Baquer Namazi

Baquer Namazi

Iranian-American Former Senior U.N. Official, Father of Hostage Siamak Namazi
Baquer Namazi


Iranian-American Baquer Namazi, born in 1936, worked in several significant Iranian government positions under the Shah, including as a provincial governor. He also worked as a UNICEF representative in several countries, including Kenya, Somalia, and Egypt. Baquer most recently ran Hamyaran, an umbrella organization of Iranian NGOs.


On February 22, 2016, Baquer was arrested after arriving in Iran to visit his son, Siamak, whom the Iranian regime held and continues to hold hostage. Security forces detained Baquer at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport at night as he returned home to Iran from Dubai, where he had gone for a medical check-up and visited his grandchildren. 

According to a report by news agency Fars, which is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Namazi was arrested in order “to uncover the complex layers of vast financial and intelligence corruption by a network that is associated to the UK and America.” The report also accuses Baquer of training his son Siamak in “espionage and infiltration and subversion operations.” A state-run television news program called Baquer an “agent of the Pahlavi regime [the former Iranian monarchy]” and said that ever since he came to Iran in 2002, Baquer has worked with foreign political figures and groups to create a “network that would implement the ambitions of Western spy agencies and anti-revolutionary lobbies.”

After Baquer’s arrest, his wife, Effie Namazi, posted on Facebook, “Now both my innocent son Siamak and my Baquer are in prison for no reason.”

Treatment in Captivity

The authorities threw Baquer into Tehran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison, where he was denied access to their family’s lawyer and spent long periods in solitary confinement.

According to his wife, Baquer has a severe heart condition and a host of other serious medical problems that require treatment, including epilepsy and severe blockages in the major arteries to his brain. According to Baquer’s son, Babak, his father has lost about 25 pounds during his time behind bars. According to the New York Times, Baquer was hospitalized four times between January 2017 and January 2018. He also underwent triple bypass surgery during his captivity.

Charges, Trial, and Sentencing

On October 18, 2016, it was announced that Baquer and Siamak were sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $4.8 million on charges of cooperating with the U.S. government. Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court Judge Abolqassem Salavati, infamously known as “the Judge of Death” and “the Hanging Judge” for sentencing defendants to death or long prison terms, presided over the Namazis’ trial, which lasted only a few hours. On August 28, 2017, the Tehran Appeals Court denied Baquer and Siamak’s appeals.

Medical Furlough and Travel Ban

In August of 2018, Baquer was granted an extended medical furlough. However, for four more years, the regime refused his family’s requests to permit Baquer to travel outside Iran to receive treatment.

In the fall of 2021, Baquer required “immediate surgery for a 95–97% blockage in one of his internal carotid arteries—the pair of main arteries that supply blood to the brain,” according to an October 2021 letter from his American lawyers to an official in the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. One of the attorneys, Jared Genser had claimed earlier that year that 80 percent of the artery was clogged, greatly increasing Baquer’s risk of getting a stroke. He also reportedly suffers from acute depression and adult-onset, stress-caused epilepsy.

The lawyers’ letter said that if Baquer got surgery in Iran, he would continue to suffer from severe stress that would impede his post-surgery recovery, and also would likely become infected with COVID-19, which has ravaged Iran and overloaded its medical system. Moreover, Siamak Namazi’s lawyer called on the regime to permit Baquer to go abroad for surgery. Barring that, attorney Hojjat Kermani said, Tehran should furlough Siamak to allow him to be with his father.

Prohibited from going abroad, Baquer underwent the aforementioned surgery in Iran on October 26, 2021. Genser said the procedure “appear[ed] to be a success,” but again called on the regime to let Namazi leave Iran. “[D]ire concerns remain about the quality of aftercare available in Iran, the significant risk of Covid-19 exposure in the hospital, and the need for a stress-free environment for recovery, all of which threaten Baquer’s survival and long-term well-being,” Genser said.

