KXXT 1010 AM
A detailed discussion on Iran, its people, the Islamic regime and its goals for the region and the world. Also discussing my story as a CIA spy in the revolutionary Guards.
March 01, 2014
Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re: Iran: Move Puts Nuclear Deal at Risk The deputy foreign minister says the country is fashioning its response after the U.S. extended a blacklist for evading sanctions, but European officials say they don’t see the landmark deal in danger. Also revelation on news on Robert Levinson’s association with CIA on a mission in Iran…flash back to 2011 “An Iranian defector now living in the United States, Reza Kahlili, told the AP that Levinson was picked up by the Quds Force, a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard… Kahlili said Levinson was taken to a safe house in Tehran. A former FBI official said the U.S. was aware of that account and, though he described Kahlili as credible, the U.S. could never confirm his story.
A touching review on my book ‘A Time to Betray‘:
By: Helen E. Faria
This is one of the most heartrending, and at the same time, enthralling accounts I have ever read of courage, dissimulation and personal suffering in the genre of espionage memoirs. This is the story of a courageous man, who justly betrays and risks his life (and that of his family) to fight surreptitiously against the cruelties and injustices of the ruling government of his native country — Iran. This book struck a personal cord with me because it reminded me of painful and regretful similarities that beset my own family in my native country, Cuba, just before and after of the Revolution that brought to power the dictator Fidel Castro and his brother Raul in 1959.
As a very young child, I remember various members of my family arguing passionately but amicably for and against the dictatorial government of Cuban President, Fulgencio Batista, his coup and dictatorship, his trampling on the legendary Constitution of 1940, the lack of political rights, the cruel imprisonment and even systematic torture of rebels captured while fighting against his regime (an opposition in which my own parents played a clandestine part), etc. I remember one my great uncles arguing and warning us about the malevolent changes the triumph of the revolutionary “barbudos” could bring about — but my parents did not listen, and came to regret it! After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 and the establishment of communism in Cuba, there was indeed drastic “change,” but this militated change was for the worse — the inception of a culture of deception, oppression, and horror, and there would no longer be friendly political discussions among families, but only mistrust, dissimulation, and fear.
Eerily, the same thing happened in far away Iran in 1979 with the fall of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the takeover of Iran by the mullahs and Ayatollah Khomeini, and the inception of a brutal Islamic Republic. Our hero, young Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) was brought up in a close, prosperous family in Teheran. He remembers the “good old days” of traditional festivities, gatherings, his loving grandfather patriarch defending the ruling Shah of Iran, his ruling dynasty, and the old Persian mores in amicable and engaging conversations among family members. Living in such a warm and jovial atmosphere, Reza, could not have imagine the horrific changes that would be brought about so rapidly in Iranian society with the advent of the “Islamic Republic,” which he joined with excitement after returning to Iran from studying abroad in California.
Nor could he have ventured to guess that most of his family and closest childhood friends would so soon be devoured by the Revolution and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in which he compliantly served the tyranny. The proverb says “be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.” Alas, that is what happened for those who wanted change in Cuba and Iran, deriding and helping to overthrow Batista in Cuba and the Shah in Iran by revolution. Many of those citizens would end up crushed by Castro and the Ayatollah — who were significantly worse tyrannical figures than their predecessors. And the tragic concatenations that followed in both countries in their wake have not yet ended!
But let us now part from the comparison and focus on Iran and our hero, the subjects of this book. This is an excellent tome, expertly written, personal, passionate, and although it reads fast, like a suspense thriller, it also has interspersed background material recounting brief episodes in the history of Iran that are necessary to the narrative. For example, we learn the Iranians had mixed feelings about (and many resented) the British and Americans, among other reasons, because of interference in their nation’s affair. For example, in 1953 those governments, using the CIA as a vehicle, helped overthrow the democratically elected president of Iran, a (militant) nationalist, Muhammad Mussadegh, who had nationalized the oil industry, and had forced the Shah (a friend of the West) to flee the country.
