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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Too many Americans trapped in nightmarish conditions by nefarious regimes or terror groups can only dream of being home for the holidays.

As we recommit to helping the have-nots this season, let’s make a grass-roots pledge to fight to bring back American hostages — knowing that one of their greatest foes is a lack of sunlight, their cases practically nonexistent in the headlines as their bodies deteriorate and days in captivity drag on interminably.


Turkey unjustly holds several U.S. citizens, including pastor Andrew Brunson, who had made the country his home for more than two decades when he was seized in October 2016 and slapped with ridiculous coup-related charges. He has lost more than 50 pounds in custody. “I’m still waiting for my dad to walk me down the aisle,” his daughter Jacqueline told the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

Serkan Golge, a NASA scientist working on the mission to Mars, was visiting his parents in Turkey in July 2016 when he was arrested; authorities claimed his NASA security card meant he has CIA links.

Kevin King, a professor at American University in Kabul, was kidnapped in August 2016. In October, the Taliban warned that he’s in failing health and likely to die in their custody.

Marine veteran Austin Tice was a journalist in Syria when he was seized in 2012, with a hostage video following. He is believed to be held by the Assad regime.

The family of the longest-held U.S. hostage in history holds out hope that Bob Levinson will come home to his wife, Christine, seven children and several grandchildren he has never met. The former FBI agent disappeared in March 2007, and a U.N. working group determined he was “arrested without any legal ground and has been detained since then.”

“Please do not let Iran off the hook,” his son Doug Levinson pleaded at a congressional hearing in July. “They’ve been allowed to do whatever they want, because there have been no consequences.”

Last year, Iran sentenced father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi to 10 years in prison on trumped-up espionage charges; in August, they lost their appeal. “My father and brother have been and continue to be subjected to unimaginable suffering,” Babak Namazi told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-American permanent U.S. resident and University of Texas grad, was lured from his D.C. information technology and economic development group to Tehran in September 2015 to speak at a government women’s conference. He was seized as he tried to catch a flight home to the U.S. and sentenced to a decade on false espionage charges. Mr. Zakka has undertaken several hunger strikes in protest of his detention, and his three sons fear for their father’s life.

Princeton University student Xiyue Wang was researching his dissertation in Iran when he was arrested in summer, 2016 and sentenced to 10 years behind bars. “Only the U.S. government can help us,” his wife, Qu Hua, pleaded for help.

Art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Niasari, were also detained in summer 2016, persecuted when Mr. Vafadari, a Zoroastrian, wed Ms. Niasari, born into a Muslim family. Mr. Vafadari wrote in an August letter that his interrogator told him the day when religious minorities in Iran no longer had to hang a branding sign outside of their shops was the “worst day of his life.”

North Korea holds a trio of U.S. hostages, all Christian: businessman Kim Dong Chul, captured in October 2015; professor Tony Kim, seized this April; and university researcher Kim Hak-Song, arrested in May.

Joshua Holt, a Mormon missionary, traveled to Venezuela last year to bring home his new bride. He was targeted in a police raid, has been held by Venezuela’s intelligence agency on a phony charge linked to a police-planted weapon, and is in deteriorating health behind bars.

Be their voice. Amplify the voices of their desperate families.

Rally and protest. Participate in relentless social media campaigns. Send letters of support to the families. Call the White House and State Department. Lobby your lawmakers.

This is our family — the American family, the human family — and this is a team effort. Don’t let these Americans disappear. Bring them home.

Bridget Johnson is a senior fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and D.C. bureau chief for PJ Media.


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