Shahab Dalili

Shahab Dalili

Iranian Retired Shipping Official and U.S. Permanent Resident


Shahab Dalili is a retired Iranian shipping official. According to his LinkedIn page, he worked for over 26 years for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), starting as a deck officer and retiring in 2012 as deputy general manager of the company’s department of maritime affairs. The U.S. has sanctioned IRISL multiple times for its involvement in Iran’s arms-proliferation activities.

Dalili’s LinkedIn page indicates that in 2014, he immigrated to the U.S. and founded a Virginia-based “marine survey and consultancy service to all interests in marine industry.” Reportedly, Dalili is a permanent resident of the U.S. His wife has said that she and their children are U.S. citizens.


According to Voice of America, Taghato, a Farsi-language news outlet operated by Iranians living in the U.S., first broke Dalili’s case. In 2018, Taghato tweeted that the Iranian regime arrested Dalili on March 20, 2016, after he traveled back to Iran following his father's death, and sentenced him to ten years in prison for “allegedly cooperating with a hostile government.” Taghato also stated that Dalili’s family had not disclosed his case publicly.

In July of 2019, released Iran hostage Nizar Zakka told Voice of America he shared a cell with Dalili.

Dalili’s wife broke her silence in a video statement that the hostage advocacy group Hostage Aid Worldwide tweeted on March 22, 2022. Mrs. Dalili said her husband had been jailed in Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison since 2016 on charges of “aiding and abetting the U.S.” She added, “As I heard about Iran and how hostages are being released, I’m asking President Joe Biden and his team: Please bring Shahab home. Please don’t forget Shahab Dalili. Please free Shahab Dalili.”

Controversy Over Hostage Status

The Biden administration has yet to make a determination under U.S. law (the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act) that Dalili is wrongfully detained. Such a determination would make certain U.S. government resources available for Dalili’s case. A State Department spokesperson said on August 14, 2023, “We don’t discuss the specific details of individual cases who have not deemed—been deemed wrongfully detained. There is a process that is ongoing as it relates to actively reviewing and assessing individual cases for indicators for wrongful detention. I’m certainly not going to get into those.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not directly answer a question on August 15, 2023, about why Dalili had yet to be designated, instead stating, “We continue to look and will always continue to look at the situations, conditions of other Americans around the world who may be detained.”

Omission from Hostage Release, Family’s Reaction, and Hunger Strike

Dalili was not included in a U.S.-Iran deal in September 2023 for the release of five Americans held hostage in Iran. Dalili’s son, Darian, said that when he found out his father had been omitted from the arrangement, he e-mailed several State Department employees, saying, “You are leaving my father to die.” Both Darian and his father engaged in a multi-day hunger strike in protest.

Acting U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Abram Paley, has spoken with Dalili’s relatives. Paley told them that Iranian negotiators refused to discuss Dalili with their American counterparts.

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