Transcript: Family of Emad Shargi on "Face the Nation," Dec. 11, 2022
The following is a transcript of an interview with Bahareh, Hannah and Ariana Shargi, Emad Shargi's wife and daughters, that aired Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. The release of Brittney Griner from Russia is putting focus on other Americans held hostage abroad, including Emad Shargi who has been detained in Iran since 2018. He was sentenced without trial to 10 years in prison. Joining me now is his wife, Bahareh Shargi, and their two daughters, Ariana and Hannah. It's good to have you here.
BAHAREH SHARGI:Thank you. Thank you for having us here, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know it's never easy to talk about this, but it's important. It- there has been a lot that has happened since we last spoke inside Iran and with these hostages released. Bahareh, what was your reaction when you heard that Brittney Griner was released?
BAHAREH SHARGI: I was ecstatic for Brittney and her family. Brittney should have never been detained, she's an American citizen that was in Russia for no good reason at all. And I was very, very happy that she's back home. And it also gives me hope because it means that this can be done for others, such as my husband and other Americans who are held in Iran.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So it's hopeful for you?
BAHAREH SHARGI: Yes, very much so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So. Ariana, you know, when Brittney Griner was released, her agent issued a letter and it stood out to me because they said they will try to help families like yours. In fact, they named Emad in the list of those who are wrongfully detained, held for being American. Also listed, Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi who has been detained seven years now. He was left behind when the US and Iran traded prisoners back in 2016. Do you find that all of you working together is- is making a difference?
ARIANA SHARGI: I definitely think so. I mean, we are all a part of this terrible club that no one wants to be a part of. But it's been really incredible to have this family of hostage families of Americans held abroad. And I do think that us helping each other makes a huge difference, to get the word out, but also for this amazing support system that we've developed. So I do really sincerely appreciate the fact that Brittney is going to advocate for other hostages held abroad. I mean, Paul Whelan has been held in Russia now, for four years, I believe, and he's been left behind by two presidents. Our dad has been there- in Iran for four years. So anything we can all do together, I definitely think is more powerful than just one family advocating for their own loved one.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Hannah, I know, when we all last spoke back in June, you were all publicly asking for a meeting with President Biden and with White House officials?
HANNAH SHARGI: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you gotten one?
HANNAH SHARGI: No. We have still not heard from the President. We have not received a meeting with him. We've been asking as a family along with the other hostage families to meet with him for quite some time, and I just don't understand why he isn't meeting with us. I think it would make a big difference to sit down with him. I want to tell him about my dad, I want to tell him how scared we are, how pressing this matter is and how time sensitive it really is. I mean, our father could have been killed in the Evin fire. We didn't--
MARGARET BRENNAN: This was a fire at a prison where your father's being held, back in October.
HANNAH SHARGI Yes. So there was a fire and the riots at the prison where he is being held. We didn't hear from him for two days, we didn't know if he was alive or not. He inhaled tear gas and smoke from the fires and it just shows that this is a really pressing issue. And there's really no time to wait. We don't know, really, what's gonna happen day to day. So I just want to sit down with the President and tell him our story and ask that he does everything he can to bring our dad home. I mean, we live in Washington, DC. We'll come anytime he has- he has available for us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you receive any response from the White House to your public calls?
BAHAREH SHARGI: We did. We did. We wrote as the families, Iranian families, Iranian-American families to the President, and we did get an acknowledgment of the letter. But that was it. And they think that the reason why I would want to meet the President is that since the first couple of weeks in office, he made it a point to say that the hostages are one of his priorities. And since that day that I heard that, I've had this hope in my heart that this President is going to bring Emad home. And yet I have seen no signs. It's just been talk but nothing really to show us that he's doing anything or his administration, really, to bring Emad and the other Americans home.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, Ariana, with the prisoners in Iran, this is a really tough situation. The US nuclear talks of Iran appear to be crumbling. You have Iran now helping Russia in Ukraine. For the White House, does it raise a risk by meeting with you? Do you think there's a good reason for them not to meet with you? Or do you feel like you're being treated differently?
