Six months after he fled his homeland, Kaveh Madani remains a marked man, dogged by the regime’s accusations that he is an agent of foreign powers.
The research scientist and environmental expert quit as the deputy vice-president for the environment in the Rouhani government in April after suffering relentless harassment from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The propaganda against Mr Madani continues to this day. In recent weeks, the regime has suggested that Mr Madani is an agent of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US and British intelligence agencies. Given his academic specialism in water management, the Iranians have also suggested that Mr Madani was a member of a cabal that caused the water shortages that have provoked protests in Iranian cities throughout 2018.
“They have claimed that I am of Jewish descent and was working for Israel,” he told The National. “Netanyahu’s recent comment on Iran’s water issues and his offer to help Iran made additional trouble for me. They think that I am the one advising Netanyahu and tell him what to say.
“They have recently claimed that my team and I had the power to control the weather. So, now that I am out and the rest are in jail, the country is getting a lot of rain.”
After 14 years in exile, Mr Madani took a leave of absence from his tenured position at London’s Imperial College in 2017. His idealistic vision on returning to his birthplace was two-fold. Mr Madani believed he could indeed help Iran manage its environment better and reverse the ravages of climate change. As a so-called Gheir-e Khodi or outsider, he had hoped to bring back the benefits of expertise acquired in his studies in Sweden, the US and Britain. The 37-year old was a symbol of a “reverse brain drain” of returning expats to President Hassan Rouhani’s new-look Iran.
The first shock came at Tehran’s airport when he was hauled aside by the IRGC agents for questioning.
“I arrived in Tehran four days after being appointed. The Revolutionary Guards were waiting for me at the airport,” he said. “I was interrogated for at least four hours and under pressure, they broke into my phone, personal hardware, social media accounts and emails. This meant that they managed to access every detail of my life abroad for the past 14 years before returning home.
“During my 7-month tenure, I got interrogated many times. They were concerned about lots of things. They could not trust me because we had different value systems. I went there to help my country, solve environmental problems and have impacts.”
Mr Madani aroused hostility from entrenched interests that distrusted his agenda of aligning Iran to the Paris climate change accord and cutting back waste and other harmful environmental impacts. “By doing this, I was supposed to limit Iran’s development and impose extra costs on the nation,” he said.
Matters came to a head in February after the death of Kavous Seyed-Emami, a prominent Canadian-Iranian academic and environmentalist, who was blamed for stirring riots against the regime in the previous weeks. The authorities said Seyed-Emani killed himself in Evin Prison and associated activists, including Mr Madani, faced questioning for involvement in the protests, which were the worst in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement.
Source » thenational