For this American family, the nuclear talks with Iran are personal

“Whenever I tell him, ‘Oh, I wish you were here, I wish we could do this together, when I cook something and I wish he could try it, he always says,’ Whatever will happen, will happen, everything will be ‘fine … don’t worry about me’ “said Ariana Shargi.

But this time he told Ariana he was thinking of Thanksgiving and told her he wholeheartedly hoped the family could all be in their DC home like he could turn them into a turkey. “Usually he doesn’t really talk like that, wishes for things,” said Ariana of her father, who has been imprisoned by Iran since 2018. But this time “I think I heard him his voice – crack.”

The Biden government insisted that the Emad Shargi case, along with the other cases held in Tehran, should be separated from negotiations aimed at bringing both the US and Iran back into line with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a nuclear deal officially known. This pact provided Iran with easing of sanctions in exchange for restricting its nuclear program.

When talks resumed after a six-month hiatus with a new Iranian team appointed by the country’s recently elected Conservative government, US officials continued to insist that the American hostages and nuclear talks be separated.

“We want to keep them separate because we don’t want to stop the hostages being released, we don’t want to make them dependent on an agreement on the JCPOA,” a senior State Department official told reporters on Saturday.

“We believe the hostage should be released in any case, and we will continue to pressurize whether the JCPOA continues or not.”

The official, who grimly announced the talks in Vienna, said Iran’s tendency to take foreigners hostage was “just unscrupulous”.
At least 16 other dual citizens, such as Emad Shargi, and one foreign national were in Iran (either detained or under house arrest and not allowed to leave) in August 2021, according to an investigation by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

The detained US citizens – Shargi, Baquer and Siamak Namazi and Morad Tahbaz – are among the at least 66 publicly known cases of Americans either held hostage by non-state actors or unjustly held abroad by foreign governments in 16 countries, Margaux Ewen, the executive director of the James Foley Foundation, told CNN.

The number of undisclosed cases is believed to be much higher, she added.

Groups like hers and supporters of hostages are concerned that the very real human stories of Americans held hostage like Emad Shargi may be lost as the nuclear negotiations slowed after six rounds of talks and now again due to frustration with Iran could fail.

Since the talks in Vienna do not seem to be making any immediate progress, these proponents should give the hostages a higher priority.

“First of all, you have to put people in the foreground of the discussion,” said Sarah Levinson Moriarty, whose father Robert disappeared in Iran in 2007 and presumably died in Iranian custody.

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“We have seen time and time again that our Americans do not come home unless they are at the beginning of negotiations,” she said. “It has to be a prerequisite for any deal, and I believe this government is having a hard time doing it, but that’s what they have to do if they really care about getting our Americans home – and there are long-suffering Americans in Iran. ” that has to be brought home. “

Moriarty told CNN that her family hopes US officials will reclaim her father’s remains as well.

“We understand and have accepted that he died, but we cannot be closed until the Iranians give us something,” she said.

“My family, we haven’t had a funeral or memorial for my father,” she added. “He is of Jewish descent. We cannot sit Shiva for him as it would be the tradition. We have nothing.”


The Shargi women – his daughters Ariana and Hannah and his wife Bahareh – are concerned about Emad’s health, but recently he has had more access to the community phone in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison and can call “maybe every other day” for 10 minutes “says Bahareh.” I was fortunate to have known him for 33 years. He’s a person who’s still trying to sound good in the worst and worst of times, and right now he’s really trying to sound good to us. “

The Shargis have weekly meetings with administrative officials dealing with hostage issues, including the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and his team. There were also occasional calls to the US special envoy to Iran, Rob Malley. The meetings “are very supportive,” says Bahareh, describing the talks as “largely”.

“They usually want to know how I’m doing, how often he’s called, how he’s feeling, how we’re doing, whether there’s anything they can do for us,” she says.

“Obviously, they don’t have much to share with us,” says Ariana. “It’s good to have the support, but of course it’s hard until my father gets home.”

Ewen of the James Foley Foundation said the government should “give priority to the release of all Americans who have been illegally detained by the Iranian government and are held in multiple administrations,” Ewen told CNN. “It really needs to be high on the agenda stand.”

“It’s a big world”

Ewen told CNN that she believes the US government and all other third party mediators need to be smart about how they get prisoners back and ensure that they are accountable for unlawful detention of Americans.

Price told reporters last week that when nuclear talks stalled, the US kept in regular contact with its allies on the issue of American prisoners, many of whom include citizens arbitrarily or wrongly detained by Iran. “We have no higher priority than the safety of Americans overseas. And of course that includes Americans who are being unjustly detained, as is the case in Iran,” he said.

Babak Namazi, whose father Baquer and brother Siamak are being held in Iran, was not particularly hopeful when talks resumed in Vienna, especially since there had been so little communication between the United States and Iranian officials since hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office.

“With the six laps running in a row, it almost felt like and every time there was progress we were told that the hostages were progressing too,” he said. “I was much more hopeful in the previous laps. Now I don’t know what to expect.”

Bahareh just wishes that the Iranian government would approach her husband’s case in a humanitarian manner. “Just see him as a person and nothing more than someone who has a wife, someone who has children, someone who has two old parents who are basically waiting for the door, waiting for him to come back,” she says.

“I know it’s a big world. Big talks are going on. But at the end of the day all I care about is my little family, which consists of Emad and the two girls. We have been torn apart in the last four years. ”For no reason. Emad is an innocent American and we just want him at home. “

This story has been updated to relate comments to a State Department official.

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