Niloufar Bayani is a widely respected environmental scientist affiliated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. She received a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Columbia University in 2012, and then worked for the UN Environment Program (UNEP) in Geneva before joining the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation in 2017.
She and eight colleagues were arrested in January 2018 and accused of espionage as a result of their use of camera traps to document the movements of Iranian wildlife. One of her colleagues, Kavous Seyed-Emami, co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, soon died in prison under suspicious circumstances. CCS wrote to Iranian authorities in November 2018 calling for charges against Niloufar Bayani and her colleagues to be dropped, for them to be released, and for an independent investigation into the death of Kavous Seyed-Emami.
Niloufar Bayani was given a 10-year prison sentence, upheld on appeal February 18, 2020, despite her having been subjected to physical threats by her interrogators. She is serving her sentence with other women political prisoners at the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran. On August 1, 2021, it was reported that she – along with many other women in the prison – had contracted COVID-19. She has reportedly been sent to a quarantine ward.
In April 2020, Iran furloughed thousands of prisoners as a result of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but political prisoners like Niloufar Bayani were not included in those releases and remain at high risk.