Mystery Plane Crash, Death in Jail and Iran’s Nuclear Program

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Image of plane in trouble.
Illustrative image (Clarion Project)

The arrest and death during imprisonment of Kavous Seyed Emami, a prominent environmentalist, along with the demise of his colleagues, who recently died in an airplane crash, may be connected to leaked reports of the consequences of Iran’s nuclear activities, the online magazine Kayhan reported.

The leaks referred to the negative impact of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-led projects, including the establishment of dams and the diversion of waterways. Under pressure from environmentalists, the government of Iran was finally driven to at least temporarily halt the projects.

Along with other efforts, Emami and his colleagues shipped samples of rare animals and plants to foreign research centers. Samples of some plants and reptiles, including a turtle, a lizard and a chameleon, were taken and sent to research centers in the US. Studies conducted by these centers revealed traces of radioactive elements in the bodies of the animals and plants.

Researchers also noted that the water from natural sources adjacent to Iran’s nuclear plants contain traces of radioactive materials.

Subsequent investigations revealed these contaminated substances reached residential water supplies. Water polluted by these materials has leaked to canals, infecting crops watered from these sources.

On several occasions, research by environmentalists has exposed Iran’s ongoing nuclear activities. The areas close to the nuclear sites are highly contaminated.

The information available to the public, however, remains restricted. As a result, it is hard to know exactly when local animals and plants were polluted by radioactive substances.

It is also unclear whether Emami and his colleagues were specifically researching the impact of radioactive contamination or if they discovered the contamination as a result of work around other environmental concerns. It is clear, however, that the government of Iran attempted to conceal the arrest of Emami and other environmental researchers.

After Emami’s death, announced in February 2018 — Iranian authorities say suicide — the government attempted to clamp down tightly on further information leaks.

In fact, the Iranian government claims it is taking precautions against a Mossad operation which has further given rise to speculation that the radioactive contamination is linked to Iran’s missile development program.

Military adviser to the regime Hassan Fairuz Abadi even claimed the United States is using the chameleon and lizard specimens to justify spying on Iran.

Abadi’s statement follows an earlier declaration by the head of the Civil Defense Authority, Gholamreza Jalali, who in a speech on the infiltration of plant genes and the contamination of water in biochemical warfare, said “the enemy,” through genetic manipulation in viruses and bacteria, is seeking to employ bio-terrorist attacks against Iran.

Given the links drawn by Iranian government officials themselves, it is reasonable to speculate there is a connection between the arrest of environmentalists and researchers, the suspicious crash of the Asman aircraft, which occurred shortly after the arrests, and the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

One area that is said to have been severely hit in recent years by radioactive contamination is the Bushehr coast, the place where waste from nuclear plants is poured into the waters of the Gulf. The Arab Gulf States as well as environmentalists repeatedly warned of the dangers of Iranian nuclear activities in these areas.

Emami and his colleagues were also carrying out studies of the effects of nuclear waste on the flora and fauna of the Gulf, and it was as a result of these efforts that information about Iran’s nuclear activities was leaked.

The mass death of dolphins and fish in the Gulf is seemingly attributable to the nuclear waste issuing from the Bushehr plant. Emami collaborated with U.S. laboratories to confirm that the local dolphin population was suffering from damage to the nervous system as a result of nuclear waste.

Prior to the revolution, Emami was a professor at Ahwaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences. He went to Abadan at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War. During that period, he sent his son and wife to Bushehr, and his other son Ramin was born in Bushehr. His links with environmentalists started when they began looking into the nuclear plant’s environmental pollution.

Based on unofficial resources, Emami said the environmental damage is caused by the IRGC’s activities, especially those related to establishing dams and the transfer of water.

Decades of misuse of Iran’s water resources led to a severe freshwater crisis, with the scarcity felt by most of the population of the Islamic Republic. These water shortages were among the primary factors that led to the recent wave of protests against the theocratic regime.

Successive Iranian governments have carried on policies that systematically misuse, waste and pollute the country’s water supply on a massive scale.  These destructive policies have been exacerbated by other factors, such as corruption and a concomitant lack of proper supervision, with the decision to hand over the construction and management of the regime’s massive damming and diversion projects to the IRGC, rather than to qualified engineers and experts. The result is devastated rivers.

The once-abundant ecosystem in the predominantly Arab Ahwaz region of Iran has been ruined by wasteful efforts to transport water from near the source of the rivers to other regions of the country, via massive pipelines. Much of Ahwaz, already a desperately poor region, despite once being renowned as a regional breadbasket, as well as housing 95 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran, is now a heavily-polluted wasteland, where desertification is steadily expanding. As a result of the damming and diversion project, the region’s once-mighty Karoon River, whose waters used to be crowded with large ocean-going vessels on their way to the Gulf, is now reduced in many places to a trickle or has simply dried up completely.  The marshlands, which were host to a variety of wildlife and whose waters sustained generations of fishermen and their families, are now mostly barren with the water too saline and polluted to sustain any form of life. The regime ignored repeated warnings from environmentalists of the ecological catastrophe which would result from the damming and diversion program, warnings which have now sadly been borne out.



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Rahim Ahwaz

Rahim Hamid is a freelance journalist and human rights advocate and co-founder of Ahwaz Monitor website who writes about the plight of his community – the Ahwazi Arabs – and other ethnic groups in Iran. You can follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/samireza42

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