The brother of imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian dropped by Iran’s mission to the United Nations on Thursday and delivered a Change.org petition for his immediate release.
The petition was signed by more than 535,000 people in 150 countries and all 50 states.
After Ali Rezaian’s brief visit to Iran’s diplomatic outpost a couple of blocks from the UN, he reported that he was offered tea but little sympathy.
“They did offer me tea, but we didn’t leave the anteroom,” Rezaian told a gaggle of reporters who weren’t permitted to accompany him into the Manhattan office building at 622 3rd Avenue because the Iranians were “spooked by all the press,” according to a witness.
“I said that since it was cold out, I was going to have tea, but it became clear that I wasn’t going to be there that long,” Rezaian added, noting that neither the ambassador nor the press attaché made themselves available to greet him. “They can save the tea for later.”
Instead, Ali was met in the lobby by a beefy security guard and a slender man wearing a gray suit and tieless black shirt buttoned up to the Adam’s apple—an employee of the Iranian mission who smiled politely, shook hands and escorted him to the elevators.
“They didn’t really want to give their names,” Ali said. “I tried. They knew who I was.”
He added that he told them that “I want them to know that we’re going to keep on pushing until Jason gets out.”
The American-born son of a Persian carpet importer who emigrated to the United States in 1958, Ali spoke with authority when he said: “I can tell you that they have a very nice rug.”
The 44-year-old Ali, a business consultant from Marin County, California, handed over the petition and signatures on a thumb drive to mark his 39-year-old brother Jason’s 500th day of being held hostage on bogus charges of espionage after a perfunctory secret trial by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The thing that really keeps him going is knowing that the people out here are really paying attention to the story,” said Ali, who was surrounded by supporters on the sidewalk holding up “Free Jason” placards and similarly labeled cardboard boxes filled with symbolic paper petitions.
“He’s the nicest guy, he has tons of friends, he’s very social,” Ali said about his brother, with whom he hasn’t spoken since they were together on vacation in Istanbul in July 2014, shortly before Jason and his Iranian-born wife, Yeganeh, a fellow journalist, were arrested at their home in Tehran.
Jason remains in the capital city’s notorious Evin Prison, while “Yegi,” as his wife is known, was released after three months to her family—under virtual house arrest under draconian restrictions as she awaits her own trial on unspecified charges.
“He thrives on being with people. That’s why it’s been so traumatic for him, being almost in solitary confinement for 13 months,” Ali said.
The irony, he added, is that Jason, whose stories for The Post focused more on social and cultural themes than on politics and foreign policy, “wanted good relations between the two countries. He wanted to bring people together. That’s what he always did.”
Starting Friday morning, Ali said, the National Press Club in Washington will sponsor a 24-hour-long celebration of Jason’s journalism, in which dozens of colleagues and even the Rezaians’ local congressman, Rep. Jared Huffman, will read aloud from his stories.