SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego resident has been missing in Iran and his friends are pleading for his safe return.
In May, Shahini traveled from San Diego to Iran to visit relatives. He had no problems until July 11, when authorities arrested him at his mother's home. They told his family to keep the situation quiet.
"When they took him, they told family it is a national security matter,” said Robin Shahini’s girlfriend, who did not want to be identified.
However, his friends here in the U.S. aren't certain of that. That's why they've spreading Robin's story on social media, pleading for Secretary of State John Kerry to help.
“No one knows where they took him, who took him, no one knows anything. All we know is he's gone, by Iranian intelligence,” said Robin’s friend Denera Ragoonanan, who lives in New York.
For the past 16 years, Robin has lived in San Diego, where he became a U.S. Citizen. He recently graduated from San Diego State with a degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution. He planned to start pursuing his master’s degree this fall in Homeland Security, with an emphasis in peace and justice.
On his Facebook page, Shahini is open about his passion for human rights. However, his girlfriend says "he's not even a serious political activist."
Friends reached out to PEN America and Amnesty International USA. So far, both groups have nothing to report. However, they told 10News there's a worrisome trend in which Iranian authorities are increasingly arresting and harassing dual-nationals like Robin.
PEN America says there are cases affecting the journalistic, literary and creative/artistic communities, including poets, film-makers, and cartoonists.
“We at PEN receive word frequently on Iran cases and have several dozen on our case list,” said Karin Karlekar, PEN’S Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs.
Earlier this year, ABC News reported a victory for US diplomacy. Iran freed five Americans during a prisoner swap. Combined, they spent nine years in captivity.
The uncertainty of past cases has Robin's friends worried for him.
"My biggest fear is what is going to happen to him if they want to give him long-term prison,” said his girlfriend.
Both PEN and Amnesty International told 10News that public outcry is a must in these cases.
“Fortunately, all the cases of Americans we’ve worked on were eventually resolved, but only after a great deal of public pressure was put on Iranian authorities,” said Elise Auerbach, Amnesty International USA’s Iran specialist. “Very often the authorities will tell prisoners and their families to just be quiet and not go public and all will go well, but the opposite is true.”