It is also of historic interest that, as I remember a few years back in 2007, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, defending his country’s right to a nuclear program, stated, “the country of Iran was heir to a great empire and home to a 2,500-year civilization.” I was surprised at the statement, as I always thought the conquests of Mohammed and the religious and cultural revolution of the 7th century, imposed by the victorious Arabs on the conquered Sassanid Persians, had resulted in a new and distinct Islamic nation. Moreover, with the fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty, the last Persian monarchy, the drastic changes brought about by the revolution of 1979, and the inception of an Islamic Republic (a virtual theocracy), had brought about yet another distinct nation. Iranians have a long history as Persians and speak Farsi. Arabs have a more recent civilization, attaining historical distinction with the conquests of Mohammed and speak Arabic. I was gratified that Reza’s loving grandfather and many other more secular Iranians, cognizant of their heritage, agree with my cultural interpretation. These Iranian nationalist and traditionalists think of themselves heir to a distinct but vanishing Persian civilization that had been suppressed culturally by Arab Islamism, and more recently politically with the tyranny of the mullahs and the ayatollahs.
I will not reveal the heartrending stories of cruelty and betrayal, as well as dissimulation and courage, that revolve precariously around our hero Reza, who, as a member of the feared Iranian Revolutionary Guard, courageously spied against the cruel regime he ostensibly served. Suffice to say, the brutality of the regime against his friends and the Iranian people changed him into leading a double life, spying for the CIA for over a decade. Among the information Reza provided to the CIA was vital intelligence that probably prevented the collapse of the Saudi government. The Iranians had planned to use the hajj, the religious pilgrimage that Moslems must make to Mecca, to stage a coup d’etat. Armaments were sent for the hajj, but most of these were intercepted and many of the militants arrested beforehand, foiling the insurrection. Other information was communicated to the U.S. at great peril, but not necessarily used properly by the American government, which was bent on placating the mullahs through various administrations.
The double life took its toll, but Reza persisted in his clandestine espionage with the thought of bringing about genuinely real change for the betterment, the attainment of freedom, and improving the life of his countrymen. How he did his self-appointed mission, and how he survived spying at great personal risk from within the belly of the infernal beast are the enthralling subjects of this book.
Without reservations, this heartrending thriller is highly recommended for those who enjoy non-fiction thrillers, recent history, and passionate espionage accounts. Be ready to stay anxiously at the edge of your seat and hold back irrepressible tears of commiseration, sorrow and outrage! I assign it a 5-star rating.
Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. is the author of Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Lost Paradise (2002) and of other books and numerous articles on politics, espionage, and history, including “Stalin’s Mysterious Death” (2011), “The Political Spectrum — From the Extreme Right and Anarchism to the Extreme Left and Communism” (2011); “America, Guns and Freedom” (2012);”Violence, Mental Illness, and the Brain — A Brief History of Psychosurgery” (2013), etc., all posted at his website haciendapublishingdotcom
The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake
Los Angeles Times
Former CIA spy advocates overthrow of Iranian regime
By: David Zucchino / July 6, 2012
Ex-soldier in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard writes of life as CIA spy
By: Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer
July 10, 2010
Q&A With Reza Kahlili, Iranian Double Agent.
By: Hannah Elliott / May 20, 2010
David Ignatius reviews ‘A Time to Betray,’ the memoir of an Iranian double agent
By: David Ignatius / April 11, 2010
For all reviews on A Time to Betray, please visit: Praise & reviews
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that approx. one in five “flagged” job applicants to the CIA connected to terrorist groups.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 9/2/2013, 5:55 PM
Approximately one in five “flagged” job applicants to the US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had ties to either Hamas, Hezbollah or Al Qaeda, according to a Washington Times report.
The report is based off ofdocuments leaked by former NSA agent Edward Snowden.
These latest revelations indicate the high motivation among Islamist terrorists of various stripes to infiltrate US intelligence agencies.
In response, according to the leaked documents, the NSA investigated 4,000 instances of suspected “abnormal staff activity,” including tracking employee keystrokes on agency computers and recording document downloads.
