Spanish Man Trekking To World Cup Reported Missing In Iran

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish man who was documenting his formidable journey by foot from Madrid to Doha for the 2022 FIFA World Cup has not been heard from since crossing into Iran three weeks in the past, his household stated Monday, stirring fears about his destiny in a rustic convulsed by mass unrest.

The skilled trekker, former paratrooper and fervent soccer fan, 41-year-old Santiago Sánchez, was final seen in Iraq after mountaineering by 15 international locations and extensively sharing his journey on a well-liked Instagram account during the last 9 months. However his exuberant posts stopped abruptly on Oct. 1, the day he entered Iran from the nation’s unstable northwestern border.

Sánchez’s household says his every day WhatsApp updates stopped that day as properly. Weeks later, they concern the worst.

“​​We are deeply worried, we can’t stop crying, my husband and I,” his mom, Celia Cogedor, informed The Related Press.

Sánchez’s mother and father have reported him as lacking to Spain’s nationwide police and the Overseas Ministry.

However Spanish authorities say they haven’t any details about his whereabouts, including that the Spanish ambassador to Tehran was dealing with the matter.

Calls to the Iranian Overseas Ministry looking for remark weren’t instantly returned on Monday.

Sánchez’s reported disappearance in Iran — his final cease earlier than reaching Qatar for the World Cup — comes as protesters stand up throughout the Islamic Republic within the largest antigovernment motion in over a decade. The demonstrations erupted on Sept. 16 over the loss of life of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old lady taken into custody by Iran’s morality police for allegedly not adhering to the nation’s strict Islamic gown code.

Sánchez has not been heard from since crossing into Iran three weeks in the past, stirring fears about his destiny in a rustic convulsed by mass unrest. That is based on his household, who spoke to the Related Press on Oct. 24.

Tehran has violently cracked down and blamed overseas enemies and Kurdish teams in Iraq for fomenting the unrest, with out providing proof. The Iranian Intelligence Ministry stated authorities had arrested 9 foreigners, largely Europeans, over their alleged hyperlinks to the protests final month.

Westerners and twin nationals have more and more develop into pawns in Iran’s inner political struggles and in tensions between Tehran and Western capitals, analysts say, with a minimum of a dozen twin nationals arrested lately on disputed spying prices.

Sánchez arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan in late September, after trekking hundreds of kilometers (miles) carrying a small suitcase in a wheeled cart, filled with little greater than a tent, water purification tablets and a gasoline range for his 11 months on the highway. He stated he wished to find out how others lived by residing amongst them earlier than reaching Qatar, the primary World Cup host nation within the Arab world, in time for Spain’s first match on Nov. 23.

“The idea of the journey is to motivate and inspire other people to show that they can go very far with very little,” he informed the AP from Sulaymaniyah, a Kurdish metropolis in northeastern Iraq. “You can go a long way walking.”

The day earlier than he disappeared, Sánchez had breakfast with a information in Sulaymaniyah. The information, who spoke on situation of anonymity for concern of reprisals, stated he tried to warn Sánchez in regards to the harmful political scenario in Iran as they parted methods.

Protests in Iran’s Kurdish area after Amini’s loss of life kindled the nationwide unrest nonetheless roiling Iran. In response, Iranian forces have unleashed drone and artillery assaults concentrating on Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.

However Sánchez was undeterred and assured, the information stated.

“He didn’t look nervous at all. He told me, ‘I sorted out everything, don’t worry,’” he stated. They communicated by Google Translate, as Sánchez solely speaks Spanish.

Sánchez, the information added, deliberate to satisfy an Iranian household within the Kurdish city of Marivan — a scene of latest antigovernment protests. The household, delighted by Sánchez’s Instagram posts, had reached out and supplied to host him.

After Sánchez crossed the border on Oct. 1, his messages turned sparse and cryptic, the information stated. Sánchez informed him that issues have been “very different” in Iran from Sulaymaniyah, the Iraqi metropolis full of parks and cafes.

“It’s been a long story,” his final message learn.

Sánchez’s mother and father stated he had warned them he’d quickly lose web entry after reaching Iran.

“The country is ‘hot,’ and there are no communications,” Sánchez informed his father in his final message on Oct. 1, presumably a reference to the turmoil in Iran’s Kurdish area and the federal government’s disruption of web and widespread communications purposes utilized by protesters.

His mother and father tried to not fret when their messages didn’t ship. However their worries grew because the weeks handed.

The Spanish Overseas Ministry stated it had registered Sánchez’s border crossing into Iran and was not ruling out any prospects.

In his final Instagram replace, the evening earlier than he crossed the Iranian border, he posted photos of his emotional farewell to Iraq and informed of a Kurdish household’s generosity. He had deliberate to camp on a mountain, however the proprietor of a close-by farm took him in, giving him a mattress, bathe and a hearty dinner.

Photos on Instagram present him consuming bread and rooster soup, smiling and posing with younger boys from the village and ingesting tea over an open fireplace.

“Conclusion:” he wrote, “Lose yourself to find yourself.”

DeBre reported from Jerusalem. Related Press author Salar Salim contributed from Irbil, Iraq.