URGENT – Iranian government agents in Paris kidnapped the brother of Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) leader Amir Fakhravar, took him past French security at a Paris international airport, and placed him aboard an Iran Air flight to Tehran. [NOTE: Our original report, based on conflicting information at the time, incorrectly identified the airport as Charles de Gaulle. There are no direct flights to Iran from Charles de Gaulle. Iran Air has direct flights from Orly and Beauvais.]
The 20 year-old victim, Mohammad Reza “Arash” Fakhravar (pictured), was living under French government protection after receiving political asylum in January. He escaped from Iran last year to avoid persecution. French authorities are investigating the kidnapping.
“The Iranian Embassy in Paris abused the protected status of its vehicles and its personnel to commit a crime, by kidnapping a refugee who lived in France under French protection,” a source tells IranChannel.
Arash Fakhravar is the second figure associated with the secular democratic student movement to be abducted in a week. Previously, 29 year-old Shiva Kamalipour Azad was taken from her grandfather’s house in Tehran while on bail after a week of brutal interrogations at Evin Prison. She has not been heard from since.
CIS has launched an online petition to free Shiva.
Ironically, the younger Fakhravar had just placed a “Free Shiva” icon on his Facebook page in the hours before his kidnapping.
IranChannel has pieced together the information available so far:
- In 2010, Arash Fakhravar escaped from Iran.
- In January, 2011, France gave him political asylum.
- In March and April, he joined other Iranian exiles in street protests against the regime.
- On Friday, April 29, agents of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran approached Arash on a Paris street during a protest against the regime. They took him into an embassy vehicle with diplomatic plates. They transported him to the Beauvais international airport outside Paris, claiming diplomatic immunity to get him past French security, and, using diplomatic privilege, avoided the check-in process completely by driving the car directly to the stairway of an Iran Air aircraft bound for Tehran. One of the agents boarded the plane and delayed the flight to make arrangements to take Arash back to Iran as others stood guard at the stairway.
- In Iran, government officials alerted members of the Fakhravar family to pick up Arash. The family members waited for three hours after the plane had landed, without seeing any sign of the young man. At about 2:00 a.m. local time, after family members repeatedly pressed herassat airport about the whereabouts of Arash, officials told them that Arash’s case was a matter of “national security” and that they had no information about where Arash had been taken.
- The airport security officials suggested that the family go to the Revolutionary Court the following day.
- Today, the Revolutionary Court said it had no word about Arash, suggesting that the young man is in the hands of intelligence officials outside regular judicial channels.
Arash Fakhravar has a history of student activism against the regime. On December 7, 2009, he was arrested for participating in Ashura protests and was held for a month in solitary confinement at Evin Prison. He was released on bail and was placed on seven years’ probation. He escaped Iran in 2010. Friends and family members in the United States sought assistance from the U.S. Department of State in getting Arash political asylum, but the State Department declined to assist.
Arash’s elder brother, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, is a former political prisoner and is general secretary of the Confederation of Iranian Students, the largest secular democratic student opposition movement in Iran. In recent weeks Iranian government propaganda outlets have branded Amir Fakhravar as a “fugitive.”
The kidnapping in Paris of Arash Fakhravar, following the abduction of CIS member Shiva Kamalipour Azad, is seen as a means by the regime of putting pressure on the student leader, who is living in the United States.