Edward Snowden is wanted by the United States on espionage and other charges after he gave journalists classified documents detailing the NSA’s far-reaching electronic and telephone surveillance programs.
On August 1, Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia. He is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014, and his asylum status may be extended annually upon request.
Snowden leaked classified information to the Guardian and Washington Post pertaining to alleged NSA eavesdropping on telephone calls and emails of private citizens, then fled from his home in Hawaii, to a Moscow airport, via Hong Kong. After staying in the airport for more than a month, the Russian government decided to grant him political asylum.
Snowden’s decision to leak the documents, and his subsequent flight to Russia, have significantly strained US-Russian relations and ignited a fierce debate over the limits of intelligence agency eavesdropping and free speech.
Iranian Parliament has approved a plan to start legal action against the United States and Great Britain for damages sustained from the August 1953 Coup that toppled the government of Prime Minister Mosadeq.
The Khaneh Mellat website reports that the plan is entitled “legal and political pursuit of the role and interference of the United States and Great Britain in the August 19, 1953 coup d’etat against the National government of Iran.”
The plan entails establishing a committee to pursue the case and report to the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission every three months.
Once the committee has come up with a reasonable estimate of the damages, the administration will reportedly be charged with pursuing legal action in international courts and bodies.
Published time: August 19, 2013 11:30
On the 60th anniversary of the 1953 military coup in Iran that overthrew the government of radical nationalist Mohammad Mossadegh, the US has declassified documents detailing how the CIA’s secret operation brought the country’s Shah back to power.
“American and British involvement in Mossadegh’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup,” the US National Security Archive said.
Monday’s publication under the US Freedom of Information Act came as something of a surprise, since most of the materials and records of the 1953 coup were believed to have been destroyed by the CIA, the Archive said. The CIA said at time that its “safes were too full.”
The newly-revealed documents declassify documents about CIA’s TPAJAX operation that sought regime change in Iran through the bribery of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, and massive anti-Mossadegh propaganda that helped to instigate public revolt in 1953.
Among the declassified documents there are several examples of CIA propaganda presenting Iranian PM Mossadegh disparagingly.
“This propaganda piece accuses the Prime Minister of pretending to be ‘the savior of Iran’ and alleges that he has instead built up a vast spying apparatus which he has trained on virtually every sector of society, from the army to newspapers to political and religious leaders,” the Archive said. “Stirring up images of his purported alliance with ‘murderous Qashqai Khan’ and the Bolsheviks, the authors charge: ‘Is this the way you save Iran, Mossadegh? We know what you want to save. You want to save Mossadegh’s dictatorship in Iran!’”
Iran became independent from Britain after WWII and in April 1951 Iranians democratically elected the head of the National Front party, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Mossadegh moved quickly to nationalize the assets in Iran of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the forerunner of today’s BP) a step that brought his government into confrontation with Britain and the US.
Britain’s MI6 military intelligence then teamed up with the CIA and planned, elaborated and carried out a coup that ousted Mossadegh in August 1953 and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power.
The first attempted coup failed after Mossadegh got wind of the conspiracy, but American and British intelligence services in Iran then improvized a second stage of the coup, pulling pro-Shah forces together and organizing mass protests on August 19, 1953. These protests were immediately supported by army and police. Mossadegh’s house was destroyed after a prolonged assault by pro-coup forces, including several tanks.
Mossadegh was replaced with Iranian general Fazlollah Zahedi, who was handpicked by MI6 and the CIA. Mossaddegh was later sentenced to death, but the Shah never dared to carry out the sentence. Mossadegh died in his residence near Tehran in 1967.
The Shah’s pro-Western dictatorship continued for 27 years and ended with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which paved the way for today’s Iran, where anti-American sentiments remain strong. The 1953 coup still casts a long shadow over Iranian-US relations.
The declassified documents originated from an interim report, called “The Battle for Iran,” prepared by a CIA in-house historian in the mid-1970s. The historian wrote: “[T]he military coup that overthrew Mossadegh and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy.” The report also mentions that the US establishment feared that Iran could be “open to Soviet aggression,” and therefore initiated Operation TPAJAX, which eventually became the American part of the joint US-British ‘Operation Ajax’ that brought the Shah to power.
