RICHMOND, B.C. — The son of an Iranian-Canadian professor who died in a Tehran prison fought back tears after he arrived in Canada on Thursday as he explained how his mother reacted when she wasn’t allowed to board their flight from Iran.
Brothers Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami told reporters that moments before they boarded the flight to Vancouver, where they planned to start a new “peaceful” life, Iranian authorities confiscated their mother’s passport and blocked her from leaving the country.
Speaking in the arrivals area at Vancouver International Airport, Ramin said they’re hopeful Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has expressed “outrage” at their mother’s detention, will succeed in pressuring Iran to allow her to come to Canada.
“They’re trying to prevent us from rebuilding our lives,” Ramin said of Iranian officials.
Freeland issued a statement Thursday welcoming Ramin and Mehran to Canada.
“At the same time, we were outraged to learn that their mother, Maryam Mombeini, Mr. Seyed-Emami’s widow, was barred from leaving Iran for no apparent reason,” she said.
“We call on the government of Iran to immediately give Maryam Mombeini, a Canadian citizen, the freedom to return home.”
Freeland said Canada is continuing to demand answers from Iran on the circumstances surrounding the death of Mombeini’s husband Kavous Seyed-Emami, a 63-year-old sociology professor who was being held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison earlier this year. Iranian authorities have said Seyed-Emami’s death was a suicide, but the family and others have questioned that finding.
Seyed-Emami’s death sparked new anger in Iran over the treatment of detainees, especially after nearly 5,000 people were arrested in the wake of nationwide protests at the start of the year.
Ramin said the family has faced intimidation by authorities since they began speaking out about his father’s death.
“Instead of being able to grieve the loss of our father in peace, we have been forced to endure harassment by the Iranian authorities,” said Ramin, who was born in Iran but also lived with his family in Canada and the United States.
It was difficult to say goodbye to his mother, said Ramin, a musician who performs under the stage name King Raam.
“She said, ‘I just want you guys to be safe and away from this horrible place. Don’t ever come back,’ ” he said, his voice cracking.
“I have friends with her at all times. I don’t want her to be alone for one single second.”