Kaveh Madani, a senior Iranian water expert who left the Imperial College of London to serve as deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment, recently left his office after a few months over what he called the hard-liners’ pressure.
“Due to the dissatisfaction of your beloved parents … and some pressures inside the country, I inevitably accept your resignation,” Isa Kalantari, the head of the Department of Environment, wrote in a recent emotional farewell statement in reaction to Madani’s resignation.
Madani, a 36-year-old expert who took leave from his post at London’s Imperial College last year to return to Iran, resigned late last month.
The resignation came after a photo taken five years ago showing him dancing went viral on social media. Iranian people, especially the country’s top officials, are supposed to adhere to Islamic laws that forbid dancing.
In a letter posted on his Twitter account last Wednesday, Madani wrote that some Iranian authorities had considered him an outsider and a threat, and he had faced weeks of pressure from conservative opponents of the Rouhani administration.
“During the six months you held a responsibility in the organization, you showed that how much one with such a unique knowledge, steadfastness and creativity … can serve his country and people,” Kalantari wrote.
The DoE chief said the organization’s staff and the Iranian people will never forget Madani’s service.
Kalantari wished Madani success and happiness, saying he is sure the young expert will continue to help improve living conditions of Iranians in the future.
Iran is suffering from a range of extreme environmental problems, including world-beating levels of air pollution and years of drought that have devastated swathes of its agricultural land. Rouhani was hopeful that he could tackle such problems by using the expertise of Iranian elites living abroad, including Madani.
Madani had been called in for questioning in January during the arrests of nearly a dozen people involved in environmental activism on suspicions of espionage. One of those arrested, Kavous Seyed Emami, reportedly committed suicide in Tehran’s Evin prison in February.
Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last week Madani’s resignation was due to “progresses” made in the espionage dossier, suggesting Madani could be a spy.
While Madani and reformist media considered such accusations as mere pretexts to prevent such “elites” from working in Iran, conservatives believe the environmentalist was an agent who fled the country before being tried.
Tasnim News Agency reported last Saturday that Madani’s dancing photos were first published by a Telegram channel affiliated with opponents of the Islamic Republic on March 28.
Tasnim wrote the photos, which were published just two days before Madani was supposed to return to Iran from a work trip, could be handed to the Telegram channel by Madani himself to provide a justification for his resignation.
Tasnim says the controversial photos, which had been taken long before Madani took office, could not cause any serious trouble for the environmentalist. Therefore, the release of the photos was an effort to divert the attentions from his alleged role in the espionage case.