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UNEP renews calls for Niloufar Bayani, 8 conservationists release from Iran

By Bahle Gama

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has renewed its plea to have Niloufar Bayani and eight environmental conservationists to be released from prison.

Bayani is an Iranian wildlife conservation biology researcher and activist who was convicted in 2019 of espionage by Iranian authorities in a closed-door trial and received a 10-year prison sentence.

According to a statement by UNEP, In February 2018, Bayani and the environmental conservationists were imprisoned and subsequently sentenced to lengthy jail terms in the Republic of Iran.

“It has now been five years since her imprisonment and taking note of the pardons recently issued by the Iranian authorities, the United Nations Environment Programme renews its call for clemency and the safe return home of Bayani, and indeed all the environmental conservationists imprisoned in Iran,” reads the statement.

UNEP recalled that between 2012 and 2017, Bayani worked hard as a consultant based out of UNEP’s Geneva office who was focused on enhancing the resilience of communities against disasters and climate change. 

This mission reportedly took Bayani to countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Ivory Coast, and Sri Lanka. She was also the lead author of several UNEP publications that examined how the regulatory functions of ecosystems could provide a buffer against disasters.

“A conservation biologist by training, however, it was in conserving Iran’s natural heritage and unique species where Bayani’s heart lay,” it reads.

In 2017 she reportedly returned to her home country to work on efforts to conserve the Persian or Asian Cheetah, one of the most endangered large cat species in the world. Bayani was arrested in February 2018 as mentioned along with other internationally, recognized experts in the field of nature conservation.

“Our natural world is under tremendous pressure. The triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature, and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, threatens to erode decades of progress on poverty reduction and sustainable development.”

The UNEP further stated that environmental conservationists are critical allies in protecting the rights of current and future generations to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

“We cannot build a better future without them.  We at UNEP continue to plea for the release of Bayani and other conservationists on humanitarian grounds,” emphasized the UNEP.

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