“It’s All We Think About, What Are the Next Steps to Get Him Home,” Say Children of Iran Hostage Bob Levinson

http://www.people.com/article/hostage-bob-levinson-children-talk-fathers-captivity-iran-deal

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‘It’s All We Think About, What Are the Next Steps to Get Him Home,’ Say Children of Iran Hostage Bob Levinson'It's All We Think About, What Are the Next Steps to Get Him Home,' Say Children of Iran Hostage Bob Levinson

The Levinson family
COURTESY LEVINSON FAMILY

BY SHEILA COSGROVE BAYLIS

@sheilabot07/25/2015 AT 12:10 PM EDT

It’s been eight years since Robert Levinson was kidnapped in Iran, but his seven children hope a new nuclear agreement with the country will pave his way home.

Levinson, a retired FBI agent and reported contract worker for the CIA, now 67, known to friends and family as “Bob,” has been held longer than any other hostage in U.S. history. Last week, when the Obama administration struck a deal with the Iranian government, but did not secure his return home, the case moved back into the spotlight.

“What our family believes is that this deal represents not the end of discussions between the U.S. government and the Iranian government, but merely the beginning. As long as the two countries are in dialogue … we know that my father’s case can be resolved,” his son David Levinson says. “[The U.S. and Iran] are more engaged now than they have been in many, many years and we believe that right now is the time that my father’s case can be prioritized, resolved and he can be brought home.”

Bob’s kids responded to the Iran deal with resolve instead of anger, a trait his daughter Stephanie, 37, a stay-at-home mom in Fort Worth, Texas, says she learned from her father. Stephanie sat down with PEOPLE and her six siblings – Susan, Sarah, Dan, David, Samantha and Doug – for the first time to talk together publicly about their dad.

'It's All We Think About, What Are the Next Steps to Get Him Home,' Say Children of Iran Hostage Bob Levinson| politics, Real People Stories

The Levinson Family

COURTESY LEVINSON FAMILY

“He taught us to never give up, to have strength, to have faith. And I think all of us, we get through each day knowing that our dad is waiting for us. Waiting to be reunited,” Stephanie says. “And he has the strength to keep going. We go down to his belief that, I guess, miracles can happen.”

The Levinson siblings talk to their own children regularly about Grandpa Bob, and make his presence felt by singing a song he dubbed “The Baby Song” – his own lyrics grafted over the Armor hot dog jingle. “Our father sang it to each one of us. It was a constant refrain in our house,” Stephanie says, adding that her son with autism is comforted by the family tune. “A 67-year-old man should spend his days with his grandbabies around him and singing ‘The Baby Song,’ not in captivity,” she says.

The family’s current hope is that Bob will make it to David’s wedding in October. “Just the other day, my fiancée showed me and Dan that she bought my dad’s tie for him, fully expecting him to be returning home and that he’ll be joining us for our wedding. She’s going through wedding planning assuming he’s going to be there,” David, 28 says. “I would love if my dad was front and center for the ceremony, but what’s more important is that he meets my fiancée some day.”

'It's All We Think About, What Are the Next Steps to Get Him Home,' Say Children of Iran Hostage Bob Levinson| politics, Real People Stories

Sarah Moriarty

COURTESY LEVINSON FAMILY

“It’s all we think about, what are the next steps to get him home,” Dan Levinson, 30, a financial analyst in Coral Springs, Florida, tells PEOPLE. “We’re not focused on the question of whether he’s still alive, we’re focused on how do we bring him home.”

“People Told Us He Was Dead … He Proved How Resilient He Was”
All seven of Bob’s children say they believe he’s still alive, despite no proof of life since 2011, when they were sent photos of Levinson looking frail in an orange jumpsuit.

“Before the hostage video came out in 2010 and the photos came out in 2011, a lot of people told us that he was dead and that we needed to move on. That there’s no way he could have survived to that point,” David says. “But what was heartening about the video and the photos is my dad proved how resilient he was to the entire world. Who’s to say that he hasn’t been able to do that over the past several years. We believe that as long as his physical needs are being met, that his will and stamina and resolve are what will get him through every single day.”

'It's All We Think About, What Are the Next Steps to Get Him Home,' Say Children of Iran Hostage Bob Levinson| politics, Real People Stories

The Levinson family

COURTESY LEVINSON FAMILY

Despite the Levinson family’s relentless optimism, Sarah Moriarty admits she and her siblings sometimes feel overwhelmed. “It’s been really hard. There’s been times that I’ve had siblings call me up at 2 o’clock in the morning crying, or I myself have called at 2 o’clock in the morning crying … there’s seven of us and it’s always on all of our minds,” Sarah, 35, a Vice President at a global investment bank, says. “We get strong for each other. If one of us is having a tough day, the other one gets strong and finds positivity.”