The “aggression” mentioned by the CIA historian is likely a reference to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Iran during WWII, when a USSR-Iran treaty signed in 1940 enabled Moscow to establish military prescriptive in Iran in case of any threat to the borders of the Soviet Union. Moscow did put this treaty to use during the WWII and partly occupied Iran in 1941-1945.
The National Security Archive said it that while it “applauds the CIA’s decision to make these materials available, today’s posting shows clearly that these materials could have been safely declassified many years ago without risk of damage to national security.”
Though at least two US Presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have publicly acknowledged the US role in the Iranian coup, the intelligence services in Washington have always been reluctant to admit direct involvement in the 1953 coup.
After the collapse of the USSR, the CIA proclaimed a “policy of openness” and made a commitment to declassify some documents regarding Cold War covert operations, including the coup in Iran, by US intelligence.
Three successive CIA directors – Robert M. Gates, R. James Woolsey, and John M. Deutch – promised to publish documents, but none delivered.
Archive deputy director Malcolm Byrne appealed to the US intelligence community “to make fully available the remaining records on the coup period.”
“There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past. The basic facts are widely known to every schoolchild in Iran. Suppressing the details only distorts history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides,” Byrne said.
The Morning Call came out with its pick of the top 3 books in the Nonfiction category on August 3rd and chose a Time to Betray as the number 2 book on the list.
6:24 p.m. EDT, August 3, 2013
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
1 By Megan Smolenyak (Penguin, $15)
Originally broadcast on NBC, the Emmy-nominated ancestry show “Who Do You Think You Are?” has just kicked off its fourth season on TLC. Each week a celebrity embarks on an eye-opening journey to trace his or her roots. This official companion guide will help you to do the same. It offers everything for charting your family history, from how to find clues from old photographs, to tracking down legal certificates and which online resources are best for what purpose.
A TIME TO BETRAY
2 By Reza Kahlili (Simon & Schuster, $16)
After returning to his beloved Iran from studying in the United States, Kahlili became concerned about the changes under Ayatollah Khomeini‘s dark regime. With the hopes of being able to make a difference, Reza joined the elite Revolutionary Guards of Iran, where he witnessed first-hand the horrors and took drastic action to save his country. “A Time To Betray” is the deeply moving and exhilarating memoir of a man who led a double life spying for the Americans to save the Iranian people.
DARWIN’S GHOSTS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF EVOLUTION
3 By Rebecca Stott (Spiegel & Grau, $17)
Stott explores the history of the natural philosophers whose works contributed to Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. After being accused of taking credit for an idea that others began developing before him, Darwin tried to trace those who laid the groundwork for his theory, but many already had been forgotten by history. Stott recounts the evolving discoveries of these brilliant minds, from Aristotle, Al-Jahiz and da Vinci to Alfred Wallace and Darwin himself.
Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem is America’s oldest bookstore.
By: ALYSSA FARAH
Alyssa Farah is a special Washington correspondent for WND.
Foundation calls WND’s Kahlili ‘Speaker of the Truth’
WASHINGTON – Former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member-turned-CIA spy Reza Kahlili, who has pulled back the curtain on some of the innermost secrets of the Islamic regime, has been honored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth at its “Rays of Light in Darkness” dinner.
Kahlili, a WND author who exposed Iran’s secret nuclear site named Quds (Jerusalem), consisting of three facilities with over 380 missile depots, showed the rogue regime was working on biological weapons and documented a missile base where the weapons armed with microbial warheads were located, uses a pseudonym to protect his identity.
He worked for years for the CIA, gathering intelligence on Iran’s terrorist activities and in recent years has been writing for WND.
The seventh annual Rays of Light in the Darkness dinner held by the The Endowment for Middle East Truth also featured Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
Kahlili appeared through Skype to accept his “Speaker of the Truth” award, donning a surgical mask, baseball cap and glasses to mask his identity. A device was used to disguise his voice as he addressed the audience.
