Yellow Ribbon Project

American Bob Levinson Held in Iran for Seven Years Now

Sunday marked seven years since a former FBI agent disappeared on an Iranian island.

Robert Levinson, a 65-year-old retired FBI agent and father of seven, was working as a private detective on a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian resort port in the Persian Gulf with looser entrance requirements, when he disappeared on March 9, 2007.

Levinson’s wife, Christine, has reported her frustration from years of trying to push the administration to get her husband home. After releasing in January photos the family had received from his captors, Christine Levinson said she’d gone to the press with the pictures, received nearly two years earlier, because “there isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this.”

In November, Levinson became the longest held U.S. hostage in history, passing Terry Anderson’s 2,454 days in captivity at the hands of Hezbollah before being freed in 1991.

“Nothing can bring those lost years – more than 2,500 days in all – back to all those who love him. Mr. Levinson’s disappearance has been heart-wrenching for his wife and children, who feel his absence especially deeply at the many family milestones missed these past seven years,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Sunday. “The United States remains committed to the safe return of Mr. Levinson to his family. We appreciate the support and assistance from our international partners as we work to end this awful separation. Given Mr. Levinson’s health, age, and length of time in captivity, we mark this anniversary with a special sense of urgency.”

“We respectfully ask the Government of Iran to work cooperatively with us on the investigation into his disappearance so we can ensure his safe return,” he added.

The administration has conceded that discussion about Levinson — and two more Americans being unjustly held by Iran, Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini — was at the most a sideline conversation at the P5+1 talks in Geneva and the three men were not included in conditions under which sanctions would be peeled back. U.S. officials have said off the record that they believe the Iranian government is behind the hostage photos and video emailed to the family.

The FBI is offering a $1 million reward for any information that could lead to his safe return.

“This is the seventh year that Mr. Levinson has spent without his family. We remain committed to the hard work ahead to ensure that it’s his last,” Kerry added.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Society) and the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) asked the 20,000 members of both associations to observe a moment of silence on Friday to mark the solemn anniversary.

Today, the Levinson family released a voicemail saved from January 2007, two months before he disappeared.

“The voicemail speaks for itself as you will hear how it encompasses everything that is good and right about our amazing dad,” the family said in a statement. “Please continue to be outraged that he is still being held. This is humanity at its worst. Bob Levinson has devoted his entire career to serving our country. He deserves better than this.”