Bound by Hope: Hostage Aid Conversations with Gazelle Sharmahd, Daughter of Jamshid Sharmahd, a Hostage in Iran

In a June 2024 interview, Gazelle Sharmahd discusses her ongoing battle in trying to save her father Jimmy from execution in Iran after he was kidnapped in Dubai and taken to Iran. Gazelle discusses her frustration with both the German and American governments who play responsibility ping-ping with her father’s life and the several individual U.S. and European deals, and emphasizes the need for a global task force that involves all governments and brings back all hostages instead of leaving people behind especially those on a death row like her father.

How are you/the family coping with Jimmy’s prolonged unlawful imprisonment & execution threat?

My dad Jimmy Sharmahd is not imprisoned, he was kidnapped and illegally abducted through 2 state borders from the UAE to Oman to Iran, where he is held hostage at an unknown location for almost 4 years. That means the kidnapping is actually still ongoing since he was never officially brought to any known prison in Iran, to call it an imprisonment. Amnesty International calls it forced disappearance, and it is a crime under international law. The UN Working group of arbitrary detention declared him arbitrarily detained in 2022. Our family is trying to cope by putting all of our energy into public awareness to save his life, which is under constant threat of execution. Every day, I wake up and look at my phone, searching my dad’s name and hoping he is still alive. 

How do you deal with & overcome the frustration when things don’t seem to move forward? And how do you keep hopeful?

Hope is an action, as a friend of mine, Iris, daughter of two Israeli hostages in Gaza told me. You stay focused on what is in your power, what is it that you can do with your little tools that you got, such as social media and a network of activists, journalists, lawyers, NGOs, politicians and supporters that we acquired over the years.

The truth is my dad is a dissident and outstanding critic of the Islamic regime. If it wasn’t for all the people that supported our campaign to save Jimmy, the regime would have killed him without a doubt. Every day that he is alive is a win. But it is hard to know that he is suffering under constant torture, while our governments have abandoned us in the fight to bring him back. There is no way, but forward, it’s not an option for me, so I never need to push myself to continue. I sometimes have to push myself to take a break and breath and realize that I cannot torture myself along with my dad. I need strength to continue fighting for him and all hostages and political prisoners in Iran.

What are the toughest parts & main challenges of trying to save and free Jimmy?

Where do I begin? With the mainstream media that keeps parroting the lies of the regime as if they are a trustful source? With the German and American governments that should have been working together to save their German-American national but instead play responsibility ping-pong with his life? With the regime lobby that infiltrated our western politics and engaged in hostage diplomacy to skyrocket the price of every hostage? About 12 European and 5 American hostages have been released in individual hostage deals with the regime just in the last year.  Every time, I emphasize the need for a global task force that involves all governments and brings back all hostages instead of leaving people behind, like my dad on death row. It is hard to explain it, but unless you have lived it, this is the hardest battle that a human being can be up against. Against jihadist regimes, Western politics, and a billion dollar industry that does not care about human beings like you and me. 

Are you getting the support you need from organizations, media, and others? How could they help more?

We have a great network of fantastic people that support us, but to be honest, I am still silenced and ignored by mainstream media. And without the focus of media, your story does not exist. When the average American doesn’t know that an American patriot and journalist like my dad was kidnapped by the terror regime and then left behind by our administration that paid upwards of 6 billion dollars for a few hostages but abandoned 3 Americans, including my dad on death, there is no outcry! Everyone who finds out is furious, but without media attention, the public is kept in the dark, and the administration is not held accountable for such negligence and dangerous actions. The easiest way to support us is to follow me on social media. We released a podcast on YouTube called War & Freedom, where we publish a lot of educational content and I am on Twitter (GazelleSharmahd) and IG (FreeJamshidSharmahd).  

How frequently are you able to talk to your dad? How is he holding up?

I was last allowed 1 highly supervised phone call over a year ago. He did not sound well. He could barely breathe or pronounce words. He is 69 years old with advanced stage Parkinson’s disease. I am a critical care nurse, but I can’t even imagine how claustrophobic he must be with such a neurological disease for over 1400 days in complete isolation under solitary confinement. Not seeing the sun, the sky, or another human being? Not knowing how much time has passed and if people out there even know about him or fight for him? As I had a chance to speak to him after 2 years, I tried to give him as much information as possible, knowing the regime agents were listening to every word. He is such a strong and brave man, but even he can break under such inhuman horror.

Is he aware of what is going on on the outside? How do you keep his spirits high?

He was not even aware that the regime’s sham court that charged him with “corruption on earth”, a catch-all-charge for political dissidents, sentenced him to death. I had to tell him that over the phone. He needs to know what is happening to him. I don’t want them to one day pull him out of his cell and take him to a crane in public to hang him, and he has no idea. The amazing thing about Jimmy is that I don’t need to keep his spirits up. He keeps up mine, even out of hell. My dad is my rock. Even as a hostage in Iran, he is the one that tells me “there is always a way Gazelle, we just have to find it”. He is an engineer, he has a problem solving mind, and he never lets his struggles and fears stop him from doing what is right. I think I got a bit of him in me, too.

Is there any recent news about his case? Do you think the German or American government is making progress on his case?

The most recent news was that the regime in Iran performed a second sham trial in a so-called international regime court. This time they sentenced my dad together with 52 US officials, including Joe Biden, Donald Trump, George Bush, Hilary Clinton, and Brian Hook under the same fabricated charges to pay 2.5 billion dollars to the regime or they would execute my father. Mainstream media again hid this monster of a sentence from the American public, and neither the German nor the US Administration has said a word about it. A US-German national is kidnapped, tortured, sentenced to death, then the entire administration is sentenced to pay ransom money, and there is not even as much as a condemnation? It is infuriating.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or talk about?

I want to thank Hostage Aid and the Global Liberty Alliance in their relentless efforts to raise my dad’s case, particularly in DC in helping me and the Dalili family to stage a sit in strike in front of the State department last year, when Shahab and Jimmy and other Americans were left behind in the horrific hostage negotiations. That was the first time the State Department spoke with our family after 3 years, and this year, I was testifying in Congress for the first time. I want to thank all of our supporters who give us love and strength every day to continue fighting. I read all their comments and messages, and it fills me with so much love, and shows me there are tons of great people out there fighting for what is right. We will never give up. Jimmy will be free.