Families of Hostages Still Held by Iran Vow to 'Remain Quiet No Longer'
Families of hostages held by Iran, including Americans, declared in an open letter this week to world leaders, media outlets and human-rights organizations that they "shall remain quiet no longer."
"We come from many countries, with different backgrounds and different perspectives, but we have banded together now to come to you as one voice," they wrote, noting that in September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, "several of our families gathered together for the first time to share stories and struggles about getting our loved ones released."
"We met again a few weeks ago, this time to share our testimonies with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran," they added. "The similarities between our loved ones’ cases is striking. Each story is not just a case of arbitrary detention, but deliberate and tactical moves by the Iranian authorities to secure bargaining chips."
The coalition includes the family of hostage Baquer Namazi, 82, who was arrested in Tehran in February 2016 after trying to secure the release of his son, Siamak Namazi, a U.S. citizen and businessman who was arrested in October 2015 while visiting a friend in Tehran.
In October 2016, the Namazis were sentenced to 10 years in prison "for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government against Iran." Baquer has been hospitalized several times, and has life-threatening heart problems. Siamak has been subjected to torture.
It includes the family of retired FBI agent Bob Levinson, who disappeared nearly 11 years ago off the coast of Iran and is America's longest-held hostage. The Levinson family filed a lawsuit against Iran in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia "for injuries suffered by each of them as a result of Iran's unlawful acts of hostage taking, torture and other torts."
And the coalition includes the family of Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-American and permanent U.S. resident who is secretary-general of the Dupont Circle-based IJMA3 group, which lobbies for the information and communications technology industry in the Middle East. Zakka earned degrees from the University of Texas after graduating from the Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga., in 1985. He used to work as a software engineer at contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root in the early '90s.
Zakka visited Tehran at the invitation of the Iranian government to speak at a conference on women's entrepreneurship and employment, and was seized as he tried to catch a return flight in September 2015. The State Department even helped fund his trip, according to his colleagues.
He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges a year after his arrest, and has undertaken lengthy hunger strikes in protest of his detention. His family warned months ago that Zakka is in "very bad health."