Spanish Backpacker Detained In Iran While Hiking To The

Credit: ABC | Santiago Sanchez in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The Spanish football fan, Santiago Sanchez, 41, was detained by the Iranian police on his way to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

He posted photos of his backpacking trip through Iran on October 1st. He was nearing the final leg of his journey from Madrid to Qatar to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He has not posted since then.

All contact with him was lost on the 2nd of October, and many believe that he was taken into custody by the Iranian Police.

After weeks of concern among his family and friends, it was reported that he has been taken to the Iranian capital of Tehran and is in custody.

One of his friends, Francho Salamanca, said that he was arrested and is now detained in the Tehran prison.

The Spanish government stated that their Embassy in Tehran is in contact with Iranian officials regarding his release, but made no further comment. 

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has remained silent on this issue.

In his photos of Iraq, he commented that he was in the last village, near the mountains that separate him from reaching Iran. No information is available on what happened to him on entering Iran.

The Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights, an organisation based on the Iraqi border, has reported that various anonymous sources say that he was kidnapped by the Iranian Security Forces after he visited the grave of Masa Amini, who died in the custody of the Iranian Morality Police after being brutally beaten for loosely wearing the hijab to cover her hair.

Protests have erupted across the country since September 16th in response to the death of Masa Amini, 22, and the strict rules that women must follow in the country. 

According to Iran Human Rights, a Norwegian NGO, 234 protesters have died as a result of the Iranian Security Forces’ repressive measures, including 29 children.

Iran’s leaders say that the riots were caused by foreign powers, mainly the US and its allies and the “Zionists”.

His friend, Salama, called him to say that he could not join him on the last leg of his trip and that was the last time anyone was in contact with him. He had planned this trip after completing a trip of a similar nature to Saudi Arabia back in 2019.

Sanchez is a former paratrooper and an avid Real Madrid fan. He was heading to Tehran for an interview with a TV channel, and then to Bandar Abbas in southern Iran, where he planned to catch a boat to Qatar.

Before leaving, he said to his family that there would be little internet access in Iran and not to worry if they could not get in touch with him.

But his friends and family grew concerned after he failed to contact them after 10 days and reported him missing on the 17th of October.

Credit: Reuters | Santago Sanchez in Iraq.

They received information from the Spanish Embassy in Tehran that Sanchez was arrested and in the Tehran prison, the charges for his arrest are not mentioned. His mother commented that she was “ filled with hope” after hearing about his son’s whereabouts.

His sister is set to meet the Spanish Foreign Minister today in Madrid to get further information about her brother.

Santiago Sanchez started his trek in January, travelling through Europe and Turkey, sleeping in his tent, hotels and people’s homes before going to Iraq, and wanted to meet the Spanish National Team upon his arrival in Qatar.

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