Amir’s Vote

On this Election Day, I will tell my daughter to get ready, gather up my things, make sure I have my ID in my purse, and travel to my closest polling station to cast my vote.

For some, it will seem like something that we automatically do — without much thought — every four years. For others, particularly first time voters, there will be a certain pride felt in exercising this right that so many people in the history of America have fought to have, keeping in mind that many people have fought for us to have this right, too.

For me, however, I will think about Amir Hekmati.

Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona. He grew up in Nebraska and Michigan. He served in the US Marines. And now he is languishing away in Ward 209 of Iran’s notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Last January, he was sentenced to death by an Iranian court for being a spy, a claim that his family and the US government denies. They also charged him with Corruption of the Earth and Waging War Against  God –charges that are hard to understand, particularly from a Western point-of-view. The death sentence was the first for an American in 33 years, since the Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fortunately, in March, his death sentence was overturned and a new trial was ordered. Unfortunately, since then, there has been no retrial. In fact, there has been very little movement at all, leaving Amir in solitary confinement without contact with his family in Michigan. Even letters sent to Amir do not reach him.

His attorney in Iran, one appointed and approved by an Iranian court, has been given little or access to Amir. Diplomats acting on behalf of United States interest have been denied visits. His relatives in Iran have also been turned away.

Today, when I vote, I will also think about history. I will think about the hostages taken 33 years ago, held for 444 days. Amir has been held for 436.

I will think of Amir, who only wanted to visit his aging grandmother. I will think back to my own grandparents, all residing in different countries while I was growing up. I will try to imagine what it must be like, being a citizen of America, and being arrested simply for wanting to see my Nan before she would pass from this world to the next. I will think of other people held as political prisoners, past and present, with their human rights stripped from them for no reason at all.

I don’t know who Amir would vote for today, if given the opportunity. I am certain, however, that Amir would vote. So, today, when I cast my vote, it won’t only be my vote. It will be Amir’s vote, too. It will be a vote I make in hopes of bringing Amir home. Soon.

For more information on Amir, please visit