UNICEF, the UN’s agency for children, has issued a statement about the continued incarceration of Baquer Namazi, who was arrested in Tehran on February 22.
The agency said it was “deeply concerned about the health and wellbeing” of Namazi, who worked for UNICEF until his retirement in 1996.
Carol Bellamy, UNICEF’s executive director, wrote that Namazi’s “pioneering work on children affected by war broke new ground and led the way to greater attention that the world gives today to children in especially difficult circumstances.” She said he had made significant contributions to the rights of children around the world and expressed gratitude to him “on behalf of the countless children and women” whose lives he had changed.
Security forces stopped Baquer Namazi, 80, at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport as he returned from Dubai, where he had gone for a medical check-up and to visit his grandchildren.
According to IranWire sources, Revolutionary Guards Intelligence agents lured Namazi to go back to Iran by promising he would be able to visit his son for the first time since Siamak Namazi’s arrest in October 2015.
Baquer Namazi’s wife Effie Namazi first reported her husband’s arrest, posting the news on Facebook. She described the arrest of both her husband and her son as a “nightmare I can’t describe.”
“Now both my innocent son Siamak and my Baquer are in prison for no reason. I have been trying to find out more information but have been unable to do so and the lawyer also couldn’t get any information or get to see him.”
Fars News Agency, which is closely linked to the Revolutionary Guards, later confirmed the arrest. In an article published on February 26, the agency said that Baquer Namazi’s detention was part of a large-scale operation to crackdown on what it described as “complex layers of vast financial and intelligence corruption by a network that is associated to the UK and to America.”
This week, Siamak and Baquer Namazi’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, told IranWire that he had been prevented from seeing both of his clients, and had been denied access to their files.
The UNICEF statement about Baquer Namazi was widely distributed, and will potentially increase pressure on President Rouhani to intervene in the case. Since his election in 2013, Rouhani has pushed for greater engagement with the world and the West in particular. His success, along with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in bringing about a nuclear deal with world leaders was thought to played a key role in last week’s election results, which saw moderates make significant gains in parliament.
During his time with UNICEF, the statement said, Namazi worked in Somalia, Kenya, and Egypt, among other countries.
“Our thoughts are with our respected former colleague and his family,” UNICEF said in conclusion. “We hope he will be reunited soon with his wife and loved ones.”