US welcomes Iran lifting travel ban on ailing 85-year old dual citizen

It is unclear how, if at all, Tehran’s latest gesture will affect the issues in dispute between the West and Iran.
An undated image of Baquer Namazi (Photo: courtesy of the Namazi family)
An undated image of Baquer Namazi (Photo: courtesy of the Namazi family)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – The UN announced on Saturday that Iran had lifted a travel ban on an 85-year old Iranian-American citizen, who had been held in Iran for the past six years.

The elderly man, Baquer Namazi, is ailing. He, along with his son, were imprisoned on trumped-up charges of espionage in 2016. Although both were sentenced to ten years in prison, the elder Namazi was released from jail in 2018 for medical reasons. However, he was not allowed to leave the country.

Baquer is a former governor of Khuzestan Province and former representative of a UN fund for children. His son, Siamak, is a businessman.

Siamak precipitated the entire misadventure by visiting Iran without considering the possible consequences—namely, his arrest and imprisonment, followed by that of his father.

Unlike his father, Siamak has merely been released on a humanitarian furlough. It is for a week, although it is renewable. It is unclear under what circumstances it would be continued or revoked. Possibly, Iran sees the renewable furlough as another “card” to play in its dealings with the US and other western countries.

Until recently, the US had only harsh words for Iran, because of the multiple issues in dispute with Tehran. However, that changed on Saturday, when State Department Spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement welcoming the release of the Namazis.

US welcomes Iranian moves

“We were deeply gratified to learn from the UN Secretary-General today that Iran has lifted the travel ban” on Baquer Namazi, Price said.

“We are also grateful” that Siamak “who was also unjustly detained, has been granted a humanitarian furlough in order to be with his father,” he continued.

Price thanked the “US allies and partners” who had helped to secure their release. In addition to the UN Secretary General, they include five countries: Switzerland, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and the United Kingdom.

Other Issues in Dispute with Iranian Government

Relations between the US and Europe, on the one hand, and Iran on the other, have been severely strained recently. It is unclear how, if at all, Tehran’s latest gesture will affect the issues in dispute between the West and Iran.

They involve three main matters. One is Iran’s brutal response to the unrest triggered by the death of a young Kurdish woman in the custody of Tehran’s “morality police.” The regime’s suppression of those protests, which has caused the deaths of dozens of civilians, has precipitated widespread condemnation of Iran’s human rights abuses.

The second issue involves Iranian missile and drone attacks on the Kurdistan Region. Tehran claims—falsely—that Kurdish opposition groups located in the Kurdistan Region are responsible for the protracted unrest that has followed the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, Again, Iran’s actions have been widely condemned, by Europe, the UN, and the US.

Read More: White House ‘strongly condemns’ Iran’s attacks on Kurdistan Region—and its malign actions more broadly

The third issue involves renewing the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Donald Trump left in 2018.

Those talks have been stalled since the spring, after Iran introduced new conditions that the Biden administration simply cannot legally meet—such as its demand that any new agreement be binding on future administrations.

Possibly, Tehran hopes that by allowing Baquer Namazi to leave the country for medical treatment and allowing Siamak a respite from prison, it will win some good will to help it deal with these issues.

How Siamak Namazi brought this on

Remarkably, the younger Namazi brought all this on himself and his father through his own actions. Siamak travelled to Iran in July 2015, willfully ignorant of the dangers he might face.

Siamak was arrested some three months after his arrival, in October 2015, and then suffered months of interrogation in prison. That, in turn, precipitated his father’s visit to Iran in February 2016. The elder Namazi was promised that he could see his son—only to be tried and imprisoned himself.

Two other dual US-Iranian citizens remain imprisoned in Iran. Of course, there is a clear lesson here. Individuals who hold US or European citizenship should not travel to Iran: you may bring a world of trouble on yourself and your family and become just one more card for Tehran to play in its dealings with the West.