“He’s Missed So Much”
“It’s been a nightmare,” says David. “He’s missed so much.” The siblings and their mother, Christine, 64, help each other through holidays, birthdays, weddings and even births without their father. He hasn’t met five of his six grandchildren. Susan Boothe, the oldest at 38, says she named her son after the grandfather he has never met. “I always wanted to name my son after my dad, not because of [the kidnapping], but because growing up I always knew how special my dad is,” she says.

“My son was 5 months old when our dad was kidnapped,” Stephanie adds. “My son developed autism and he’s not able to speak. We weren’t really sure how much he understood. How much he comprehended. He can spell with a letterboard. Some of the things he said with the letterboard is ‘I know in my heart how much my mom misses her dad.’ “

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I Know Iran Will Find My Father

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-moriarty/i-know-iran-will-find-my-father_b_7828446.html

I Know Iran Will Find My Father

By Sarah Moriarty, wife, mother, financial services employee, and advocate for her father, Bob Levinson, the longest held hostage in U.S. history.
Posted: Updated: 
SARAH MORIARTY

My father loves to play chess. Growing up as one of seven children, I would take any opportunity I had for quality time with him, which often meant battling him in an epic chess match. I loved it, but I hated it. I would get frustrated, feel I was not good enough, and usually want to stop early. But Dad would gently push me to not give up, to see through on my promise to play with him.

I learned many life lessons from my dad over those games of chess, but looking back now, the most important were in knowing when the time was right to make a move and in seeing a challenge through to the end. These lessons came rushing back to mind this past week as the United States and several world powers reached an historic agreement with Iran to curb their country’s nuclear program.

While my father, Bob Levinson, and three other Americans held in Iran were not part of the nuclear deal, my family is more confident than ever that we will soon see their release. We are optimistic that the Iranian government will deliver on their promise to help find my father and send him home to show America, and the world, that they are serious about their peaceful intentions.

My father is the longest held hostage in American history, after disappearing from Kish Island, Iran, eight years ago. He is 67 years old and suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. Not a day goes by where we are not worried about his health and well being. Bob Levinson has been lingering in captivity for 3,054 days, with absolutely no contact with anyone he knows and loves. While we know in our hearts our father is still alive, we often find ourselves fearing how long someone can go on under those circumstances. How much pain can one person possibly bear?

2015-07-19-1437336983-2218815-image2.JPG

Our family has no further information from my father’s captors since receiving emails of a hostage video and photographs over four years ago. Nor has anyone stepped forward with compelling information to claim the FBI’s five million dollar reward.

Where is Bob Levinson? What do we have to do to get him home? Who can help us?

Only Iran can help us uncover the answer to these questions. My father disappeared on Iranian soil and the Iranian government has a moral obligation to find him. We are ever hopeful that Iran will work with counterparts in the United States and ramp up efforts to do this immediately. What better way to show naysayers that their government says what it means? What better way to build good faith than in finding Bob Levinson and bringing him home to his family? Given the unprecedented nuclear agreement last week, the time is right for Iran to prove they can deliver on their promises.

There is no doubt in my mind that my father is alive, fighting every day to find his way home. You can hear the resolve in his voice in the video we received in late 2010. You can see the fortitude in his eyes in the pictures from early 2011.

To know Bob Levinson is to know his strength, his determination and his drive — to know his deep, unwavering love for my mother and for all my family. He will not go silently into the night. Bob Levinson is as determined to get home as we are to get him home. But we need Iran’s help.

While last week’s deal was a starting point, we have not yet fully turned the page with Iran until we have resolution of my dad’s case and that of the three other Americans held. My family has watched intently as our country went from absolutely no relations with Iran to this very promising open and direct dialogue. We truly believe this is the beginning of more fruitful discussions to come, and that it will unlock any remaining challenges our countries have in order to get my father home.

As long as our two governments are speaking, we believe our father will be home to us soon. We know Iran can help us find the answers, and the past few months have proven how closely our two countries are willing to work together to resolve issues. Bob Levinson is no less important.

As my father taught me in those early chess games, we will not give up. We know the time is right to act. We humbly ask Iran to deliver on their promise by helping bring my father home. It’s their move now.

 

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Dad, I know you’ll make it home

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/opinions/levinson-fathers-day-hope/index.html

By David Levinson

Updated 7:06 PM ET, Fri June 19, 2015

Son of American detainee in Iran pleas for release

Son of American detainee in Iran pleas for release 02:47

Story highlights

  • Bob Levinson has been missing since 2007
  • David Levinson: I know one day we will see each other again

David Levinson, is one of Bob and Christine Levinson’s seven children. Bob Levinson was detained while visiting Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007. The views expressed are David’s own.

