An American wrongfully detained in Iran is calling on President Joe Biden to consider American detainees there, launching a hunger strike on Monday to mark seven years since he was left behind in a prisoner swap that brought back other Americans at home.
In a letter to Biden, Siamak Namazi called on the US president to think of him every day during the seven days he intends to lead the hunger strike commemorating this dark milestone.
“In the past, I have implored you to reach for your moral compass and find the resolve to bring the American hostages in Iran home. In vain. Not only do we remain prisoners of Iran, but you have not even granted our families a meeting,” wrote Namazi, who is one of three Americans who remain wrongfully detained in Iran. Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz have also been imprisoned there for years.
“All I want, sir, is a minute of your time for the next seven days to reflect on the tribulations of American hostages in Iran,” Namazi wrote to Biden. “Just a single minute of your time for every year of my life that I lost in Evin Prison after the US government could have saved me but didn’t. That’s all.”
“Alas, since I am in this cage, all I have to offer you in return is my additional suffering. Therefore, I will starve myself for the same seven days, in the hope that by doing this you will not deny me this small request,” he said.
Namazi was prevented from leaving Iran after his visit in July 2015 and underwent months of interrogation before being arrested in October 2015. He was not included in the prisoner exchange with Iran in January 2016 which led to the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, a Navy veteran. Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini. A fifth American was also released separately around this time.
“When the Obama administration left me in undue danger and released the other American citizens held hostage by Iran on January 16, 2016, the American government promised my family to bring me home safely within a few weeks,” Namazi wrote in his letter on Monday. “Yet seven years and two presidents later, I remain locked up in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, holding that long overdue IOU and the unenviable title of longest-held Iranian-American hostage. Of the history.”
A National Security Council spokesperson said the Biden administration remains “committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi and we are working tirelessly to bring him home with all American citizens wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad.” Shargi and Morad Tahbaz”.
The spokesman added that it is “outrageous” for Iran to detain US citizens for political purposes.
“Our priority is to return all of our wrongfully detained citizens to their homes safely and as soon as possible and to resolve cases of missing and abducted U.S. citizens,” the spokesperson said.
The United States does not maintain diplomatic relations with the Iranian regime, although it has asked the government to release the detained Americans. Tensions between Tehran and the West have further escalated following the brutal crackdown on protests in Iran and the executions of protesters. Over the weekend, Western governments condemned the execution of Alireza Akbari, a British-Iranian dual citizen who was hanged after being accused of espionage and corruption.
Namazi’s brother, Babak Namazi, told CNN that this week is especially painful for his family every year.
“It’s just a horrible week, like to think that seven years, seven whole years have passed, which could have been avoided if at that time Siamak had been included with the other five Americans,” Babak said.
In February 2016, Namazi’s father, Baquer, was lured to Iran under the false premise that he could see his son. Instead, he was immediately taken into custody at the time. Siamak and Baquer Namazi were sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2016. Baquer was released from Iran after more than six years in October 2022. That same month, Siamak was granted leave from Evin prison, but was was forced to return soon after. .
Babak said his “family is of course gravely concerned about Siamak’s health and upset that he has resorted to such desperate measures ‘as a hunger strike’.”
“President Biden, Siamak is begging you, my family is begging you. Please, please take what it takes to make those courageous decisions that we know you are capable of,” Babak told CNN.