Payvand.com - Iranians are famous for being very hospitable people. There is a saying in Persian that says guest is God's friend. So the disappearance of Robert (Bob) Levinson, an American on a private visit to the Kish island in Persian Gulf, is quite surprising, disturbing and mind-boggling.
Levinson had traveled to the Iranian island of Kish in Persian Gulf which is a Free Trade Zone and requires no visa to enter. He was reportedly last seen on March 9, 2007 where he checked out of his hotel in Kish. The Iranian government claims they have no information on Mr. Levinson's whereabouts and that their investigation is still pending. Also, no private citizen has come forward to offer any information on Mr. Levinson.
There is speculation that Levinson's case is linked to the case of Iranian diplomats who are in custody of American troops in Iraq. After the capture of Iranian diplomats by U.S. troops in January 2007, in a tit-for-tat move, it is said the Iranian government also arrested several Iranian-American academics and journalists visiting Iran (see story). All the arrested Iranian-Americans have now been released and left the country, even though legally their cases aren't over yet (for example Parnaz Azima was sentenced in absentia in March 2008). Two Iranian diplomats were also released from the U.S. detention in Iraq in November 2007. But another 10 to 14 Iranians are still being detained in Iraq. So the detention war isn't over yet.
Christine Levinson, Bob Levinson's wife, along with her son Daniel and her sister Suzi Halpin, visited Iran in December 2007 to conduct her own investigation. She visited Kish island and met with Iranian officials. However, she came back empty-handed. Mrs. Levinson then hired an Iranian lawyer to follow-up the case of her husband. But so far there are no new findings.
The following Q & A was conducted with Mrs. Levinson in order to shed more light on this mysterious case and the ordeal the Levinson family is going through.
The Levinson Family
Q: When was the last time you talked to your husband? Did he say anything about going to Kish?
A: I talked to him on the night of March 7, 2007, before he got on the plane. He told me that he would be "out of pocket." He did not tell me the location. He also said that he would call me in 24 hours.
Q: How has the family been coping with this ordeal? What's is the toughest thing for you?
A: We take it one day at a time. The hardest part is not knowing anything about my husband's welfare and whereabouts.
Q: How were you received in Iran, by the people and by the government officials?
A: Everyone was very pleasant and hospitable, but they provided me with no information about my husband.
Q: Were you able to freely visit places and talk to people? Did you face any obstacles?
A: Because they knew what I was doing, I did not have a problem. However, the people I spoke with did not know anything about the case and our escort had to fill them in prior to us talking to them.
Q: Do you feel your Iran visit was productive? Did it provide you with any new information? And do you plan another visit?
A: Yes it was helpful. I did see that my husband checked into the Hotel Maryam and checked out and that he was not on any flight out of Kish on Kish Airlines on Friday, March 9, 2007. I would like to go over again to find out if they have any new information on my husband, but I do not have a definite date.
Q: Do you feel your husband's disappearance is connected to the case of detained Iranian diplomats in Iraq? If so, do you have a message for the U.S. government? Not a political message, but rather a humanitarian one.
A: I have no idea if it is connected or not. All I know is that my husband disappeared on March 9, 2007 and I just want to bring him home. If the US government can help me do that, I would be grateful.
Q: If these cases aren't connected, what do you think can possibly explain this? After all Kish is a small island and one of the most tranquil places in Iran. How could someone, especially an American, go missing there with no trace?
A: I have no answer for that. I wish that I could understand what happened.
Q: Do you feel any bitterness towards Iranian government for the way your husband's case is being handled? Do you believe they are forthcoming?
A: I am disappointed that after almost 16 months the Iranian government, which prides itself on taking care of people, is still unable to help me find my husband.
Q: How about the U.S. government? Do you believe they are paying enough attention to this case and doing all that they can to find your husband?
A: Because the US government has no diplomatic relationship with Iran, it makes the situation very difficult. I believe the US government is doing what it can.
Q: You have hired a lawyer in Iran to go through the legal channels and get the government to conduct an official investigation about your husband's disappearance. Is he or she receiving cooperation from the authorities?
A: I believe that he is receiving cooperation, however getting information is a very slow process.
Q: Have you considered offering a reward for information that will lead to finding your husband?
A: Yes. I have offered a $5000 reward for any information which can help me find my husband. This is all I can afford right now. I hope to increase that in the future.
Q: What is the best that do you hope at this time? What keeps you going?
A: I hope that my husband will be reunited with us as soon as possible, so that we can continue our lives together. The thing that keeps me going is the faith that Bob is alive and well and will be home soon.
Q: How has been the support from family, friends, and the community?
A: Everyone who knows us has been extremely supportive. I cannot thank them enough for all of their kindness.
Q: Do you and your family want to make a personal appeal to the Iranian government?
A: Of course. I would hope that the Iranian government understands that this is a kind, loving, family man who wants nothing more than to be with his family.
Q: How about a personal message for the Iranian people?
A: Please, if you have any information about my husband, Robert Levinson, who has high blood pressure and diabetes and has not been able to be in touch with his family since March 9. 2007, you would get in touch with us at our website www.helpboblevinson.com or through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran so that he can come home to us. We love Bob and miss him very much.
Thanks for the interview. We hope for the safe return of Bob Levinson to U.S. and rejoining his family soon.
... Payvand News - 07/02/08 ... --