The family of Emad Shargi, an Iranian-American businessman who has spent the past five years jailed in Iran on espionage charges, have expressed their “utter disbelief” over the failure of the US government to bring him home.
Mr Shargi was arrested and jailed in April 2018 on espionage charges, which the US government has called “bogus”.
On Sunday, he will have spent 1,827 — five years exactly — apart from his daughters, Ariana and Hannah, and his wife, Bahareh, as well as the rest of his loving family.
He has missed birthdays, graduations and other major milestones during his time in Iran’s Evin prison.
Since his detention, his family have fought for his release, learning on the fly how to navigate the complex world of geopolitics and America's agonisingly slow bureaucracy.
Through it all, they have repeatedly called for a meeting with US President Joe Biden.
But their pleas have gone answered.
Mr Shargi’s sister, Neda Sharghi, who has spearheaded the family’s efforts to bring him home, expressed dismay over the lack of progress.
Families of Americans wrongfully detained abroad gather in Washington - in pictures
“It's utter disbelief that an innocent American could be not rescued for that long by our government,” she told The National.
“It is utter disbelief that after all this begging and pleading, I have not been allowed to meet with President Biden just to have a short conversation with him.
“And it is utter despair because I don't know when the end is in sight for my brother and the other Americans there and for our families.”
Ms Sharghi, who said she was able to speak to her brother briefly on Friday, said she was in frequent contact with the State Department.
Mr Shargi is one of three Americans currently being held in Evin prison. The others — Siamak Namazi and Morad Tahbaz — have been held since 2015 and 2018, respectively. They are also dual citizens who have been accused of espionage.
Critics of the Iran have accused the regime of state-sponsored hostage taking, arbitrarily detaining and jailing dual citizens to use them as political pawns.
“Iran’s unjust imprisonment and exploitation of US nationals for use as political leverage is outrageous, inhumane and contrary to international norms,” said Vedant Patel, deputy spokesman for the US State Department.
Mr Patel said the Biden administration was “working relentlessly” to secure the release of the three detained Americans.
But as the years have passed, it has become harder and harder for the families to remain optimistic.
During their conversation on Friday, Mr Shargi asked his sister “if there was hope”.
As she recounted their conversation to The National, her voice was thick with emotion.
“There is always hope,” she assured him.