(CNN)About 10 years ago, as a college freshman in an Atlanta university and 600 miles from home, I was in trouble. For the first time in my life, I was stuck in a deep depression, due both to academic struggles and personal relationships. I hadn’t developed any friendships, was cut from a number of activities I hoped to be involved with, and, of course, I was homesick.

I remember the voice message I left for my Dad, telling him I hated it. I hated school, I hated the challenge, and I hated life. I told him I was scared — fearful that I had made the wrong choice of schools; that my life was now heading on a downward spiral that I could no longer control.

I expected a follow-up call. Maybe even a care package. Instead, the next day, my father showed up at my college dormitory, uncharacteristically driving a rented, flashy two-door sports car.

David Levinson

David Levinson

“Hey Davey,” he said as he picked me up. “Like my ‘ride’?”

I laughed, and told him he might as well have been wearing a Superman cape. I needed him that day, more than I think even he knew. We spent the day together and he bought me lunch and some much-needed groceries. But his biggest contributions that day were his listening skills and his advice.

“This is a phase,” he said. “A tough phase of life. It will pass. And you will be stronger from it.”

A little over a year later, my father disappeared. While traveling on Kish Island, Iran, he was detained and lost all communication with my family. Although we haven’t been able to speak to him since March of 2007, we have been a witness to his suffering. Several years ago, we received a video of him, looking broken and beaten, pleading for help from the United States government.

Less than a year later, we received photos of him in an orange jumpsuit, holding up messagesmocking our helpless attempts to return him home. When I first saw these photos, I realized how unrecognizable my father had become; that same confident, smiling man who I shared lunch with that day 10 years ago had been transformed completely. It was clear that on a daily level, he has been living through hell.

A few weeks ago, my brother, Dan, spoke in front of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,imploring them to do everything they could to help our Dad, especially as negotiations remain ongoing for a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.

“Crunch time,” my brother called it. I couldn’t agree more, but for some additional reasons. This October, I’ll become the first of my father’s three sons to get married, as I’ve found a partner who I can only describe as the woman of my dreams.

It would be amazing to have my father front and center for the ceremony, as he has already missed walking two of my sisters down the aisle for their weddings. But most of all, I just want him to be able to meet my fiancee. I know he would love her, that he would see how much I love her, and that he would share a few words of advice to guide me through the nerves of wedding preparation.

I believe in my father, and I know how determined he is to get home. There is no doubt in my mind that one day he will succeed, that one day we will see each other again and he will meet my future wife. She is hopeful for that day as well, and longs to meet the man I am constantly trying to emulate each day.

In the meantime, on this Father’s Day, just like every Father’s Day for the past eight years, I’ll relive that day in Atlanta and reflect on how lucky I have been to know my father, how fortunate I have been to learn from him, and how proud I am to be his son. I don’t need him to throw on a Superman cape or drive a fancy sports car to my wedding in October — just being there will be heroic enough.

Until that day, here’s wishing you a Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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Media Coverage of Dan Levinson’s Testimony During the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 2, 2015

Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/families-of-americans-held-in-iranian-prisons-to-testify-on-capitol-hill/2015/06/02/c456b588-092a-11e5-95fd-d580f1c5d44e_story.html

 

Sun Sentinel:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/coral-springs/daniel-levinson-will-urge-congress-on-tuesday-to-pressure-iran-to-divulge-inform-20150602-story.html

 

New Day – CNN

http://goo.gl/GnXQHZ

 

Associated Press (via U.S. News & World Report online):

http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2015/06/02/relatives-of-4-americans-in-iran-press-for-their-release

 

Bloomberg:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-02/families-of-u-s-prisoners-in-iran-say-nuclear-talks-pivotal

 

Agence France Presse (via Yahoo! News)

http://news.yahoo.com/us-lawmakers-urge-iran-free-detained-americans-173746879.html

 

NY Daily News:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/families-4-americans-held-iran-urge-congress-article-1.2243639

 

ABC News online:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/families-americans-held-iran-push-lawmakers-results/story?id=31463163

 

Fox News.com:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/06/02/families-four-americans-held-captive-in-iran-unite-urge-congress-to-bring-loved-ones-home.html

 

Politico:

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/amir-hekmati-relatives-plea-for-help-118543.html

 

Detroit Free Press:

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/06/02/hekmati-resolution-considered/28352293/

 

Christian Daily:

http://www.christianitydaily.com/articles/4041/20150601/prayer-vigil-behalf-pastor-saeed-abedini-take-place-washington-d.htm

 

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Video of Dan Levinson’s Testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Thank you to all of you who watched or supported Dan’s testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs this morning, and thank you to the committee for the opportunity to tell our father’s and our family’s story.

