Join us to #FreeAmir

In a bi-partisan effort led by Congressman Dan Kildee, members of congress have joined together to call for Amir to be freed from Iran's notorious Evin prison. You can view photos of those members of congress who stand up for Amir and his freedom  here and here

We ask that you join us in standing up for Amir and calling for his freedom. Download the graphic below, take a picture, and post it on Twitter with the hash tag #freeamir and share it on our Facebook wall. 

Together, we can stand up for Amir. Together, we can be Amir's voice.




 

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Premiere Performance of "I Will Fly (Amir's Song)"

"I Will Fly (Amir's Song)" performed live for the first time  on February 3, 2012 at the Woodside Church in Flint, Michigan. The performance was apart of the Mott Community College Haiti Benefit Concert. The Amir Hekmati Freedom Campaign would like to thank all those involved in the recording of this song and their dedication to raising not only awareness about Amir's detention, but their voices on behalf of Amir while his voice has been silenced. 

Vocals: Matthew J. Packer (composer) and Richard Kerry Thompson, Flutes: Townes Osborn Miller and Mary Procopio, Cello: Krista Black, Guitar: Bradford Fielder, Bass: Jack McDonald, Percussion: Delaina Oberman, Choir: Mott Community College Concert Choir and Chamber Singers, Flute/Cello Orchestration: William Withem, Video Recording: Jeff Bussure

One Year Too Long

On December 17th 2011, I was abruptly awoken in the middle of the night by a friend who had known about my brothers arrest in Iran since August. She told me to check out news reports from Iranian State TV claiming that they had recently arrested a CIA agent of Iranian descent who was caught spying for the United States. I rushed to check the internet, searching desperately for the news.

Iran was claiming to have recently arrested a CIA agent of Iranian descent caught spying for the United States.

My friend was one of the few people who knew that my brother had been detained in Iran. We kept our silence, trying to work with Iranian authorities to secure his release. It was December 17, 2011. I had convinced myself they couldn’t be talking about my brother; Amir had been detained in August.

***

The next day, on December 18, 2011, my family was blindsided. Iran had aired on State TV a video of my brother, showing him “confessing” that he was a spy. Soon, other media outlets picked up the story, and wherever we went, we saw Amir’s face staring back at us. This was the first time we had seen Amir’s face since he departed in August to visit our aging grandmothers.

I was with my children at an indoor playground the first time it happened. I looked over at the television and saw my brother – a thinned and pale version of my brother who had always been athletic and health-conscious – staring back at me.

“Look!” said a woman to her companion, “That’s the American that was captured in Iran for being a spy.”

In my mind, I screamed, “That’s MY brother and he is NOT a spy!”

***

My family (husband Ramy, and two young children) had been traveling with my mother when all of this broke. Back home in Flint, Michigan, media vans were parked outside of our family home, and my father and younger brother were left to deal with the media, unsure what to do. My parents’ son, my brother, and my children’s uncle was now known worldwide as a spy.

We knew the truth. We knew that Amir was not a spy and the great lengths that he went to before traveling to Iran for the first time to visit our relatives. He spent a lot of time asking Iranian-Americans that have traveled to Iran for advice and to share their experiences. He asked officials all of the right questions before taking this life-changing trip.  The problem was, as this story was being reported, no one else did.

We knew that this was a tactic used by Iranian officials – coercing confessions and airing them on Iranian State TV.

We were so confused by what was going on. When our grandmothers were able to visit him in October, prison officials gave them the impression that Amir would be home at the end of November. As Amir's family we knew we had to do something.  We released a statement denying any charges that Amir was a spy. The next day, the State Department released one of their own, dispelling Iran’s claims that Amir was a spy and asking Iran to allow the Swiss Ambassador access to Amir. Previous to the announcement of Amir being a spy, the Swiss Ambassador tried to gain access and was always denied, being told that Amir was an Iranian who entered Iran on an Iranian passport so he was not allowed consular access by the Swiss. Hearing Iran call Amir an American working for the CIA in news reports gave us a glimmer of hope – maybe now they would allow the Swiss to visit him. Those hopes were quickly extinguished.

***

For the next two weeks, my family worked diligently, trying to find out what information that we could and create a plan on how to proceed. We worked desperately to get Amir legal representation in Iran. This was no easy task. From August until January, Amir had no legal representation. When Iran aired that Amir was a spy for the CIA, few lawyers wanted to take our calls. They feared that representing Amir  would be seen as defending an enemy agent working against their government.

Amir had told relatives in Iran that he had heard his trial would be in two weeks. He was certain he would be found innocent and would be released. Two days after this conversation, we learned that Amir was tried in a closed trial and was found guilty. They sentenced him to death.

***

We couldn’t eat. We couldn’t sleep. Every time the phone rang, we feared that we would be receiving news of Amir’s death. For a period of time, the only information we were getting on Amir’s case was along with the rest of the world in media reports. We had no advance knowledge. On the few occasions we did have advance knowledge, it was being contradicted. At one point, we feared Amir’s execution. Someone had told us it would take place in January.

