U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
STATEMENT BY SECRETARY ANTONY J. BLINKEN
September 18, 2023
On Iran’s Release of Unjustly Detained U.S. Citizens
Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, and two other U.S. citizens who wish to remain private have departed Iran and are on their way back to the United States to be reunited with their families. They are joined by two of their relatives, also U.S. citizens, who had been prevented from leaving Iran until Today. Several of these individuals have spent years imprisoned as part of the Iranian regime’s cruel practice of wrongful detention, but today they are all returning home to their loved ones.
From day one of this Administration, the President and I have made clear that we have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens at home and abroad. Under President Biden’s leadership, we have now secured the release of more than 30 wrongfully detained Americans around the world. I am grateful to everyone from the State Department and across the government who worked tirelessly to bring home our U.S. citizens. We will not rest until we have brought home every wrongfully detained American.
I also extend my thanks to the many partners who helped make this possible. I would like to express our deep appreciation for the indispensable role played by the State of Qatar over the last two years in mediating this arrangement. I extend our sincere thanks to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and senior Qatari officials for their steadfast involvement and assistance in securing the release of U.S. citizens and establishing the Humanitarian Channel in Qatar for Iran to purchase humanitarian goods like food, medicine, medical devices, and agricultural products. The United States also expresses its deep appreciation to the Swiss Confederation for its tireless efforts to represent U.S. consular interests and its long-standing assistance as our protecting power in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In particular, we thank Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis for his personal commitment. We also thank the Republic of Korea for its close coordination and partnership, as well as Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said and the Sultanate of Oman, whose interventions were crucial to finalizing this arrangement, and the United Kingdom for their support.
Today is also a solemn day. While we celebrate the release of these five U.S. citizens, we recognize that Bob Levinson still remains unaccounted for more than 16 years after his abduction from Kish Island, Iran. The Iranian regime has inflicted unimaginable pain on Bob’s family, and they have yet to account for his fate. We once again call upon the Iranian regime to give a full accounting of what happened to Bob Levinson. Bob’s legacy lives on in the Levinson Act, which bolsters our ability to bring home hostages and wrongfully detained U.S. nationals held overseas, and President Biden’s Executive Order 14078, which builds on the Levinson Act and reinforces the tools to deter and disrupt hostage-taking and wrongful detention by other countries. We will use the Levinson Act and other tools to promote accountability for Iran and other regimes for the cruel practice of wrongful detention.
Finally, I want to reiterate the State Department’s clear warning to U.S. citizens: do not travel to Iran. While this group of U.S. citizens has been released, there is no way to guarantee a similar result for other Americans who decide to travel to Iran despite the U.S. government’s longstanding warning against doing so. We continue to work with likeminded countries to deter future hostage-taking and hold Iran and other regimes accountable for such actions, including through actions we are taking today. U.S. citizens should not travel to Iran for any reason, and I call on any U.S. citizens in Iran to depart immediately.