A Spanish man has reportedly gone missing in Iran while trekking from Madrid to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The family of Santiago Sánchez say they have not heard from him for three weeks, stirring fears about his fate.
“We are deeply worried, we can’t stop crying,” his mother, Celia Cogedor, told AP reporters.
Sánchez, an experienced trekker and avid football fan, has so far hiked through 15 countries, documenting his nine-month journey on Instagram.
In a voice message to his family, the former paratrooper said he was traveling to Tehran, before heading to Bandar Abbas to board a boat to Qatar.
Sánchez had already warned his family before entering Iran that communication wouldn’t be as easy as it had been in previous months.
Iran is currently experiencing internet blackouts, with the government turning off mobile data and phone lines amid unprecedented unrest.
The 41-year-old last contacted his relatives on October 2, the day after he crossed the Iraq-Iran border. His parents reported him missing on October 17.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry said it had no information about Sánchez’s whereabouts, adding that the Spanish ambassador to Tehran was handling the matter.
His reported disappearance comes amid unprecedented anti-government protests in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman taken into custody for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
The Iranian Intelligence Ministry said authorities had arrested nine foreigners, mostly Europeans, over their alleged links to the protests last month.
Several other Western or dual nationals are currently imprisoned in Iran on disputed spying charges.
Sánchez's family say the hiker has not made any propaganda and previously visited Iran in 2019 on a bicycle trip from Madrid to Saudi Arabia.