Kahlili, who wrote the best-selling “A Time To Betray,” told his story of how he came to join the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and, later, why he chose to turn against it.
“I decided to write the book to let the world know who the Iranians are, and how dangerous the radicals ruling them can be, not only to the Iranians, but to the world,” Kahlili explained chillingly.
Born to an upper-middle-class Iranian family, Reza experienced a pre-revolutionary Iran that was much different from the nation today. He spent several years in America studying, before returning home to a country he barely recognized.
He recalled his decision to join the Revolutionary Guards under Ayatollah Khomenei after being told he could help bring about a free and more prosperous Iran.
Become a part of the investigative reporting team uncovering the truths about Iran, and get author Reza Kahlili’s “A Time to Betray” about his life as a double agent inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
However, Kahlili quickly discovered he was serving a tyrannical ayatollah whose vision for Iran was vastly different than his.
After witnessing atrocities at Evin Prison, he made the decision to return to America, becoming a spy for the CIA. He was given the code name “Wally” and told that if he were caught, he was considered expendable.
While working as a spy in Iran, Kahili was at risk of torture and death every day if caught. He eventually left Iran to continue his spying activities in Europe before he and his family ultimately moved to America.
“My stay in Europe marked the second phase of my work. I infiltrated the Islamic community and the guards and their activity. In Europe, I witnessed the guards activity in recruitment, exchanging cash and explosives. They used the mosques as one of their centers for activities,” Kahlili said.
Perhaps the most crucial intelligence that Kahlili helped bring to light was Iran’s continued pursuit of enriched uranium for military use. Kahlili activated sources within Iran shortly after 9/11 and continued to provide intelligence to the CIA.
Kahlili closed out his acceptance speech with a warning to Americans in the audience. He expressed the importance of understanding the ideology of Iran’s leaders and its implications for the rest of the world.
“Its doctrine knows no boundaries and stands in diametric opposition to the most basic principles taken on by Western civilization,” he said. “We must take these threats seriously and we need to act and stop Iran from acquiring the nuclear bomb. Not only for the vital national security interest to us, but the world’s stability lies on it.
“If we once again remain silent in the face of evil, the world will witness another holocaust that will be much greater,” he warned. “Millions will die and millions of others will suffer unimaginable horrors.”
He continued, “It is time we confront this and help the Iranians liberate themselves.”
EMET is a think tank and policy shop in Washington that works to preserve and defend the national security of the United States and its ally Israel in their joint struggle “against the force of radical Islam.”
“EMET emphasizes Israel’s unique role as the eastern outpost of Western democratic values, holding down the fort against a rising tide of radical Islam,” the organization explains.
Sarah Stern, a chief for EMET, said people such as Kahlili “should be awarded, praised and feted for their unparalleled courage.”
“They have managed to penetrate down through the layers and layers of societal bias and hatred, and reached down to what makes us all human,” Stern said.
“I do not know, if I were in their place, if I would be as courageous. They are among the very best specimens that humanity has to offer,” she said.
In a profile in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Vincent Pry, a former CIA military analyst who directs the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, said there’s “probably nobody better on our side in explaining the mind-set of those in power in Iran” than Kahlili.
“He understands the ideological sources of Iran’s nuclear program,” Pry said.
In the same report, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Kahlili had convinced him of the importance of supporting the opposition and hardening sanctions against Iran.
“I thought I knew a lot about Iran until meeting with him,” King said on a New York political radio program.
EMET said its honors go to “righteous Muslims, Persians and Arabs who have bravely spoken out against radical Islam, and its hatred of Jews and Israel.”
“We, at EMET are proud that we are the first Jewish, pro-Israel organization, who has taken it upon itself to say thank you to those incredibly courageous Muslims, former Muslims, Persians or Arabs who have risked everything, including exclusion from their family and friends, exclusion from their community, and even their very lives, to speak the truth about the Islamist assault on Western civilization as we know it,” Stern said.
