Former Iran hostage Barry Rosen goes on hunger strike to campaign for prisoners in Tehran

Survivor said no nuclear deal should be struck with Iran until hostages are released

Many of those detained in Iran are held at Tehran's Evin prison. Reuters

A survivor of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis will embark on a hunger strike in solidarity with those unlawfully detained by the Iranian regime.

Barry Rosen, a senior adviser at the advocacy organisation United Against Nuclear Iran, said he will travel to Vienna on Tuesday to stage his protest. Officials are engaged in long-running talks with Tehran in the Austrian capital over a resurrection of the 2015 nuclear deal Iran agreed to with world powers.

The hunger strike will mark 41 years since Mr Rosen’s release when, as the US press attache in Iran, he was one of 52 Americans held hostage at Washington’s embassy in Tehran for 444 days.

“The hostage crisis hasn’t ended for many others — Americans and Westerners — who are now being held as bargaining chips in Iran. There at least two dozen of them. It’s clear to me that the release of the hostages can only take place if the US and countries like the US pressure Iran,” he said in a video posted on social media.

“Now, my message is simple. No deal with Iran unless the hostages are free.” Mr Rosen said he would deliver that message to the US and Iranian delegations in Vienna.

“I think what I’m doing is the right thing for the hostages and their families,” he said, although he admitted he was worried about his health.

His campaign received support from Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic who was jailed in Iran from 2018-2020 on alleged espionage charges described by Australia’s government as “baseless and politically motivated".

“Thank you so much for being so selfless and for raising awareness of our cases in this way. Please be careful,” said Elika Ashoori, whose father Anoosheh Ashoori was arrested in 2017 in Tehran while visiting his mother. The retired British-Iranian engineer was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 on spying charges that his family says are baseless.

The talks in Vienna began in April 2021 and are currently in the eighth round of negotiations.

In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump withdrew unilaterally from the accord that had offered Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

In response to Washington reimposing those heavy sanctions, Tehran has repeatedly breached the terms of the deal and continued to step up its uranium enrichment.

Mr Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signalled that he wants to agree a new deal but the negotiations in Vienna have been complicated by a new Iranian delegation that has been accused of making maximalist demands.

While diplomats in Vienna have voiced cautious optimism that a deal can yet be reached, European and US officials have warned negotiators repeatedly that time is running out.

Updated: January 17, 2022, 11:58 AM