In September 2022, the Namazi family said Baquer needed another operation “within weeks,” this time on blockages in his left carotid artery. Babak Namazi also implored the regime to release Siamak from prison to be with his father. “I am begging Iran to show the smallest amount of humanity by allowing Siamak to be with my dad and help take care of him during his recovery," Babak stated. “I also call on the US to drastically increase its efforts to obtain my family's freedom before it's too late. Time is not on our side.”

Sentence Commutation

Babak Namazi said in February 2021 that one year prior, Iran commuted his father’s prison sentence to time already served.

Reports of Looming Hostage Release Deal

In April 2022, three Iranian pro-regime media outlets reported that Iran and the U.S. had agreed to a deal in which Iran would release Baquer, Siamak, and American-British-Iranian national Morad Tahbaz. In exchange, the U.S. would release frozen Iranian funds “several times” more than the $530 million the U.K. paid Iran.

A State Department spokesperson appeared to deny the reports, however. “Reports that Iranian funds held in restricted accounts in third countries will be transferred are false,” the spokesperson said. “…[The U.S. has] two separate negotiations underway with Iran: one for a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA and one on the release of all four US citizens unjustly detained in Iran… Unfortunately, at this stage, neither negotiation has been successfully concluded.” Iranian authorities have a habit of hyping the release of frozen assets to prop-up the national currency, even if such a deal is not imminent.

End of Travel Ban

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesperson said on October 1, 2022, that Tehran had allowed Baquer to travel abroad “for medical treatment.” The regime also furloughed Siamak Namazi from Evin Prison for one week, subject to renewal, Jared Genser told Reuters.

Iranian official and semi-official sources made conflicting statements about whether these steps were part of a quid pro quo involving the release of Iranian funds frozen overseas (most likely in South Korean bank accounts) due to sanctions.

Semi-official Iranian news agency Nournews tweeted on October 1, “Intensive negotiations were held with the mediation of a regional country regarding the simultaneous release of Iranian and American prisoners in recent weeks. Billions of dollars from the blocked resources of #Iran are also about to be released in this framework.” Likewise, the state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency claimed “with the finalization of negotiations between Iran and the United States to release the prisoners of both countries, $7 billion of Iran's blocked resources will be released… Washington is pursuing at the same time the release of its citizens detained in Tehran and the release of Iranian funds in South Korea.”

However, two regime officials said Tehran both lifted the travel ban and granted the furlough solely on humanitarian grounds. Deputy judiciary chief Kazem Gharibabadi and foreign-ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani both said there was no quid pro quo. Kanaani did add that negotiators had made progress toward the unfreezing of Iranian money held overseas.

The Biden administration denied reports of a trade of funds for hostages.

“Reports from Iranian sources of a transfer of funds related to the release of Baquer Namazi and furlough of Siamak Namazi are categorically false,” said a National Security Council spokesperson. “Any claim that Iran's lifting of a travel ban on Baquer Namazi was part of a deal for a transfer of frozen funds is categorically false,” a department spokesperson said. “We understand that the lifting of the travel ban and his son’s furlough were related to his medical requirement… We continue to have indirect discussions on possible humanitarian arrangements to facilitate the urgent release of the remaining US citizens wrongfully detained by Iran, but we have nothing further to announce at this time.”

Siamak Namazi was sent back to prison on October 12, 2022.


Baquer Namazi flew from Iran to Oman on October 5, 2022. He then flew to the United Arab Emirates for medical treatment.

International Reaction to Hostage Taking

The U.S. Department of State has repeatedly protested Baquer’s detention. Jared Genser said he and Baquer’s family has been in touch with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Special Envoy to Iran Robert Malley. In response to Baquer’s lawyers’ claims in October 2021 that he needed emergency surgery, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Iran should permit Baquer “to seek the medical attention necessary to save his life.” Blinken noted, “It’s been almost six years since [Baquer]’s seen his children. At a time like this, he should be surrounded by his entire family."


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