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Iran Arrests Environmentalist Who Joined Labor Protest, Brother Says

Iranian environmentalist Yousef Farhadi Babadi, shown in this undated photo, was detained by Iranian security agents in the western Iranian city of Shahrekord on Feb. 17, 2019, says his Germany-based brother.

The brother of an Iranian environmentalist says Iranian authorities have detained the activist in an apparent continuation of a wave of arrests of environmentalists in western Iran in recent months.

Speaking to VOA Persian by phone from Germany on Wednesday, Jolan Farhadi Babadi said Iranian security agents detained his brother, Yousef Farhadi Babadi, in the city of Shahrekord on Sunday and sent him to its main prison.

Jolan Farhadi Babadi said he heard from family members in Shahrekord that Yousef was detained while returning home from a local funeral for a member of a reformist political party.

Jolan Farhadi Babadi said Yousef is a member of an Iranian environmental group called the "Voice of Water Campaign," which has been active on Instagram and Telegram since 2015.

The group's Instagram account says it promotes the optimal use of water in Iran, which has suffered severe water shortages in recent years due to drought and mismanagement of water resources.

Jolan Farhadi Babadi told VOA Persian that Yousef had expected to be arrested because of the recent detentions of other environmentalists in western Iran, and because intelligence agents had summoned him several times in the past to answer questions about his involvement in labor protests by steel workers in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

There has been no word on Yousef Farhadi Babadi's case in Iranian state media. Workers at the Ahvaz steel mill have held several strikes since early 2018 to protest months-long delays in salary payments.

Other arrests

Iranian rights groups say authorities have arrested 11 other environmental and civil activists in the western province of Kurdistan since late December. A Jan. 7 report by Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Kurdistan provincial deputy security chief Hussein Khosheqbal as saying those detained had been engaged in "criminal activities" on behalf of environmental groups. The nature of the alleged crimes remains unclear.

Iran has come under criticism from international rights activists for its recent detentions and prosecutions of a separate group of Iranian environmentalists. Eight members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation have been on trial in Tehran since last month on spying-related charges that their supporters say are bogus.

This article originated in VOA's Persian Service.