Families of Americans Held Hostage and Wrongfully Detained Abroad Write Open Letter to President Biden

The front of the The White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the families of 26 Americans currently held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad sent the below letter to President Biden, urging immediate action to free their loved ones.

Dear Mr. President, 

We write to you as family members of Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad who are in need of your immediate attention and support. Every day we wonder how much longer our loved ones must endure their captivity, not knowing when they will return home, and not being able to fully understand the efforts the United States government is undertaking to secure their freedom.

We are grateful for the times you have personally referred to some of our family members by name in public statements vowing to fight for their release. Many of us were present on a February call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his first week in office. That call provided hope to so many families who heard this administration promise that their loved ones’ freedom was a national priority.

Yet as of this letter, so many of us remain in the same situation, or worse, more than 8 months later. In fact, some of us have endured this burden across multiple administrations. We have not been able to meet with you or even with your National Security Advisor to discuss our loved ones’ captivity, which leads us to believe that your administration is not prioritizing negotiations and other methods to secure their release. When we do meet with other officials we feel we are being kept in the dark about what the U.S. government intends to do to free our loved ones.

And yet we continue to add up the minutes, hours, days and years our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, sisters, and brothers are unjustly denied their freedom.

Our family members are being held because they are Americans, so it’s up to the U.S. government to bring them home. To do that, the U.S. can no longer continue to be bogged down in burdensome processes or policy debates that keep our loved ones from coming home and keep us uninformed of what you can and cannot do to help us. We need to be shown that the promises of your administration to prioritize the return of our family members are not empty. Now is the time for action. Now we need you to bring our fellow Americans home.

Charlene Cakora, sister of Mark Frerichs, held hostage in Afghanistan

Harrison Li, son of Kai Li, wrongfully detained in China

Charlene McMahon, mother of David McMahon, wrongfully detained in China

Family member of an American wrongfully detained in China

Mother of Alina Lopez, wrongfully detained in Cuba

Aayah Khalaf, daughter of Hosam Khalaf and Ola Qaradawi, wrongfully detained in Egypt

Mohamed Soltan, son of Salah Soltan, wrongfully detained in Egypt

Gazelle Sharmahd, daughter of Jamshid Sharmahd, wrongfully detained in Iran

Els Woodke, wife of Jeffery Woodke, held hostage in Mali

Paula Reed, mother of Trevor Reed, wrongfully detained in Russia

The family of Paul Whelan, wrongfully detained in Russia

Anaise Kanimba, daughter of Paul Rusesabagina, wrongfully detained in Rwanda

Sarah al-Haidar, sister and daughter of Salah al-Haidar and Aziza al-Yousef, both wrongfully detained in Saudi Arabia

Areej al-Sadhan, sister of Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, wrongfully detained in Saudi Arabia

Maryam Kamalmaz, daughter of Majd Kamalmaz, wrongfully detained in Syria

Melanie Berry, wife of Airan Berry, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Maria Elena Cardenas, wife of Gustavo Cardenas, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Mark Denman, brother of Luke Denman, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Trudy Rutherford, aunt of Matthew Heath, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Mervis Pereira, wife of Jose Pereira, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Carlos Añez, stepson of Jorge Toledo, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Dennysse Vadell, wife of Tomeu Vadell, wrongfully detained in Venezuela

Alirio Zambrano, brother of Alirio Jose Zambrano and Jose Luis Zambrano, both wrongfully detained in Venezuela