Jamshid Sharmahd, a German-Iranian detainee, has been held for 267 days in a jail in Tehran. He was kidnapped in July 2020 and has almost spent a year in prison without receiving proper medical care or being accorded a court hearing.
Jamshid comes from a family of dissidents that has been living in California for 20 years. They all were victims of a failed assassination attempt by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in 2009.
His daughter, Gazelle, recounted to Asharq Al-Awsat how her father was kidnapped last year. Gazelle works in the health sector in Los Angeles and has lived with her family since the abduction.
The family’s ordeal began after Jamshid completed a trip to Europe in March 2020. He then headed to India, where he remained for three months after being stranded due to the coronavirus lockdown. He left the country as soon as the lockdown was lifted, recalled Gazelle.
At one point, he had a layover in the Gulf region, and soon after, his family lost contact with him. His mobile phone was dead, and there was no way to communicate with him. Iranian Guards media said that he had been arrested in Tajikistan.
He last spoke to his family around a month ago from his prison in Tehran.
Gazelle said that even though the call was brief, she could hear the pain in his voice.
“I am well. What are you up to?” he would always ask during the six telephone calls he has made to them in the past ten months. When his loved ones ask him if he is being fed and if he is being given his medication, he responds with a cough: “I must end the call now, goodbye.”
Other than this, Gazelle knows little about his condition.
Like the rest of the Iranian diaspora in California, Jamshid is known as a fierce critic of the Iranian regime.
Unlike other members of his family, Jamshid does not hold a Green Card but is a German national and a legal resident of Los Angeles, where he runs a business in computer programming and electronics.
Gazelle said her father was unofficially charged and without any legal proceedings. He has been denied his right to an attorney and was appointed one chosen by Iranian authorities. He was also forced to make a confession under duress.
“This is inhumane. This is madness. We still don’t know where he is being held. We know nothing. All we are getting are parts of information and not the whole truth,” she said.
During the last telephone call, Jamshid informed them that he now weighs 60 kilograms, meaning he has lost over 40 kgs, she revealed. She also recalled that he was suffering from a nasty cough, hoping that he was not infected by the coronavirus.
“He also has Parkinson’s disease and has heart problems. We don’t know if he is receiving medical care,” she stated.
Asked about what the United States has done to resolve the case, Gazelle revealed that the government has not contacted them and has not demanded that Iran release her father. She said that she has written to the government from several platforms to address her father’s case and has not yet received any response.
Perhaps they are afraid of the regime or its retaliation, she wondered bitterly. Maybe it has become expected for people not to care and for others to be kidnapped and taken to another country where they are deprived of all of their rights.
Asharq Al-Awsat has contacted the State Department and other concerned sides for the past three months to comment on Jamshid’s case, but it has not received a single response.
Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, recently told NPR that the detainees and human rights files are not on the table at the ongoing Vienna nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“They’re not part of this negotiation, but they’re part, in fact, of our thinking,” Malley said. “And we’re determined to see them released regardless of what happens on the nuclear track.”
On August 1, 2020, Iran announced the arrest of an “Iranian-American leader” of a little-known opposition group based in California. It alleged that he plotted an attack against an IRGC shrine in Shiraz city in 2008 that left 14 people dead and 200 wounded. He may face the death penalty if convicted.
The Iranian Intelligence Ministry alleges that Jamshid is a member of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran that is loyal to the former Shah regime. It said that he plotted other attacks against Iran amid the mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington. It accused him of running the Persian-speaking Tondar website and being a member of the Assembly’s militant wing.
The Ministry said he was arrested in a “sophisticated” operation without providing details, but it did release a photo of a blind-folded man it said is Jamshid.
Responding to inquiries from Asharq Al-Awsat, the German Foreign Ministry said the German government has repeatedly demanded from Tehran that its consulate be allowed to contact Jamshid.
The Iranian authorities have repeatedly rejected these requests, it said, stressing that it had also demanded that he be granted a fair trial.
The Foreign Ministry did not confirm whether it was aware of the charges that Jamshid, 66, may face.
Several media reports had said that he might be charged with attempting to overthrow the regime or conspiring against it.
Tehran actively blocks human rights organizations and Western countries from giving consular services to Iranian detainees and prisoners holding dual nationalities, a Western diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat, explaining that it was a matter of policy for the cleric-led regime.
Talking about each case is challenging, they noted.
Zoya Fakhoury, a co-founder of the Amer Fakhoury Foundation and daughter of a former prisoner of the Iran-aligned militia in Lebanon, Hezbollah, said she stands in solidarity with Jamshid’s family.
“Iranian regime needs to be held accountable for its actions, and to release the innocent victims it is exploiting for political bargaining,” Fakhoury told Asharq Al-Awsat, labeling what was happening to Jamshid as “tragic.”
“We don’t want what happened to our father, Amer Fakhoury, to happen to another innocent man,” she said, blaming her father’s death on his illegal detention at the hands of Hezbollah and warning that Jamshid could be suffering from “unimaginable” maltreatment that puts his life at risk.
Cameron Khansarinia, policy director at the Washington—based National Union for Democracy in Iran, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Jamshid’s case is a shameful example of the brutal dictatorship ruling Iran.
He said that Iran has a long history of hostage-taking and cracking down on dissidents, stressing that human and detainee rights must be a priority for any American administration.
He added that the regime in Iran only responds to pressure, so the Biden administration must constantly raise the issue of Jamshid’s arrest.
It must not back down until he is released, he urged. The administration has repeatedly spoken of the value it places on human rights, and now, its policy towards Iran is an opportunity to prove itself.
If the criminals in Iran realize that the American government will not openly defend its citizens and residents on its territories, then the Americans will be in danger, he warned.