“And we are proud tonight to honor those, who have dared to think outside of the box; who dare to stand with Israel, who dare to stand for the cause of human freedom and to stand against the mounting forces of radical Islam. We are proud to have with us today such heroes such in the struggle as Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett and Mrs Annette Lantos, who will accept the Award in memory of the late Rep. Tom Lantos; Rep. Jeff Duncan; Senator Ted Cruz; Brett Stephens of the Wall Street Journal and courageous author and speaker of the truth: Reza Kahlili.”
The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) regrets to announce that due to heightened security concerns, Reza Kahlili – in consultation with EMET – has determined that he will be unable to attend in person to receive his Speaker of the Truth Award at the EMET Rays of Light in the Darkness dinner on June 19th in Washington, D.C.
This unfortunate situation is yet another reminder of the reality of the threat posed by the Iranian regime against those who have the courage speak out against their tyranny.
Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Reza will be able to join us via internet video conferencing, broadcasting live from an undisclosed location. Guests of the Rays of Light in the Darkness Dinner will still have an opportunity to hear from the former CIA spy, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps member, best-selling author, and Speaker of the Truth.
For more information on the Rays of Light Dinner, go to http://www.emetonline.org
Rays of Light In the Darkness Dinner
Wednesday June 19, 2013
EMET is proud to bestow the Speaker of Truth Award to honor a courageous defender of truth, Reza Kahlili, a former CIA operative in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). He is the author of the award-winning book, A Time to Betray.
Bret Stephens will also receive the distinguished Speaker of Truth Award. Mr. Stephens is the Deputy Editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. In addition, Mr. Stephens writes the Journal’s “Global View” column on foreign affairs.
Also honoring: The Late Honorable Tom Lantos, The Honorable Ted Cruz, and The Honorable Jeff Duncan
The British eavesdropping agency GCHQ has had access to America’s “Prism” system since at least June 2010, according to the Guardian. (File Photo: AFP)
Friday, 7 June 2013
The U.K. government has been secretly gathering communications data from American Internet giants through the medium of the U.S. National Security Agency, Britain’s Guardian newspaper says that.
The paper reported that it has seen documents showing how the British eavesdropping agency GCHQ has had access to America’s “Prism” system since at least June 2010.
It says the program has generated 197 intelligence reports in the past year.
GCHQ declined to comment on the story Friday, saying only that it takes its legal obligations “very seriously.”
The Guardian has recently published a series of stories on America’s secret surveillance dragnet, revealing the stunning details of an undisclosed intelligence operation targeting millions of Americans’ phone, email, and Internet records.
Hekmati received a death sentence in January 2012, but two months later, Iran’s high court ordered a retrial.
(Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
FLINT, Mich. — Behnaz Hekmati remembers the call she got from her son saying he was planning to return to home from his trip to Iran.
Nearly two years later, the Flint mother is still waiting for his return.
Amir Hekmati, a 29-year-old U.S. veteran, has been locked up since August 2011, accused of being a CIA spy — a claim which his family and the U.S. government repeatedly have denied.
“This disaster changed our life,” his mother said.
His family said Hekmati went to Iran to visit his two grandmothers who live there and was taken by force during the third, and final, week of his visit. He appeared on video about four months later in Iranian custody, and since then, his family has been working to secure his release.
On Wednesday, his older sister, Sarah Hekmati, 32, returned from Washington, D.C. — her fourth visit there — after meeting with officials, including the ambassador of Switzerland to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, who is representing U.S. interests in Iran.
Sarah Hekmati said she was told during the trip that Iranian authorities may revisit her brother’s case, which makes her optimistic.
“I feel hopeful,” she said. “On the U.S. end, we have members of the State Department, U.S. government officials and a lot of bipartisan support.”
Dealing with the ordeal
A 2005 photo shows former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, 28, of Flint, Mich., who is being detained in Iran accused of being a CIA spy.(Photo: Courtesy of family)
The situation has taken its toll — emotionally and financially — on the family.
“I really, really miss him,” Behnaz Hekmati told the Free Press from her home in Flint earlier this month. “I don’t know how long we can take this.”