ARIANA SHARGI: Frankly, I don't think there is a good reason not to meet with us. I mean, we're Americans first and foremost, before even just being a hostage family. But also, if Biden and his administration could have the courage and the fortitude to get Brittney out of Russia, while Russia is in a war with Ukraine, then I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be able to get my dad out of Iran. It's clear that they have the skills and the tools to- to make these difficult negotiations and to- to make the- the hard but correct decisions. And so I would just encourage the President to really emphasize with his administration and with the American people that this can be done and it should be done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: He did meet with Brittany Griner's wife, and with the family of Paul Whelan.
ARIANA SHARGI: Correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Blinken in the State Department has to handle a lot of these issues. Have you been in communication with them? Are they more forthcoming?
HANNAH SHARGI: The State Department has been great. We talked to them often. And they have - I know they have done a lot to bring our father home. But at the end of the day, I think what we really need as the White House to be more involved, that is really where the decision is going to come from. At the end of the day. The President has the authority to make these kinds of big decisions. And that's really who we need to speak with now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, when I've asked Secretary Blinken in the past, he says these issues are so important to him. He carries a card in his pocket with the names of the hostages.
But as he likes to say, the other side gets a vote. Do you get the sense that there - there is a deal to be made? And that there's a choice not to take it? I mean, do you have any sense of where the diplomacy is? Or any progress with Emad?
HANNAH SHARGI: I mean. we have always asked and hoped that the issue of the JCPOA and our father's release are separate –
MARGARET BRENNAN: The nuclear deal.
HANNAH SHARGI: The nuclear deal. Yes. But as of now, we have seen no plan to bring our father home. That's what I'd really like to see someone say this is the plan, we're going to execute it. But it seems that at the moment, there is no clear concise plan to actually bring my dad and the rest of the Americans home from Iran.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Hannah, you tweeted the other day a pretty powerful tweet because the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked by a reporter about your dad on the day Britney Griner was released. And she said she wasn't familiar with the case. You said it was crushing, absolutely crushing to hear that.
HANNAH SHARGI: Yes. It was definitely hard to hear that she did not know my father's name. She was not familiar with the case, and deferred us to the State Department. Once again. She was asked the same question in June, and also said that she was not familiar with his name or the case. And I just don't understand how I should have faith that my dad's going to be home, if the White House doesn't even know his name.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, diplomats I talked to say they are working on this. It is just a very, very difficult situation. But you just want your husband home. How is Emad? How is he doing? What do you know about his state?
BAHAREH SHARGI: Emad is not well. We - we are not well. Emad is thousands of miles away from us. He's an innocent American being held hostage for no good reason at all. Again, like Hannah said, and we don't hear of any plan - particular plan of how he will be brought home. Again, with the - everything going on with the fire with the protests, Emad is at risk every single day, every single moment. They all are, the hostages in Iran. And we just -we just don't know why the administration doesn't use all the tools they have and the President to just encourage the administration to do what is the right thing. We are behind him. I hope that we ask all the American people to be behind the President to help support, bring Emad and the other Americans home.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because for you, this is not at all political.
HANNAH SHARGI: No.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just want your dad back.
HANNAH SHARGI: Yeah. This is a - it's a humanitarian issue at the end of the day. It's not a political issue. These are Americans and they just deserve to be home with their family. So it's not political. Really. It's just, it's about people at the end of the day.
ARIANA SHARGI: And we're coming up on the fourth or fifth holiday season without him.
HANNAH SHARGI: Fifth, fifth.
ARIANA SHARGI: Yes, yes.
BAHAREH SHARGI: And it is - on the way here, actually, I was telling the girls, Oh, wouldn't it be fun to go get a Christmas tree this weekend or today or something. And it just wouldn't be fun. And we have not gotten it, and we are waiting for Emad to come. And it happens it in fact, December 24 is also our anniversary and yet another anniversary to be spent, where Emad is in jail and I am here. So we just want Emad back home.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we wish you the best of luck with that. And we will keep following your story. Thank you so much for talking about your dad and your husband.
BAHAREH SHARGI: Thank you. Thank you so much.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. We'll be right back.
for more features.