The mother, father and brother of Mahsa Amini were scheduled to depart from Tehran last week to attend the 2023 Sakharov Prize ceremony in Strasbourg on December 12.
However, the authorities prevented Mojgan Eftekhari, Amjad Amini and their son Ashkan from boarding their flight at Imam Khomeini International Airport on December 8.
In October, the EU parliament awarded its prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Mahsa Amini and the Women, Life, Freedom protest movement.
Saleh Nikbakht, one of the family's legal representatives, was accompanying the Amini family. He was not barred from traveling and arrived in France to attend the ceremony.
In an interview with IranWire, the lawyer explained that the Amini family had been hesitant about accepting the European Parliament's invitation due to the intense pressure they had endured from security and government agencies since Mahsa’s death in September 2022.
At the airport, Nikbakht said, the family received their boarding passes after completing all the necessary procedures.
But as they approached the boarding gate, Mojgan Eftekhari was stopped by an officer and engaged in a heated argument.
Amjad Amini intervened and the two were taken to an office where individuals prohibited from traveling are typically held.
Ashkan proceeded to the gate, where he was stopped and informed that due to his student status, he required approval from his university before leaving the country.
Nikbakht, who was not detained, contacted Amjad Amini to ask him what he should do, and Mahsa’s father encouraged him to depart and attend the Strasbourg ceremony.
"I was very upset, tired and saddened by what had happened. It wasn’t right because they were a grieving family; they had lost their daughter," the lawyer told IranWire.
Previously, the lawyer had been sentenced to one year in prison and banned from carrying out any social media activity for a period of two years for "propaganda against the system.”
He said that his decision to attend the ceremony was driven by a sense of responsibility to honor Mahsa’s memory.
In a statement released on December 9, the Amini family asserted they had informed the governorate of Kurdistan province and other relevant authorities about their planned trip to France. None of these authorities indicated any objections or restrictions.
"Upon arrival at Tehran International Airport, despite having the necessary visas and a legitimate reason to travel, we were unexpectedly informed by passport control officers that we were prohibited from leaving the country," the family said in its statement.
"Our passports were confiscated and we were given receipts instructing us to visit the Tehran General Passport Office the following morning to retrieve our passports," they added.
But officials at the passport office claimed to know nothing of the situation and directed the family to the Prosecutor General’s Office in Tehran.
The Amini family then visited this office accompanied by another lawyer.
Tehran’s first deputy prosecutor informed the family they had been prohibited from leaving Iran at the behest of the Ministry of Intelligence.
"Despite our inquiries, officials refused to provide a solid reason for the travel ban and said it would remain in effect until January 20, 2024," according to the family.
Nikbakht told IranWire that the Amini family had informed the Saqqez Intelligence Department, Sanandaj Governorate and Political Vice-Chancellor of the province about their planned travel to France.
The lawyer said that the travel ban" is illegal and a form of retribution."
He argued that the authorities should not prevent individuals from leaving Iran simply because they believe they may engage in activities in the future that are deemed objectionable.
Nikbakht urged the authorities to allow the Amini family to leave the country to receive the Sakharov Prize and continue the pursuit of justice for their loved one.
Mahsa, 22, died in Tehran in September 2022 while in police custody, three days after she was arrested for an alleged hijab infraction.
Her death triggered protests that spread across the country and rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the four-decade-old Islamic theocracy in Iran.
Authorities responded with a brutal crackdown in which more than 500 people were killed and over 22,000 others were unlawfully detained, including dozens of lawyers.
Following biased trials, the judiciary handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. At least eight of them have been executed so far.