She hasn’t seen her son in almost a year since her last trip to visit him in prison in Iran, but he is on her mind constantly.
Amir Hekmati’s framed picture sits on an end table next to the couch in the home where he grew up. It’s the same couch where Hekmati signed papers to join the U.S. Marines, his mother said.
“He said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to see the whole world,’ ” she recalled. “Then suddenly … 9/11 happened.”
Her son, who served as a rifleman and informal interpreter, was deployed to Iraq for six months in 2004. Hekmati, who speaks Arabic and Farsi in addition to English, had a business translating for people when he got out of the military, his family said.
He had planned to study economics at the University of Michigan when he returned from Iran, the family said. Instead of going to Ann Arbor, he has spent about 21 months behind bars, 16 of them in solitary confinement, his family said.
His conditions since have changed and in March, family members received letters from Hekmati for the first time.
He wrote that he loves and misses them, wants to come home to see them, and told his father, Ali Hekmati, who is on leave from his microbiology professor job at Mott Community College in Flint and undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer, to take good care of his health.
Amir Hekmati was incarcerated at the time his father was diagnosed with cancer.
His family allowed the news media into the hospital last September and word of his father’s illness made it back to Amir Hekmati through the families of other prisoners, his parents said.
“It’s been very hard for us for us,” Ali Hekmati said. “I miss him dearly.”
Working on his case
His family, who has maintained Hekmati was in Iran legally and did nothing wrong, has worked through Iranian government channels, written letters to Iran’s leaders, met with elected officials in the U.S. and hired an attorney in Iran.
Hekmati received a death sentence in January 2012, but two months later, Iran’s high court ordered a retrial.
“My son was not a spy,” his father said.
The State Department have called the charges “categorically false,” and previously said that Hekmati endured a “closed-door trial with little regard for fairness and transparency.”
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said during a news media briefing last month that officials are “determined to secure his release and remain deeply concerned about his well-being in Iranian custody.” He said they’ve been working continuously to secure Hekmati’s release, but didn’t discuss specifics.
Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan Chapter in Southfield, said he told the Iranian government that he is willing to go to Iran and bring Hekmati home if they want to turn him over to his custody. He said he wants due process for Hekmati.
“All that I request from the Iranian government is that Amir is given a fair, transparent trial with legal council that he chooses for himself, so that he can face the charges presented against him,” he said. “If they can’t provide that, or if they don’t feel the need to do that, then we ask them to show mercy and let Mr. Hekmati go.”
His family, who said he was always there for them willing to help with anything, wants him released as soon as possible.
“We miss him,” Ali Hekmati said. “We need him. He needs us.”
The early years
Ali and Behnaz Hekmati came to the U.S. from Iran in 1979 and brought their children up with knowledge of parts of Iran, including the food, culture and people.
Amir Hekmati, who was born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and moved to Flint in 1991, had never been to Iran before and wanted to go see the country he heard so much about and be with family still there, his mother recalled, even though she worried about him going.
“Instead of holding him with a warm greeting, you put him in a jail,” she said. “It is not fair, he didn’t do anything.”
She has been to see him three times and said her son, who enjoys working out and likes playing soccer and hockey, didn’t have much muscle because of lack of exercise. He lost weight and was being kept in solitary confinement during her visits.
His prison conditions changed after a hunger strike. Hekmati passed out from hunger and was moved into a cell with others, family members said. A judge granted permission for his uncle in Iran to visit once a month, Hekmati is allowed to exercise one hour per day and he also has been permitted to write letters to family members.
“At one point in time … nobody heard from Amir for months and he was not allowed visitors,” Walid said.
It’s hard to know what to make of the changes because it’s hard to read the Iranian government, he said.
During her visit in D.C., Sarah Hekmati gave the Swiss ambassador to Iran books, letters and personal items to take back to Iran in hopes of getting them to her brother.
“I gave him some pictures my kids have drawn for him,” she said.
Meanwhile, his mother spells out her dreams for him: come home, go back to school, get married and have children.
“It will happen,” her husband assured her. “It will happen.”
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