For those unable to watch earlier, the archive video is already available. If you would like to just watch Dan’s testimony, you can skip to 1:06:38, and there are also a few key answers he made to questions at approximately 1:24 and 1:28.

Thank you so much again for supporting our family as we continue to fight to bring our father, Bob Levinson, home to us.

http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/hearing-americans-detained-iran

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Statement by Christine Levinson, Wife of Robert Levinson, in Response to President Obama’s Statement

We are grateful to President Obama for raising Bob’s case today and to the FBI for recently increasing the reward to $5 million.  Both of these actions give us renewed hope.  Bob is the center of our family.   In the name of all our children and grandchildren, I again implore those who are holding Bob to show mercy and restore him to us.

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Statement by the President on U.S. Citizens Detained or Missing in Iran

https://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/20/statement-president-us-citizens-detained-or-missing-iran

Statement by the President on U.S. Citizens Detained or Missing in Iran

The spirit of family is deeply woven into all of the rich cultural traditions of the Nowruz holiday.  It is a time for reuniting and rejoicing with loved ones and sharing hopes for the new year.  Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran.

Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs.  He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father.

Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan has been imprisoned in Iran on false espionage charges for over three and a half years.  His family, including his father who is gravely ill, has borne the pain of Amir’s absence for far too long.

Jason Rezaian of Marin County, California, an Iranian government credentialed reporter for the Washington Post, has been unjustly held in Iran for nearly eight months on vague charges.  It is especially painful that on a holiday centered on ridding one’s self of the difficulties of the past year, Jason’s mother and family will continue to carry the heavy burden of concern regarding Jason’s health and well-being into the new year.

And finally, we recently marked yet another anniversary since Robert Levinson went missing on Kish Island.   His family has now endured the hardship of his disappearance for over eight years.

At this time of renewal, compassion, and understanding, I reiterate my commitment to bringing our citizens home and call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian and to work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson so that they all can be safely reunited with their families as soon as possible.

In honor of the familial spirit so strongly enshrined within this holiday and for the Abedini, Hekmati, Rezaian, and Levinson families, I hope this new spring is filled with joyous moments for us all with all of our loved ones by our sides.

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Reward Increased to $5 Million in Robert Levinson Case

http://www.fbi.gov/news/news_blog/reward-increased-to-5-million-in-robert-levinson-case

Reward Increased to $5 Million in Robert Levinson Case

Updated Billboard Small
Robert Levinson went missing from Kish Island, Iran, on March 9, 2007.

On March 9, 2007, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing from Kish Island, Iran, and today, on the eighth anniversary of his disappearance, the FBI has increased its reward to up to $5 million for information leading directly to his safe location, recovery, and return. Levinson, who will turn 67 tomorrow, is now one of the longest-held American hostages in history.

“Today we mark eight years since Bob disappeared in Iran, and we are increasing the reward for his location and safe return to his family,” said FBI Director James B. Comey. “We ask anyone with information to contact the FBI. It is long past time for Bob to come home.”

Anyone with information regarding Levinson or his captors is encouraged to contact the FBI at https://tips.fbi.gov. Information will be kept confidential and can be provided anonymously.

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Statement for the March 9th Anniversary of Hostage Bob Levinson

From the family of Robert Levinson -

Robert Levinson has been held hostage for eight years – since March 9, 2007, when he was last seen on Kish Island, Iran.  He is the longest-held hostage in American history.  Tomorrow, March 10th, is his 67th birthday.

Every year on this date we remind the world that Bob’s case is still not resolved and that this husband, father and grandfather is still not home where he belongs.  But we, his family, have been reminded every single day of the past eight years because of the enormous hole in our lives that will only be filled when Bob is back with us.  We need to see him, hear his voice, and hold him.  To help the world remember this extraordinary human being, here is a link to the hostage video we received in 2010 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=knjx0E2xLc0 and photographs we received in 2011 http://www.fbi.gov/levinson.  We have heard nothing since.  We urge the governments of Iran and the United States to work together to resolve this case and send Bob home, so he can live the rest of his life quietly, surrounded by the family that loves him.

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State Department Calls on Iran to Release American Prisoners

Found here:  http://bit.ly/1otdFZ8

By Phillip Swarts – The Washington Times – Friday, August 29, 2014

Marking the three-year anniversary of the arrest of a U.S. citizen in Iran, the State Department called upon the Islamic government to release all Americans detained by the nation.

“The United States remains committed to returning all of them to their families, friends and loved ones,” the agency said in a press release.

Friday marks the third anniversary since Amir Hekmati was arrested on espionage charges. The U.S. government has stated that the charges are false and that Mr. Hekmati traveled to Iran to visit family.

The agency also called for the release of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor supposedly arrested due to his religious beliefs; and Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter. Mr. Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, is a writer for a Middle Eastern paper and is also being held.

 

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