As a former hostage who was kidnapped for almost 4 years in Iran, I have experienced first hand, the pain, suffering and betrayal that comes with it, but have also known the value of unwavering compassion and support, as well as the real meaning of hope, strength and freedom.
I pray that time will dull the pain of the memories that this tragic incident brings back; this nightmare that I wouldn’t wish even on my enemies. I spent 18 months blindfolded, and had several out of body experiences in the weeks that followed my kidnapping. I suffered endless cycles of hunger strikes to protest the many injustices I was put through. My only crime was accepting an official invitation from the Vice President of Iran to attend and speak at a conference with the intention of helping the community, women and youth have a better and more prosperous future.
My kidnapping changed my life forever. During that period, I wished, as many who face this most impossible suffering probably do, that my life would just end to relieve me of this intolerable torment.
But as fate would have it, and in answer to the prayers and efforts of many, my long and very traumatic journey in Evin prison finally ended and I was released. It was then that I instinctively knew that I couldn’t stand idly by while others went through the same ordeal. I had to help in whatever way I could.
Today, with many former hostages and good people who are helping, we have established Hostage Aid Worldwide (HAW), a non profit organization to assist and fight for hostages all around the world and support their families during their ordeal. This effort will be in full cooperation with other NGOs working to help hostages.
By working together we will do our best to ensure that the hostage taking business model stops and will clearly be condemned by the United Nations and the world, and hostages will not end up being forgotten by their governments.
I want to thank all the former hostages who decided to join HAW. I am grateful and humbled to be part of this great group of people united in having survived through one of humanity’s great injustices. We welcome you to join HAW and support our efforts to end hostage taking once and for all.
Nizar Zakka is an internationally-recognized expert in information and communications technology (ICT) policy, bringing more than 20 years of experience representing the ICT sector in the Middle East North Africa region.
After earning his B.S. and M.S. from the University of Texas in 1991, Nizar launched several IT companies in his home country of Lebanon, was CEO to the Professional Computer Association and served as secretary general for The Arab ICT Organization (IJMA3). He later was appointed as the Vice President of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance- a consortium of IT industry association members from over 80 countries, representing over 90 percent of the world ICT market. While speaking at a conference in Iran in 2015 on harnessing technology to bridge the digital divide in MENA, Nizar was kidnapped and taken hostage in Tehran where he remained for four years. Released in June 2019, Nizar now advocates for the release of political hostages both in Iran and worldwide and works to enhance internet freedom and the use of technology for peacebuilding globally..