For the third year in a row, Nahid Taghavi, a retired architect and German citizen, is in Tehran's brutal Evin Prison, where she has been mistreated after being wrongly convicted on trumped up charges as the Iranian regime exploits her foreign citizenship for money and influence.
COLOGNE — My mother, a German architect, is being held hostage by Iran. Monday is her birthday, and she will spend it in prison.
Aug. 28, 2023 is a Monday, and on Mondays the political prisoners in the women's wing of Tehran's Evin Prison are allowed to make phone calls. I am glad about that. At least I can wish my mother, Nahid Taghavi, a happy 69th birthday on the phone.
For the third year in a row, she is now "celebrating" her special day behind bars. How do you celebrate your innocent mother while she is in prison? The same way as last year, and the year before: I will reassure her that this will be the last birthday she will spend in hostage detention. That's what I believe. That's what I've been fighting for, for 1047 days.
My mother is a retired architect and women's rights activist. On Oct. 16, 2020, she was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard's Intelligence Service, locked in solitary confinement for 200 days and interrogated for more than 1,000 hours, without access to a lawyer.
In the summer of 2021, a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced her to 10 years and eight months in prison, after a mockery of a trial.
Politically motivated arrests are part of the oppressive apparatus of Iran's theocratic authorities. Since the outbreak of the revolutionary movement in Sept. 2022 after the death of Jina Mahsa Amini in police custody, there have been more than 20,000 new arrests. What makes my mother's case different? Her German citizenship.
The Islamic regime runs a lucrative business with its hostage diplomacy. For decades, Western citizens have been arrested in order to secure the release of Iranian agents, to secure political and economic concessions or to blatantly extort money.
For example, since May of this year, six European and five U.S. citizens have been freed from Iranian hostage detention. Their governments made their release a priority, established task forces, and involved their families in their strategic thinking and actions.
No strategy for the return
Then, on Aug. 10, came the sensational news: five Iranian-born U.S. prisoners were to be released after years of imprisonment. In return, Washington agreed to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian government assets.
Only in Berlin, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, does the release of a German citizen not seem to be on the agenda. To this day, the release of my mother has not even been publicly demanded.
To this day, there is no strategy for the safe return of my mother to Germany.
No action was taken in Berlin
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has not met with me, the daughter of a German detained in Iran. Even when the prominent human rights activist and fellow inmate of my mother Narges Mohammadi addressed the public in an open letter on June 2, 2023, drawing attention to the catastrophic state of my mother's health, no action was taken in Berlin.
Still, the German government and German companies have maintained close political and economic relations with the regime in Tehran for many years. Germany is Iran's largest European trading partner, and German companies like Thyssen Krupp, Siemens and Bosch have earned millions doing business with the mullahs.
It only became known in early August that Bosch supplied surveillance cameras to Iran from 2016 to 2018. Equipped with facial recognition software, they are used by the regime for human rights violations such as enforcing the mandatory headscarf.
So, there should be plenty of levers.
Women holding signs for Niloofar Bayani, Nahid Taghavi and other political prisoners of Iran for the Women's Day 2022 demonstration in Paris.
Mariam Claren via Twitter
Policies of appeasement, one-sided advisors and economic interests give the impression that the current, but also the previous, federal governments prefer a softened course towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. Who pays the price? My mother, the German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd, who was sentenced to death, and ultimately also the Iranian people, who have suffered from mismanagement, poverty and oppression under dictatorship for 44 years.
The exact number of German citizens detained in Iran is not known. On Aug. 8, Clara Bünger, Member of the Bundestag for the Left Party parliamentary group, asked the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs how many German citizens had been released from Iranian custody since the fall of 2020.
On Aug. 16, 2023, she received the following answer: "The German Federal Government can confirm that it has successfully worked for the release of German citizens from detention in Iran during the reference period."
So, releases are possible, after all. Just not, it seems, if the prisoners are named Nahid or Jamshid.
History will not forget.
Will I wish my mother a happy 70th birthday next year in freedom? I will fight for it, even for another 365 days, in the hope that the German federal government will follow its words with deeds. History will not forget.
Mariam Claren, 43, is a marketing manager living in Cologne. She is the founder of the #freenahid campaign and an activist for the release of political prisoners in Iran.