Father, son on hunger strike in Iran prison, outside White House

It feels 'as if my plight and my family's plight apparently don't matter. I don't know how else to put it'.

An Iranian immigrant to the United States who was jailed in Tehran and his son camping outside the White House have together gone on hunger strikes to win the elder’s freedom after he was not included in a deal to free US citizens.

Shahab Dalili — who is a US permanent resident but not a citizen — was jailed in 2016 after he said he returned to Iran for his father’s funeral. He was handed 10 years in prison on espionage-related charges he strongly denies.

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His 28-year-old son Darian Dalili, who lives in Massachusetts, said he drove to Washington upon hearing about the deal made public Thursday in which five US citizens are expected to be freed, saying it was “heartbreaking” his father was not mentioned.

Dalili on hunger strike

It feels “as if my plight and my family’s plight apparently don’t matter. I don’t know how else to put it,” said Darian Dalili, who is a US citizen and said his father would have been as well “if he hadn’t been taken hostage.”

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Dalili received a phone call from Tehran’s Evin prison from his father, who initially tried to change his son’s mind about going on a hunger strike but then decided to do the same.

The younger Dalili, who has set himself up in Lafayette Park outside the White House, said he has only been consuming water since Saturday.

“What I’m hoping to get is a response, an action from the American government,” he said Monday. “It’s just a move of desperation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that no more US citizens were known to be imprisoned in Iran following the deal, with the five prisoners moved to house arrest as an initial step.

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Abram Paley, the State Department’s acting special envoy on Iran, has spoken to the Dalili family but Shahab Dalili has not been formally designated as wrongfully detained, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.

Process ‘ongoing’

“There’s a process that is ongoing as it relates to actively reviewing and assessing individual cases for indicators for wrongful detention,” Patel told reporters.

President Joe Biden’s administration has also heard appeals to include in the deal Jamshid Sharmahd, a German citizen who lived in California and who has been sentenced to death.

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Patel said Tehran’s treatment of Sharmahd has been “reprehensible” but that it was for Germany to address his case.

Under the deal for the five Americans, South Korea will unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue frozen to comply with US sanctions, sending the funds to an account in Qatar for humanitarian use.

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