Last updated: 21 Mar 2023

In January 2018, Niloufar Bayani and eight other environmental conservationists working for the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were imprisoned and subsequently sentenced to lengthy prison terms. At the time of her arrest, Niloufar had been working in Iran for only 6 months, to monitor the critically endangered Persian or Asiatic cheetah. She was sentenced to 10 years and 4 months in prison.

Every year Iranians around the world celebrate Nowruz. The Persian new year is a two-week festival that marks the start of spring and new beginnings. On Nowruz 2023, Niloufar Bayani and environmental conservationists imprisoned in Iran have been granted furlough and we hope for their full release.


Arrest and Detention of Scientists of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation

Mid-January 2018, the co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (Miras Parsian), Morad Tahbaz, was arrested. On 24 and 25 January 2018, 8 other Iranian scientists of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were arrested and accused of espionage on the basis of their wildlife conservation activities, including monitoring and protecting the Asian cheetah, one of the most endangered large cat species in the world.

  • Kavous Seyed-Emami | Iranian-Canadian sociologist and PWHF’s co-founder | Died in detention on 8 February 2018
  • Taher Ghadirian
  • Sam Rajabi
  • Houman Jowkar
  • Niloufar Bayani
  • Sepideh Kashani
  • Amirhossein Khaleghi
  • Morad Tahbaz
  • Abdolreza Kouhpayeh

Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have denounced the unacceptable conditions of their detention.

Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF)

The Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation was founded in 2008 and operated with the permission of the Iranian government. This Tehran-based organization was using camera traps to monitor species such as the Persian leopard, Asiatic cheetah, Asiatic black bear, and Laristan wild sheep.

PWHF enjoyed long-running relationships with UN agencies, international NGOs, and grassroots conservation groups.

Niloufar Bayani

At the time of her arrest, Niloufar had been working in Iran for only 6 months, to monitor the critically endangered Persian or Asiatic cheetah. Despite the lack of evidence against their case, Niloufar spent 8 months in isolation and 1,200 hours of interrogation before being sentenced in February 2020 to ten years.

This young Iranian was bringing international expertise. She studied at McGill University in Montreal and Columbia University in New York and worked in Geneva between 2012 and 2017, as a consultant for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). She had notably joined the UN teams on the ground after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti. She had returned to Iran to serve her country and advance its biodiversity conservation.

She dared, during her trial and in letters addressed to the Iranian authorities, to denounce the torture she suffered. Held in the section reserved for female political prisoners, along with the recently released Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah, she has continued her environmental research and studies, giving seminars on climate change to increase awareness amongst her peers inside Evin prison on climate issues.

Niloufar recently established a climate seminar series aimed at increasing “climate literacy” and awareness on climate change issues in Iran. She conducted a survey within her ward and concluded that while many of her peers were aware of changing climatic and environmental conditions in Iran, few were fully aware of climate change issues and how it impacts on and links with the many social, environmental and political issues affecting Iran society. She has therefore started a series of climate seminars, where she has prepared briefing materials on posters and established focused groups within Evin prison to work and reflect further on the climate issue.

She also recently published an article in the Etemad News, on 1 February 2023, where she reflects on the impacts of the COVID pandemic and the importance of changing our destructive relationship with nature.

When Niloufar worked for UNEP in Geneva, from 2012 to 2017, she was based at the International Environment House. She regularly contributed to activities of the Geneva Environment Network and other institutions in Geneva and around the world, leaving an excellent impression on all those she interacted with.

Hope with Iranian Amnesty

In light of the mass pardons recently issued by Iranian authorities, there is opportunity to call for amnesty on Niloufar’s case and secure her release, and that of her fellow environmental conservationists detained in Iran.

Pressure is growing internationally and in Iran for these scientists to be included in it.

The world faces a triple planetary crisis and at this time we need everyone with the qualifications, experience and expertise, like Niloufar, to help protect this beautiful planet that we call home.
— David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment



  • E. Magda Price / The McGill Daily
  • Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation