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‘Our search for answers over lawyer Mehri’s death in mountains’

Partner calls for full investigation after 43-year-old went missing during climb

03 September, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Mehri Jafari went missing on August 4 and is presumed to have died

THE partner of a woman who went missing whilst mountaineering in Kyrgyzstan has called for a full investigation into her death.

Mehri Jafari, 43, was well known in Islington as a com­munity campaigner and a member of the Holloway Labour Party.

She went missing on August 4 after tackling the 23,000-feet summit of Peak Pobeda – one of the world’s hardest mountains to climb.

Her partner Steve Saxby said: “There are some unanswered questions about whether that team could have helped her and didn’t.

“Witnesses say they saw somebody fall. A couple of rescuers went but she couldn’t be found. It is unclear if there is any investigation ongoing. It is not clear if the leader of the [tour] group was questioned at all before he left Kyrgyzstan.”

He added: “I am hoping there will be an investigation into what had happened. There were also questions about the tour company and whether there was adequate provision for rescue.

“It is quite clear the rescue teams were very basic and not adequate enough for any proper search. The helicopter was too large to land or get close to the search area. There was no availability of drones, no equipment to get someone out of a crevice.

“Clearly more could have been done quicker had the proper systems been in place to conduct a rescue search in an event that was necessary.”

MP Emily Thornberry had helped liaise with the Foreign Office and with Kyrgyzstan.

She said: “It was a question of what can be done – can there be a rescue party sent early? Obviously, the weather was terrible and we didn’t want to put anybody at risk but on the other hand we wanted to make sure that every attempt to rescue her had been made because we couldn’t be sure that she was still alive in the early stages.

“The most important thing was that the family were kept in the loop because if I felt helpless, I hate to think how the family were feeling.”

She added: “She was a great activist in the Labour Party and a number of MPs have got in touch with me who knew her and wanted to know what they could do.”

Ms Jafari joined the Labour Party shortly after she arrived in the UK as a political refugee from Iran in 2009. She became involved in the Iranian Community Centre in Holloway Road.

She worked as a human rights lawyer in Iran and retrained in the UK, completing part time studies to earn a qualification as a solicitor. She adid work for disabled children and for some time worked as a carer for children with special needs.

She was a party organiser for the Holloway ward and she was an Islington South Labour representative for various trade union committees.

Mr Saxby said: “Through all that time as well she worked as a lawyer supporting so many people and as a solicitor.

She was involved in human rights, supporting the human rights struggle in Iran and part of a relatively new campaign to stop honour killings.”

Ms Jafari was also a poet and had been planning a Labour Party fundraiser poetry evening.

“Mountaineering was her biggest passion,” said Mr Saxby. “The energy she had to do all she did was from mountain­eer­ing. Somehow, she felt she had to go high up in altitude to gain that energy.

“It is an extremely dangerous place to climb. Mehri was experienced and knew what she was doing but we appreciate it is a high-risk sport – it is part of the attraction of what people are doing.”

The trip to climb Peak Pobeda was one she had planned for some time, said Mr Saxby.

“We are having to come to terms with Mehri’s death,” he said. “There were people who have known her in many different ways and were touched by her life. She worked for justice all the time and she was a very joyful person. Those two words sum up Mehri – justice and joy.”

Mr Saxby and Ms Jafari’s family are planning a celebration of her life for her birthday in October.

Tour company Ak-Sai Travel were approached for comment.

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