American ‘Just Disappeared’ After Detainment in Iran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei / AP

Iranian authorities detained an American man from San Diego last week, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Friends and family members of Gholamrez "Reza" Shahini, a U.S. citizen who goes by "Robin" and graduated from San Diego State in May, said they have not heard from him in over a week.

Shahini traveled to Iran to visit family in July and was staying at his mother’s house in the city of Gorgan, located about 250 miles northeast of Tehran. A friend of Shahini’s said he might have been detained because of his online comments that criticized Iran’s human rights record.

"Robin has been known for his advocacy of human rights on social media. This advocacy, unfortunately, has not sat well with the Iranian government," the friend, Denera Ragoonanan, wrote in a Facebook post.

Ragoonanan told the Los Angeles Times Thursday that Shahini "just disappeared off the face of the planet. No one knows if he’s alive or dead."

"Iran does not recognize Iranian-Americans. They believe they’re Iranians and are subject to Iranian law," she continued.

Shahini hoped to help his native country, according to Ragoonanan.

"He would always tell us that he wanted to get his PhD and wanted to work with the Iranian government to bring peace to that country," she said.

The U.S. State Department said it was looking into the reports.

Iranian authorities took Shahini from his mother’s home on July 11, Ragoonanan said. The family remains under government surveillance.

Shahini planned on starting a master’s program in homeland security at San Diego State this fall.