There are now five German citizens in custody in Iran, and while no one really knows why this increase is happening, there are Iranian officials who know that Germany is one of the pillars of the JCPOA, and they may be trying to undermine the deal so they can carry on developing their nuclear programme and eventually build a bomb.”
In October Ms. Claren launched the social media campaign #freenahid to try to secure her mother’s release. The campaign includes real-world demonstrations and vigils, with the latest protest taking place in front of the Iranian Consulate in Frankfurt on December 10, to coincide with International Human Rights Day.
aren Nair, UK Board Director for Amnesty International said Ms. Taghavi’s detention amounted to torture, in a text message exchange with Kayhan Life.
“Nahid Taghavi is now one of several German, U.S., UK, French, Swedish and Austrian dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran. She has been denied access to her lawyer, her family as well as medication for her high blood pressure,” he said.
“As an older person with pre-existing health conditions, she is at heightened risk of severe illness or death if she contracts COVID-19 in prison. Nahid has been denied her basic human rights and the German government must work to secure her immediate and unconditional release.”’