Americans Held Prisoner in Iran Saw Promise of Better Relations

When Siamak Namazi traveled to Tehran in the summer season of 2015, Iran had simply signed a landmark nuclear deal and the federal government was encouraging expatriates to return dwelling and convey their experience and {dollars}.

So the 51-year-old Iranian American businessman flew from his dwelling in Dubai to go to his dad and mom and attend a funeral in Iran.

But he was arrested and charged with “collaborating with a hostile government” — an allusion to the United States — and finally grew to become the longest-held American citizen that Iran has acknowledged imprisoning. In January, he went on a starvation strike for seven days to deliver consideration to his ordeal.

On Thursday Mr. Namazi, together with 4 different twin nationwide Iranian Americans, grew to become half of a prisoner swap deal between Iran and the U.S.

“I’ve been a hostage for seven and half years — that’s six times the duration of the hostage crisis,” Mr. Namazi mentioned in an interview from prison in March with CNN, referring to the American embassy employees who had been taken hostage in Iran throughout the 1979 revolution and held for 444 days. “We’ve been taken for one reason and one reason only — and that’s because we’re U.S. citizens.”

In change for releasing the Americans, the U.S. agreed to launch 5 Iranians jailed for violating sanctions towards Iran, and to launch about $6 billion of Iran’s frozen belongings being held in South Korea. The cash might be transferred to a checking account in Qatar and may solely be utilized by Iran for humanitarian functions, reminiscent of paying for medication and medical tools.

The ordeal for the American being held in Iran is hardly over. Iran’s international ministry mentioned the 5 might be allowed to board a aircraft out of Iran solely when the cash lands in the Qatari checking account. For now, they’ve been launched from jail and stay below home arrest at a Tehran lodge.

The different American prisoners embody Emad Sharghi, 58, a businessman sentenced in 2020 to 10 years in jail on spying costs; and Morad Tahbaz, 68, a British-born businessman and wildlife conservationist who was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years on costs of “contacts with the U.S. government.”

The U.S. authorities has not named the opposite two prisoners, citing their households’ requests that they continue to be nameless. One is a businessman from California who was detained almost a 12 months in the past, and the opposite is a girl who labored for nongovernment organizations in Afghanistan and was arrested in 2023, in accordance with individuals conversant in the deal and Iranian media reviews.

Mr. Namazi grew up all around the globe and has a grasp’s diploma from the London Business School. He comes from a widely known household from town of Shiraz in central Iran, the place a significant hospital is known as after them. Mr. Namazi had traveled backwards and forwards to Iran and had lived in Tehran, working at a family-run consulting firm.

He grew to become an professional on Iran’s financial system, markets and inevitably the politics that overshadow all sectors in Iran. He studied the influence of sanctions on Iran’s financial system and was acknowledged by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Leaders.

“It’s a tragedy for someone as talented as Siamak to waste away in prison for eight years, some of the most productive years of his life,” mentioned Ahmad Kiarostami, an in depth buddy of Mr. Namazi’s. “He is a fighter. Even in jail he wanted to stay on top of international news and read as many books as he could.”

His father, Baquer Namazi, 87, was the governor of Khuzestan Province earlier than the nation’s 1979 revolution and went on to work for UNICEF in senior roles around the globe. In 2016, a 12 months after the junior Mr. Namazi was arrested, Iranian authorities lured his father again to Tehran from Dubai with a promise that he might see his son. The senior Mr. Namazi was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail on the identical costs as his son.

Because of his failing well being, the senior Mr. Namazi was allowed to go away Iran in October 2022 to hitch his household in Dubai and to endure medical therapy for blocked arteries in his mind.

Mr. Tahbaz, a rich businessman who had lived in Connecticut and was a recognized amongst mates for his huge recreation hunts, found on his journeys to Iran that the nation’s Asiatic cheetahs had been in hazard of extinction. So he determined to behave.

In 2018, he co-founded the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to the safety of endangered animals in Iran. In 2018, he and eight different workers of the group had been arrested on spying costs.

Mr. Tahbaz suffered from prostate most cancers throughout detention and caught Covid-19 thrice, his daughter Tara mentioned in an April interview with Reuters. His sister told the BBC that he had misplaced 88 kilos in detention. Mr. Tahbaz has three kids. His spouse, Vida, 64, traveled to Iran after he was detained and has since been banned from leaving the nation.

“Morad has always been a man dedicated to his family, community, wildlife and Iran,” mentioned Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, a plastic surgeon in New York and buddy of Mr. Tahbaz. “He spent his life trying to save the critically endangered species.”

Mr. Sharghi, 58, relocated to Tehran on a whim together with his spouse in 2017 after their two daughters left for faculty in the U.S. The couple had vacationed all through the nation and loved reconnecting with kin and Iranian tradition.

A associate at an organization in Abu Dhabi leasing and promoting personal airplanes, Mr. Sharghi had explored enterprise alternatives with Iranian start-ups.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2021, his spouse, Bahareh Amidi, a poet, described her husband as an angel who was trapped in a jail cell with out his wings. She mentioned he was “the kindest gentlest partner, the most present father.”

In 2018 safety forces raided the couple’s dwelling and arrested Mr. Sharghi. After an eight-month detention he was launched from jail and later exonerated of all costs. But the authorities had held onto his passport and when he tried to flee the nation in 2021 via a land border they arrested him and sentenced him to 10 years in jail.

The ordeal for the American prisoners and their households is predicted to finish by September with their deliberate departure from Iran. But recovering from the trauma could take longer.

“The pain our family has gone through over the past three years is indescribable,” Ariana and Hannah Sharghi, Mr. Sharghi’s daughters, wrote in a 2021 essay in The Washington Post. The cherry blossom tree in their again yard had bloomed and withered once more, they mentioned, with out him current.

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