‘The Islamic regime kidnapped my dad’: Daughter of man taken to Iran for execution speaks out

Jamshid Sharmahd's family are desperate to secure his freedom, Amani Ibrahimi reports

A woman fighting to free her father from death row in Iran for two years has told ITV News she has no option other than to keep going.

Describing the situation as 'surreal', and like 'a movie', Gazelle Sharmahd fears her father is due to be executed imminently by the Iranian regime.

Jamshid Sharmahd, 67, has been in solitary confinement in Iran for more than 900 days. He was taken there by force after the Islamic Republic kidnapped him from Dubai, having targeted him for his outspoken views for more than 15 years.

The former software engineer, who is a German-Iranian national, is one of 107 people facing the death penalty, according to Iran Human Rights. His ordeal comes after 55 people, many of them protesters recently arrested by the regime, were executed since the start of the year.

Jamshid had been on the radar of Iran's ruling powers after he created a website allowing Iranians to expose the regime's human rights abuses.

In 2020, he was flying from Frankfurt to India for a business trip when his plane was diverted to Dubai for a layover after his flight got cancelled.

News of where he was set off panic among his family, as he had been avoiding the Middle East for many years over fears of being abducted.

Not long after, Jamshid stopped replying to their messages and was not answering calls. Soon after, his wife could see his location on Google tracker, ominously moving from Dubai to Oman, instead of India. 

Their worst fears were confirmed after a video of Jamshid blindfolded emerged on Iran’s state TV where he was "stating false forced confessions’’.

After being kidnapped Jamshid Sharmahd appeared on Iran state TV wearing a blindfold.

‘’We saw this video, it looked like one of those videos before a beheading. I was 99% sure that my dad wasn’t alive anymore after this video.

"I thought they just showed him to show that they got him and then killed him after that," says Gazelle.

Two months later, the family were shocked to receive a phone call from Jamshid, confirming that he was still alive. It was a controlled call - meaning that he was being watched and listened to.

‘’There’s always guards there who are aware of what he has to say and control everything he says. They would also break up the phone call if there’s any questions or information coming through.’’

Gazelle told me that they would hear through her dad’s voice what he was going through.

‘’We would find out that he’d rapidly lost 40 pounds of weight and his teeth. He was starting to lose track of time. He has no access to fresh air or daylight.’’

Gazelle also told me that the calls were not because the Islamic regime thought that it was his right to speak to his family, instead she says it was to get them to cooperate with the regime. 

Jamshid Sharmahd pictured with his wife and daughter Gazelle Sharmahd.

‘’They would ask me to go on my dad’s laptop to write a confession saying that he’s a terrorist, that he’s planned bombings, they would dictate it to me to write that and send it to them.

‘’They would ask us to put a cyber software on our computer so that they can remotely control it.’’

Although, the family did not say no to the regime, they tried to stall them but this only worked for so long.

‘’You can’t say no when somebody has kidnapped your loved one but after some time they found out that we’re not playing their game and they stopped all contact.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

‘’For nine months we didn’t have any information from my dad to punish us for not cooperating with them.’’

In the last year, Jamshid’s wife has had two phone calls from him.

The regime has told the family the outcome despite putting him through show trials, which Gazelle describes as a ‘theatre’ because he’s not been given a lawyer. His family await his verdict, but Jamshid has already been told he will get the death sentence.

He’s been accused of having an involvement in the 2008 mosque bombings in Iran, which he denies. He’s also been charged with "corruption on Earth" - a similar charge handed out to many of the protesters arrested since they took to the streets in the wake of Mahsa Amini's death last September. 

In 2009, an Iranian agent sent to assassinate Jamshid at his home in California turned himself in after getting cold feet. He was arrested and jailed.

Three men were indicted in Brooklyn for the assassination attempt against human rights activist Masih Alinejad. Credit: AP

And just last week three men were indicted in Brooklyn for the assassination attempt against a prominent critic of Iran's Government there.

Prosecutors in the US say three men targeted the Brooklyn woman, believed to be Masih Alinejad, a longtime critic of Iran's head-covering laws. The men have been charged in a murder-for-hire plot.

It follows a plot to kidnap Alinejad which led to the arrest and charging of four men, alleged to be Iranian operatives, in 2021.

Speaking last Friday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the most recent charges followed "a disturbing pattern of Iranian government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate into silence activists for speaking out for the fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world."

It’s clear those who continue to speak out against the regime, no matter where they are, also risk their own lives. 

Despite those risks, Gazelle Sharmahd she feels she has no choice. "It's so hard to get your voice out there, and you feel it is impossible but you have to keep on going because that's the only thing you can do."

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...