1954 - 2018
Kavous Seyed-Emami, a professor at Immam Sadiq University in Teheran and an environmentalist, was taken into custody by the Iranian Security Forces on January 24, 2018. After less than three weeks in custody at Teheran's infamous Evan Prison Kavous' family was notified that he had "committed suicide" while in prison and was deceased.
Kavous was born in Iran in 1954 and was raised in a very privileged environment. As a young man he went on lengthy hunting and fishing trips with his family, in what was at the time, a feudal social system in Iran. Village residents where the trips took place were not allowed to hunt or fish; all wildlife belonged to the wealthy families of Iran. When Kavous was taken on these hunting trips, the villagers and residents became the porters and guides for the hunt. Kavous was deeply moved by the wildlife and animals he saw and hunted on these trips. It was a time of wildlife abundance in Iran since there was little development and little or no hunting. Kavous developed an early love for both the land and the wildlife of Iran. He was also deeply moved and affected by the beauty of village life and the honesty and simplicity of village residents. He became, at a young age, a committed equalitarian and environmentalist.
Graduating from high school, Kavous attended University in the United States where he received an undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in the 1970s. At the end of the 1970s, Kavous returned to Iran and took part in the student uprisings that ended the U.S. sponsored regime of the Shah. He took part in the liberation of government buildings in Teheran and was one of the students that liberated the Savak prisons and torture chambers. It was a horrific experience to see what had been done in these prisons and this sight affected Kavous for the rest of his life.
Following his days as a student activist, Kavous was a machine gunner in the Iran Army during the first years of the Iran/Iraq war. Wounded, he was evacuated to a hospital for treatment. During his absence, his entire combat unit was killed, making Kavous the sole survivor of that unit. He would retain a fear and horror of military weapons for the rest of his life.
Kavous enrolled at the University of Oregon in 1984 in order to obtain a PhD. During this time, he returned to Iran many times and witnessed the destruction of Iranian wildlife as military weapons and military units proliferated in Iran. These units and weapons were used to destroy the animals that Kavous loved as he grew up. He was horrified to see this utter destruction. While in Oregon, however, Kavous continued to develop his love of the outdoors and wildlife. He explored Oregon's wild places and was an avid camper, hiker, hunter, and fisherman and was joined by friends and fellow graduate students. Kavous also brought his family, Maryam, his wife, and his two sons Ramen and Myram, to Eugene.
Upon receiving his PhD in 1991 from the University of Oregon Department of Sociology, Kavous returned to Teheran and began teaching at Immam Sadiq University, an establishment and conservative University in Iran. He taught at Immam Sadiq for over two decades. Kavous felt that his duty was to bring an awareness of and love of Iran's wilderness and wildlife to a generation of Iranians. He believed firmly that this would promote the preservation of these elements of Iranian experience. He founded and became an executive director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and focused on many projects including the preservation of the Asian Cheetah. There are only 50 Asian Cheetahs left in Iran and they are a revered animal. He also, at this time, helped sponsor photo/art work exhibits by Iranian artists emphasizing wildlife conservation that traveled the world. He became Iran's foremost exponent of conservation and the value of wild places and wildlife. At this time in Iran, Kavous led large hiking groups and campers in the exploration of many wild areas of Iran. Those who experienced these adventures termed them "life changing."
Kavous received a sabbatical and was resident in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, during the Fall and early Winter of 2017-2018 and continued his communication with his many friends in Oregon. He was unable, unfortunately, to succeed in a planned visit to Eugene in December but was able to communicate with many.
This obituary would be remiss if it did not point out that the assertion that Kavous committed suicide in prison is absurd and infuriating. Pressure has been put on his family to avoid an autopsy to determine the actual cause of death. Claims by his captors are not believed by anyone who knew Kavous at any time in his life.
On the contrary, Kavous will always be remembered by his many friends around the world as an incredibly kind and gentle man whose concern about the natural world was profound, deep, sincere and moving. He lived a simple life, in keeping with his concerns, and his service to humanity and the natural world were exemplary. He will always be remembered with deep and abiding love.
A Celebration of life will be held Feb. 24th 2-4pm at Gerlinger Lounge at the UofO.
Published in Eugene Register-Guard on Feb. 18, 2018.