saeed-zeinali (1)

The mother of a student who has not been heard from since soon after his arrest in Tehran in 1999 has dismissed the Iranian Judiciary’s claim that there was no evidence he was ever arrested.

Saeed Zeinali was last seen by his family in 1999 when he was arrested amidst widespread student protests in Iran that year, and he has not been heard from since a brief phone call three months after his arrest. Yet Iranian officials are now denying the then-22-year-old student was ever arrested and they claim no knowledge of the case.

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Akram Neghabi, Zeinali’s mother, reacted to a statement made by Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei on January 3, 2016, that “so far no document has been found that shows [Saeed Zeinali] was arrested.”

“Has any family gotten a receipt when a member was arrested for security reasons during the past 36 years? Was I, the mother of Saeed Zeinali, too stupid not to get a receipt? Seventeen years [after Saeed’s disappearance] what sort of document should I be producing Mr. Ejei?”

“Sometimes individuals go missing and they might not reappear for some time. It would be wrong to claim that [Saeed Zeinali] was arrested. I have followed up this case before. I asked the accusers to show me some evidence or at least some sort of lead to be able to follow up on this case but they couldn’t even do that,” Ejei claimed.

Saeed Zeinali, born in 1976, was arrested five days after student protests that swept Iran in July 1999. He was a 22-year-old Tehran University computer science student at the time of his arrest at his home in Tehran on July 10, 1999. Three months later he made a brief telephone call to home and said “I’m well; don’t look for me,” but has not been heard of since, his mother told the Campaign.

“I wish Mr. Ejei would trade places with me for just one month. He would understand what I’m going through as a mother if he had no news about his child for a month. One of these state agencies like the Basij or the Revolutionary Guards or the police took my son and now the state has to be accountable. How is it possible for someone to disappear for 17 years and no one is held accountable?” said Zeinali’s mother.

Akram Neghabi added: “Unfortunately, 17 years after my son’s arrest they are asking me for proof. They took my son in front of my eyes in my home. That’s my proof. My late mother, God bless her soul, was in our home at that time. She and I fell on the agents’ feet and begged them not to take Saeed. They said it’s not anything serious. They said my son had a security issue and they would ask him a few questions and bring him back.”

In his weekly press conference, Ejei challenged anyone with information showing a connection between Iran’s security agencies and Saeed Zeinali’s disappearance to come forward. 

Zeinali’s mother told the Campaign that numerous contacts and communications with the Judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization, prison officials, and even with the Supreme Leader’s office had not produced any results in their search since no one would give a clear answer.

The case resurfaced on social media after Zeinali’s father was detained with a group of civil activists who were protesting in front of Evin Prison on November 22, 2015.

“Eight or nine days after my husband’s arrest, we were given permission to visit him at the Revolutionary Guards’ Ward 2-A [at Evin Prison]. When we got there the agents asked why we were complaining about the Revolutionary Guards. I said I am not their enemy. I am not trying to overthrow the state. I said if they did not arrest Saeed, then they have to find out who did. Show me his corpse or [show me] him,” Ms. Neghabi said.