Hostage calls on Biden for help

Each year since 2012, approximately 34 U.S. citizens have been wrongfully incarcerated in foreign prisons, according to a report by the New York Times. Iranian-U.S. citizen Siamak Namazi falls among that demographic of prisoners. 

What was supposed to be a routine trip to Iran swiftly developed into a baseless conviction that left Namazi at the mercy of the Iranian regime that placed him in the infamous Evin prison for the past seven years. 

Namazi is an American businessman born in Iran, where he served as a duty officer for two years. Aware of the risks that come with conducting business with Iranian officials, Namazi traveled to the States and founded a consulting company that highlights the dangers that can arise from working with such entities.

However, though Namazi wanted to raise awareness of the potential peril that comes with working with Iran, he also saw the importance of the country and thus fought for healthy relations between the U.S. and Iran. 

Yet the lack of diplomatic relations between his home country and America became evident on Oct. 13, 2015. Namazi was preparing to leave Iran when he was prevented from doing so by government officials. 

Namazi was interrogated for and found guilty of espionage and was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison. According to BBC News, the U.S. claimed those charges had no grounds and should not have stuck.  

Why, then, is Namazi still fulfilling his time in Evin prison seven years later? 

Namazi sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Jan. 16. In the letter, he relayed his deep disappointment with U.S. officials for having unsuccessfully worked out a deal with Iran to arrange for his release, as well as the release of the other American hostages imprisoned with him. 

Namazi described to the president the horror he faces each day and the bitter frustration he has from not only being stripped of his basic rights, but from having what Namazi calls “halfhearted deals” about his release fall through countless times at the eleventh hour. 

Yet, even after being left behind after a prisoner exchange with the U.S. and Iran in 2016 and holding the title of the longest-held American hostage in Iran, Namazi’s tenacity still shines through in his letter to Biden. 

He wrote how he refuses to give his captors the satisfaction of bashing the U.S. and its leaders even after years of wrongful imprisonment and injustice. However, he wrote of the pressing need for action.

The letter implored President Biden to, at the very least, acknowledge Namazi and those left behind in Iran for one minute per day for a week. Namazi set the president an example for this kind of acknowledgment, taking it a step further by refusing food for those seven days. 

The White House has acknowledged Namazi’s letter by releasing a statement of reassurance that freeing Namazi and his fellow hostages remains the highest priority. 

Yet, after seven years of hearing this repeated sentiment, those words no longer bear much weight, particularly to the prisoners and their families who have been eagerly awaiting their rescue for years. 

Namazi composed his letter to the president in a dignified manner while pressing on the need for urgency from the White House. 

After two U.S. presidents, it is time to see that urgency put into action as President Biden brings attention to his “highest priority” and formulates a plan to bring Siamak Namazi home. 

Daniel is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter

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