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US citizen imprisoned in Iran for 7 years announces hunger strike, begs Biden to do more for detainees

An Iranian-American dual national arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2015 penned an open letter to President Biden begging him to do more for US citizens imprisoned by the Middle Eastern country’s authoritarian regime.

In his letter to the 80-year-old president, released on Monday, Siamak Namazi wrote that “the U.S. Government could have saved me but didn’t” and he calls on Biden to spend “just a single minute of your time for each year of my life that I lost” thinking about the plight of US citizens detained in Iran. 

Namazi said that he is now the “longest held Iranian American hostage in history,” and he will begin a weeklong hunger strike on Monday to commemorate his unenviable distinction.

“When the Obama Administration unconscionably left me in peril and freed the other American citizens Iran held hostage on January 16, 2016, the U.S. Government promised my family to have me safely home within weeks,” Namazi writes in his gut wrenching letter to Biden.

“Yet seven years and two presidents later, I remain caged in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison,” Namazi adds. 

Namazi, 51, was the head of strategic planning at Dubai-based Crescent Petroleum before his arrest and incarceration. He was convicted in Iran on charges of cooperating with a hostile government – the United States – and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Siamak Namazi
Siamak Namazi, who has been in Iran for seven years, said that he is the “longest held Iranian American hostage in history.”
Free Siamak and Baquer Namazi

Namazi was not included in a January 2016 prisoner swap that resulted in the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, US Marine Corp veteran Amir Hekmati, and pastor Saeed Abedini.

Namazi is doing his time in Tehran’s Evin prison, alongside two other American citizens being held at the same facility, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz. 

In his letter, Namazi claims prison guards taunt him over the fact multiple US presidential administrations have failed to strike a deal with Tehran for his release. 

“My captors enjoy taunting me about that fact by saying things like: ‘How can your beloved America be so heartless? Not one but two U.S. presidents freed others but left you behind!’” Namazi writes.

“Yet my frank reply deprives them of any satisfaction,” he adds. “I tell them while I remain highly indignant about the invidious distinction the U.S. Government can make among its citizens at risk, I never forget that it was not Obama or Trump who imprisoned me on made up charges. That it is clear whose vile hostage diplomacy has blighted the lives of so many innocent men and women and their families.”

A National Security Council spokesperson told CNN on Monday that the Biden administration remains “committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi and we are working tirelessly to bring him home along with all US citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.”

Iranian flag
Namazi was convicted in Iran on charges of cooperating with a hostile government – the United States – and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 
Getty Images/EyeEm

“Our priority is bringing all our wrongfully detained citizens home safely and as soon as possible and resolving the cases of missing and abducted US citizens,” the spokesperson told the outlet.

In August of last year, Namazi’s brother, Babak, said that the US claim that his sibling’s release is a top priority “feels empty after nearly seven years of hearing it from three different U.S. administrations.” 

Siamak Namazi was critical in his letter of the president’s handling of American hostages in Iran, and he pleaded with Biden to do more. 

“In the past I implored you to reach for your moral compass and find the resolve to bring the US hostages in Iran home.  To no avail.  Not only do we remain Iran’s prisoners, but you have not so much as granted our families a meeting.

“So today I feel compelled to adjust my ask. All I want sir, is one minute of your days’ time for the next seven days devoted to thinking about the tribulations of the U.S. hostages in Iran. Just a single minute of your time for each year of my life that I lost in Evin prison after the U.S. Government could have saved me but didn’t. That is all. Alas, given I am in this cage all I have to offer you in return is my additional suffering,” he continued.

“Therefore, I will deny myself food for the same seven days, in the hope that by doing so you won’t deny me this small request,“ Namazi wrote, announcing his hunger strike. 

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