Foley Foundation and Family Advocates Welcome Legislation to Designate a Hostage and Wrongful Detainee Flag Day

Bipartisan congressional measure would designate March 9 as date of remembrance for Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained.

WASHINGTON, DC – The James W. Foley Foley Legacy Foundation welcomed the introduction today of bipartisan House and Senate legislation that would designate March 9 as U.S. Hostage and Wrongful Detainee Day and create an official U.S. Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag as an official symbol to recognize Americans held as hostages or wrongfully detained abroad.

This legislation was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by Senator Christopher Coons, D-Del., and Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on American Hostages and Americans Wrongfully Detained Abroad, Representative French Hill, R-Ark., and Representative Haley Stevens, D-Mich., are the sponsors of the House bill.

The bill would use a flag created and championed by advocates and family members of detained Americans, including the Bring Our Families Home campaign, the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, members of the Levinson family and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. These groups have all worked closely together to advocate for their loved ones and to urge Congress to create and pass this legislation.

“I thank Senators Coons and Rubio and Representatives French and Stevens for their leadership on this vital issue,” said Diane Foley, President and Founder of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. “I also commend the Bring Our Families Home campaign and Mickey Bergman of the Richardson Center for creating the Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag and the Robert Levinson family for promoting its codification. The Foley Foundation has been a strong advocate of this legislation and we continue to urge members of Congress to approve it quickly.”

Neda Sharghi, Chair of the Bring Our Families Home campaign and sister of Emad Shargi, wrongfully detained in Iran since 2018 said: “For so long, the families of American hostages and wrongful detainees have suffered alone, with the fear and the uncertainly of how we will get our loved ones home hidden from the public eye. The Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag, conceived and designed by the very families whose loved ones are detained, finally brings us out of the shadows. This flag, along with the annual National Hostage and Wrongful Detainee Day, will serve as a much needed reminder that our nation has a duty to bring home Americans who have been taken for no reason other than being American.”

Today’s announcement came on the anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran in 2007. Mr. Levinson, a former FBI agent who was held captive in Iran 13 years, was considered to be the longest-held U.S. hostage in history before the U.S. government conclusion in 2020 that he had died in captivity. David Levinson, a son of Robert Levinson and member of the Foley Foundation board, said “this legislation reinforces the United States’ commitment to seeing Americans unjustly held return home, and gives hope to families who today face the same challenges as our family did for far too many years.” Sarah Levinson Moriarty, one of Mr. Levinson’s daughters and a fellow at New America, added “To see the flag flying will be a stark reminder to each of us that while we celebrate our freedom, others are sitting in a dark cell somewhere simply for holding an American passport, and they and their families are suffering unimaginably.

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation was created in 2014 after the beheading of American journalist James Foley and advocates for the safe return of all Americans held hostage or unjustly detained abroad. For more information or to request an interview, contact Amy Coyne at