Dual U.S. and Iranian citizen Ali Shakeri, a community advisory board member at the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at UC Irvine, has not returned to or made contact with the university for several months, causing concern among administrators.
Shakeri was born and raised in Iran and came to the United States after completing high school in the 1970s. The California businessman graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. in business administration before establishing Global Estate Funding, Inc. in Irvine.
‘We haven’t heard from him since March 8, and we were expecting him back a couple weeks ago,’ said Co-Director of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding Paula Garb in a Reuters article.
Garb said that Shakeri traveled to Iran early in the year to see his ailing mother, but she expected him to return several weeks ago.
According to an OC Register article, middle eastern history professor Mark LeVine said that Shakeri was taken into custody as he tried to board a flight at the airport in Tehran.
‘He was at the airport, and he was taken, and no one knows where,’ LeVine told the OC Register. ‘[Iran] is waiting for peoples’ mothers to be dying, and then they grab them.’
At least three Iranian-Americans have been arrested or detained in recent months in what seems to be an Iranian crackdown on dual citizens.
In a report issued last Thursday, Human Rights Watch quoted unidentified associates of Shakeri as saying that he was ‘being detained by the Iranian authorities.’
Other Iranian dual citizens arrested, detained or otherwise kept from leaving Iran include Haleh Esfandiari, a scholar at the U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars think tank, Parnaz Azima, a reporter for U.S.-funded Radio Farda and Tehran-based social scientist and urban planner Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant to the New York-based Open Society Institute.
A fourth dual citizen, who is also believed to have been kept from leaving Iran, has not been named by the U.S. government. A State Department spokesman declined to comment on Shakeri’s case in a Reuters article, making it unclear whether he was the fourth person.
U.S. officials also believe that FBI official Robert Levinson may also be held in Tehran, after he disappeared in early March while visiting the Iranian island of Kish. According to Reuters, Iran has denied that it is holding Levinson.
These detentions have occurred during recent high tensions between the United States and Iran. The United States has been wary of Iran’s growing nuclear program, which many Western countries fear may be geared toward making atomic bombs.