My mother rushed to Iran and was allowed to visit Amir. It was the first time she had seen him in six months. It was during that visit that we finally learned that Amir’s case would go before the appellate court. We still held our breath.

In March, the appellate court ruled that Amir’s case was incomplete, stating that there was insufficient evidence against him to sentence him to death. The day I heard this news was one of the happiest days of my life.

That was in March. Since then, Amir has not been seen by our relatives or his attorney. Letters we send do not reach him. There has been no movement on his case.

It has been now been one year, three months, and twenty days since Amir was detained. His case remains unresolved. 

Our father is now receiving treatment for brain cancer. He has lost his hair from radiation. He keeps fighting and holding on, hoping that soon Amir will be freed and once again our father will hold Amir in his arms. Amir doesn’t know that our father has cancer.  In January, our father will begin chemotherapy.

In some ways, it doesn’t seem like it has been a year since Amir’s face first appeared on television networks. In some ways, it feels like it has been a lifetime. We live one day at a time. We have no ill-will towards Iran or the Iranian authorities, and only wish that this misunderstanding would be cleared up and Amir released, so our family can be whole again. 

We get up each day and we hold onto hope.

Thanksgiving Reflections

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On this Thanksgiving Day, there will be one seat empty at our table. Today will be the second Thanksgiving that we have without Amir.  My 4 year old son asked last night if Uncle Amir was coming over with all of his other uncles, and it broke my heart to tell him that he was not. This is the time of year that my mom would make our favorite dishes and we would gather together and catch up on the things that were going on in our lives. My mom always loved cooking for Amir because he made her feel like everything she made was the best dish he ever had, making all her hard work feel worthwhile. We spent many of these holidays with just our parents and siblings until I was married, and afterwards Amir felt like he inherited my husband's brothers that he always looked forward to spending time with. My husband and his 3 brothers made this day together all the more special for Amir to look forward to. On this day of giving thanks, I am grateful to God that Amir is still alive, that he has the prayers and support of people around the world. I pray for his strength, safety,health and sound mind.  I hope that these prayers lift him up in spirit and that he knows we are longing for that one day when his seat will fill our table again.

On Day 438 By Sarah Hekmati

Transient

If someone would have pulled me aside and whispered in my ear the challenges that were awaiting me, I would have never believed them.

If they would have told me that my brother would be captured by Iranian intelligence officials and held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, I would have thought they had watched too many movies.

If they would have told me he would be sentenced to death, I would have thought that they were crazy.

If they would have told me that his death sentence would be overturned, but he would be kept in solitary confinement away from his attorney, family, and the outside world, I would have thought they were out of their minds.

And if they would have told me that while all of this was going on, my father would be diagnosed with brain cancer and may not have more than a year to live, I would have thought they were downright cruel.

Except this isn’t a movie. No one is crazy or out of their mind.

Cruel, though? Yes, this has been a cruel year.

In 1979, our parents packed their suitcases and left Iran for America. This wasn’t a decision that was easy for them to make, knowing they would be leaving everything they knew and all of their family behind. They made this decision, though, for us – their children – because they wanted to give us a better life.

Growing up as the children of immigrants, celebrating holidays and important milestones was always bittersweet. We celebrated gladly with our immediate family, and some of our friends’ grandparents “adopted” us by taking us under their wings and filling the role for our grandparents in Iran. It wasn’t the same, though, and we all longed to connect with our relatives in Iran and have a greater sense of who we were and the family that helped shaped us.

This was particularly hard for Amir. Outside of our immediate family, the only relative he had met was our grandmother and the last time he saw her was when she visited the US when he was 12 years old. He was deeply connected to our grandmother. When she returned to Iran, she had accidently left her prayer clothes behind. Amir would sometimes miss her so much he would sleep with those clothes because they smelled like her. He needed that connection with our grandmother. Her not being there, in our everyday lives, meant that a part of him was somewhere else.

I’ve been to Iran twice. My first trip was when I was 19 years old and I enjoyed meeting and spending time with my family and learning about the culture I came from. In 2007, I went again, taking my husband, Ramy. This was Ramy’s first trip to Iran. He was so impressed with Iran and its people. We filled our days meeting relatives and eating delicious Persian food. We took in the bustling streets of Tehran, the ruins of Persepolis, and the many historical sites in Isfahan and Shiraz. We couldn’t wait to come home and share the details of our two week adventure with Amir.

Amir was happy for us, but in a shared moment with my husband, Amir opened up. He looked at Ramy and said: “Isn’t it sad that everyone in my family has been to Iran except me?”

Ramy understood. He, too, is a first generation American. Amir had traveled with us to Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. He witnesses my husband meeting those relatives for the first time and how special it was for Ramy. Amir longed to have that, too, so it was no surprise when he decided he would travel to Iran.

