A retired Canadian-Iranian professor who studies women’s issues across the Middle East has been detained without charges in Tehran, her family said Thursday, the latest dual national held by authorities there since Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The detention of Homa Hoodfar, who until recently taught anthropology and sociology at Montreal’s Concordia University, comes amid a widening targeting of Iranians with Western ties in the wake of the accord. Already, at least two Iranian-Americans and a US permanent resident from Lebanon have been detained, likely at the hands of hard-liners opposed to the deal.
Hoodfar, 65, traveled to Iran in early February to see family after the death of her husband and retiring from Concordia, her niece Amanda Ghahremani said. She was also doing research at the archive of Iranian parliament’s library as an election that month saw 17 women elected as lawmakers.
Two days before she was due to fly out of Tehran in March, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard raided Hoodfar’s home, seizing her belongings and questioning her, Ghahremani said. After several days of interrogation, she was formally arrested and released on bail, though she and her lawyer still don’t know what charges she faces, despite periodic questioning since, her niece said.
On Monday, the Revolutionary Guard summoned Hoodfar for questioning at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and since then she’s been held incommunicado, Ghahremani said. Her family decided to go public with her detention Wednesday by talking to Canadian media in Montreal.
“We’re very confused and baffled by what’s going on because those who know Homa either personally or through her academic work know she’s ... someone who’s incredibly even-handed and balanced,” Ghahremani told The Associated Press. “She’s not political. She’s not an activist. And if anything, she has worked to improve the lives of women in different contexts, including Iran.”
Calls to Iran’s judiciary rang unanswered on Thursday, the start of the country’s weekend. State-run media had no report on Hoodfar’s detention.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Canada has not had an embassy in Iran since 2012, when its conservative-led government at the time cut diplomatic ties over the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear program and other issues.
In the time since, world powers have reached a deal with Iran for it to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion acknowledged that not having an embassy complicated matters. Italy has protected Canada’s interests in Iran since 2012.
“It would be easier to have an embassy in Iran, but it’s not the case,” Dion said. “We will do everything we can (by) working with the like-minded countries that are in Iran.”
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force charged with protecting the country’s Islamic government, has increasingly targeted those with Western ties since the deal.
A prisoner swap in January between Iran and the US freed Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans. At least two Iranian-Americans remain imprisoned in the Islamic Republic, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi.
Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese internet freedom advocate who is a US permanent resident and has done work for the American government, is held as well. Also unaccounted for is former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission.