Somali pirates holding Iranian sailor Shahryar Ali Abadi hostage since 2010 have threatened to kill him today, 10 December, unless they receive $100,000 for his release.
In September 2010 Shahryar boarded the Malaysian-flagged cargo ship Albedo, rented by an Iranian, bound for a two-week voyage to Kenya.
The rest of the crew included Pakistani, Indian and Malaysian seamen. Shahryar, as the chief sailor and the representative of the owner, was the sole Iranian on board. The ship left Iran from Bandar Abbas and encountered pirates while crossing the Gulf of Aden, who intercepted and hijacked the vessel.
The Albedo was expected to arrive at the coast of Kenya in two weeks but it missed its arrival date, and all communications with the ship were cut. It took 14 months for the fate of the crew to become known.
“Shahryar was recently engaged and was expecting to married in Bandar Abbas upon his return,” said his mother, explaining family sufferings in the early days of his abduction. She said preparations for the wedding had been made, the shopping completed and the hall reserved.
“The wedding was supposed to take place immediately after my son’s return, but he sailed and we received no further news. What worried us was that, unlike in previous voyages, he had not contacted us and we had not heard his voice.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has promised to do all it can to save Shahryar’s life.
Throughout the 14 months during which no news came from the ship, the family thought it had had broken down at a remote Thai island. But of course this was not the case. Shahryar’s family began searching the internet for the ship’s name when they came across news that the ship had been hijacked by the pirates. It was then that they realized what really had happened to their son.
The pirates eventually permitted Shahryar to contact his family to report that an Indian sailor had been killed and that the pirates had demanded $100,000 in exchange for his release.
The pirates had contacted the families of other hostages as well, and likewise had demanded ransom. The Pakistani government freed 8 of its subjects by paying $900,000.
Shahryar’s family, who live in the northeastern Iranian city of Sabzevar, say that the pirates have repeatedly tortured their son to convince the family to pay the ransom. “My son is living in harsh conditions and the pirates torture him,” his mother told Iranian media. “At first, the pirates kept them on the ship but then the ship sank. To make the hostages press their families for paying the ransom, the pirates threw snakes and scorpions at them. A scorpion bit him once and he was on the brink of death.”
Eight sailors died when the ship sank, and Shahryar and six other seamen were the only survivors.
Now, in Somalia’s jungles, Shahryar is waiting for a miracle. In his last contact with his fiancée, he reported that the deadline of December 10th, this Tuesday, is serious. The pirates, it seems, have said that they no longer can afford to feed him.
In one of his telephone contacts, Shahryar told his family that a representative of the United Nations had visited Somalia and had conducted negotiations to saves the lives of the other six sailors, but nobody had done anything about his predicament.
“When this happened we followed up the matter through the Islamic Republic’s parliament and the president at the time,” said Shahryar’s brother, who is trying to pursue it through the foreign ministry. “But, unfortunately, we got no results. After many months, the officials at the foreign ministry told us that they had no funds to pay to the hostage takers and we should ask for help from the Relief Foundation”, a quasi-official religious foundation which professes to help the needy. “And meanwhile,” he added, “my brother’s fate on that side of the world is anybody’s guess and the ship’s owner is not ready to lift a finger to free him.”
“He begged us to save him,” Shahryar’s mother said about his last contact when he was in Somalian jungles, in harsh conditions and under torture.
Foreign Ministry officials say they are trying to help. “The foreign ministry will use all means in its power to save the life of this sailor,” said Rahimi, director of the foreign ministry’s Bureau for Coordinating Friendship Societies, who is responsible for this case. “From the beginning, the foreign ministry started a vast effort to save this young man, but since Somalia has no government, we found no way to contact the hostage takers. Nevertheless, we will use all possible means in Somalia’s neighboring countries.”
“As the first step, we will try to have the deadline extended,” he said. “But we will continue to try to free this citizen of our country through consultations.”
He had this explanation as to why the situation has been as long as it has: “It has different reasons, including the fact that the ship was sailing on open sea under Malaysian flag and had no escorts. In recent years and after incidents of piracy and insecurity in certain parts of the open sea, Iranian vessels are escorted to avert danger, but this ship had no support. For the past few months my colleagues at the foreign ministry have been working very hard on this case. We are doing our best to prepare the ground for the release of our countryman.”
When captured, Shahryar was 26. Now he has spent three years in Somalia under torture and cruel conditions. His family have also spent the last three years waiting for the return of a son whose marriage they were eagerly anticipating and were preparing for it before he was taken hostage.
His family says he cried and begged for release during their last conversation. The Ali Abadi family are now watching the hours, minutes and seconds go by until the December 10th deadline of the pirates. His retired father who lacks the means to pay the $100,000 ransom to the pirates, is looking anxiously to the Iranian foreign ministry and international organizations to do secure the release of his son.
By Iran Wire
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