Amir stayed with my husband, children, and me as he contemplated the next chapter of his life. He was recently accepted into the University of Michigan’s Economics program and was enjoying this last summer before the program began. Soon school would consume his life. After school, pursuing a career would then become a priority. Amir was originally going to accompany my mother and other siblings to Iran in June. A scheduling conflict prevented this from happening. He considered putting his trip off, visiting the next summer with my mother, but feared if he did this, he may never see our grandmother again. She was aging quickly and her health was not the best. This was the window of opportunity he had been waiting for. Amir spoke with other Iranian-Americans that had traveled from the US to Iran and back again several times. He began preparing his paperwork for the visit, careful to follow the rules and regulations necessary to travel to Iran. He asked all of the right people all of the right questions and celebrated a little bit when the answers made his trip less of a dream and more of a reality.

We said good-bye to Amir, sincerely happy that he was going to finally make that trip, no longer being the exception in our family. We couldn’t wait to hear the stories he would tell us on his return: his impressions of Iran, where he visited while traveling, which family members he was able to meet, what his favorite meals were, how he felt after making that connection with family he had never known. On the day that he left, we never expected to not know when we would see him again.

Today, as I write this, I think of the holidays Amir has missed, the family meals we haven’t been able to have, and the birthdays he should be home for. I think about my father fighting his body to hold so he can feel his son in his arms again, and the hope my family has each morning when we wake up, praying that today may be the day we get a phone call from Amir, and we are able to finally hear his voice. Even better, maybe today will be the day we find out that Amir has been freed and will be returning home.

This past year has taught me a lot about family, about loyalty, and about holding onto hope. Family has always been important to me, but you never fully understand or appreciate it until your family is threatened. Every day, we raise our voices for Amir. We do so without fail. There are days that are better than others. And there are days when I wake up, exhausted, never really being able to rest. Those are the days when I hold onto hope the tightest.

It’s been 438 days.

It’s time for Amir to come home. 

Amir's Vote

On this Election Day, I will tell my daughter to get ready, gather up my things, make sure I have my ID in my purse, and travel to my closest polling station to cast my vote.

For some, it will seem like something that we automatically do -- without much thought -- every four years. For others, particularly first time voters, there will be a certain pride felt in exercising this right that so many people in the history of America have fought to have, keeping in mind that many people have fought for us to have this right, too.

For me, however, I will think about Amir Hekmati.

Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona. He grew up in Nebraska and Michigan. He served in the US Marines. And now he is languishing away in Ward 209 of Iran’s notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Last January, he was sentenced to death by an Iranian court for being a spy, a claim that his family and the US government denies. They also charged him with Corruption of the Earth and Waging War Against  God –charges that are hard to understand, particularly from a Western point-of-view. The death sentence was the first for an American in 33 years, since the Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fortunately, in March, his death sentence was overturned and a new trial was ordered. Unfortunately, since then, there has been no retrial. In fact, there has been very little movement at all, leaving Amir in solitary confinement without contact with his family in Michigan. Even letters sent to Amir do not reach him.

His attorney in Iran, one appointed and approved by an Iranian court, has been given little or access to Amir. Diplomats acting on behalf of United States interest have been denied visits. His relatives in Iran have also been turned away.

Today, when I vote, I will also think about history. I will think about the hostages taken 33 years ago, held for 444 days. Amir has been held for 436.

I will think of Amir, who only wanted to visit his aging grandmother. I will think back to my own grandparents, all residing in different countries while I was growing up. I will try to imagine what it must be like, being a citizen of America, and being arrested simply for wanting to see my Nan before she left this world for the next. I will think of other people held as political prisoners, past and present, with their human rights stripped from them for no reason at all.  

I don’t know who Amir would vote for today, if given the opportunity. I am certain, however, that Amir would vote. So, today, when I cast my vote, it won’t only be my vote. It will be Amir’s vote, too. It will be a vote I make in hopes of bringing Amir home. Soon.

-Amy Mueller

Event: Jailed Humanity: In Support of an American's Quest for Freedom from an Iranian Prison

Location: 555 Gallery and Studios, 2801 W. Vernor Hwy, Detroit MI 48216

Exhibition Period: November 17th-December 2

Opening Reception: November 17th 6-10pm

Event title: Jailed Humanity: In Support of an American's quest for freedom from an Iranian Prison

Jailed Humanity: An exhibition of visual and performing arts curated artist Manal  Kadry, with assistance from  Flint resident Sarah Hekmati to raise awareness and gather regional community support for her  brother, Amir Hekmati, who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage.  The exhibition includes photography, sculpture, political cartoons, paintings, and music by local and national artists and students. The exhibit will be held at 555 Gallery and Studios located in the former Detroit Third Police Precinct. The precinct’s 5’x7’ holding cells remain and will bring to reality a sense of Amir's imprisonment. Select works will be for sale and the proceeds will go the Amir Hekmati Freedom Fund. To learn more about Amir's imprisonment or make a contributuion visit http://www.freeamir.org/

Background: While visiting his grandmothers in Iran for the first time in August of 2011, Flint, Michigan resident and former Marine Amir Hekmati was detained by Iranian officials and charged with spying for the CIA. His family and the US government deny these claims.  Although initially sentenced to death, his case was overturned in March of 2012 and a new trial was ordered. Since that ruling, Amir remains a prisoner held in solitary confinement in Ward 209 of Evin Prison. He has no visitors, receives no letters, and is not allowed to contact his family. Amir's attorney is also kept from seeing him.