June of 2013. 
 
There has been no change in Amir’s status for over a year. He is still in Evin Prison, and while not in as heinous conditions as he had been, the waiting and lack of contact is deadening to the soul.

I read an article recently about solitary confinement and it’s impact on prisoners. The head of Colorado’s Department of Corrections, as one of his first actions, spent 24 hours in solitary confinement. 

It completely changed his perspective on the practice, and the article helped to remind me of Amir’s situation. Like you, I have a busy life, and it is easy to forget about him in the rush of work and family. 

 
The Hekmati family doesn’t have that luxury, because Amir is an integral part of their life. In just this month alone, Amir’s brother in law finishes his residency program, his younger brother graduates high school, and his sister and her family move closer to his parents.
 
I’m sure his absence was felt strongly for each of these events, and sitting in his cell, if he managed to find out about them, they would have felt surreal to him. The brother who was Freshman or Sophomore when he last saw him graduating, the best friend and brother-in-law advancing in his medical career, and the sister who would have surely asked him to lend his help in moving her heavier furniture.
 
Think about the things you and yours have experienced in the last 1000 days. Something special happened. Come down and write it on the wall we will erect here in Lafayette Park, so we can celebrate life while remember a missing friend.
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500 days in captivity on September 25th. 

This milestone is marked by vigils around the country, but unfortunately nothing new develops in regard to a possible new court date for Amir.

In September of 2012, two black events mar the Hekmati family’s life. 
 
Amir’s father Ali Hekmati gets diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. This represents further damage to an already suffering family.
 
Then-President Ahmadinejad makes it worse when, during a visit to the UN, he denies any knowledge of Amir’s case. This seems quite unlikely to be true, as it was covered extensively by Iranian state media outlets, and is one of the major issues between our two nations. 

What’s more likely is that it was a measured response designed to either avoid a confrontation in the States, or to in some way improve the calculus of the situation for Tehran. 

 
Any way you add it up, it is another blow to the Hekmati family

 

In June, Amir’s mother makes the trip again, and this time she is able to see him. 
 
Now she gets to see the son whose life is no longer in the balance. Unlike many of the other prisoners in Evin, who disappear, Amir at least has the protection of being a US citizen about whom there has been news coverage both inside Iran and around the world.
 
There is still no word of a new trial, but the relief each would have felt at seeing one another would be worth a hundred trips, not just the two it took to get this done.
 
It will be more than a year before there are any updates from Amir or about his case, but the family keeps trying. 
 
Part of the struggle is the incongruous nature of the Iranian legal system. It does not function as does the system the United States, and Amir’s state appointed lawyer has not seemed to function in his client’s best interests.

 

Mrs Hekmati once more makes the trip back to Iran to visit her son. This isn’t like visiting Canada or Western Europe. Like Amir did in 2011, she had to go to the Iranian Interest desk at the Pakistani embassy. There she would submit her request and have to wait for approval to travel back to the land of her birth.
 
The whole time she would be wondering whether she would be approved, or if Amir would be sent back to trial. 
 
On the 23rd of March she arrived back in Iran. She was, however, denied permission to see her son. Try to put yourself in her place for a moment. There is, of course, the joy that the death sentence has been lifted, but then the frustration of travelling half a world away, only to be turned away. 

Her emotional pain must have been palpable. 

On the 5th of March, 2012, the Iranian Attorney General announced that the conviction and death sentence were overturned. They were deemed “incomplete”. Whatever that meant.
 
What it meant was that the onus of the death sentence was gone. Amir was in a grey area, and would remain so for some time. He was still in solitary confinement, but not as horrible conditions as before his initial conviction. 
 
This new hope caused the family to make plans to come visit Amir. I am not sure when he was told, and from reading reporting from other people who had been confined in Evin, I am inclined to think he was not told right away.
Amir’s mother is allowed to fly to Iran to visit her oldest son. I do not know how that conversation went, but I can imagine how bittersweet it must have been.
 
She got to see her son, and he got to see his mother, but the threat of an execution hung heavy over the reunion.
 
All this time, the family had been trying to keep his ordeal out of the news. This was no doubt sound advice, but it must have made for a lonely vigil. It was only later, after the low-key approach did not seem to have the desired effect, that the Hekmati’s chose to appeal to us for support for Amir’s cause.
 
Given that, the weight on Mrs. Hekmati’s shoulders as she saw her son must have been nearly unbearable.
Amir is sentenced to death for espionage on January 9th 2012. He is granted no significant participation in his trial. In retrospect this seems like a ploy to increase his value in the diplomatic chess match between our two nations.
 
But this ‘ploy’ must have seemed quite serious and horrible to his family. To be told your brother, son, uncle is to be killed for a crime he did not commit. 
 
How bleak a time it must have been.
4:17
On December 24th, 2011, the mystery of Amir’s disappearance was completely and horrifically explained. 
 
On that date Amir is accused on Iranian television of being a spy. He had been interrogated and kept in horrible confinement for months.He is forced to make a confession video stating he was attempting to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence apparatus. 

The accusations, as ridiculous they seemed to Amir’s extended family, moved forward to court. 

 
I’m writing about this blow to the family in the deepest part of the night although the birds have started to sing their morning songs. There could not have been any hopeful signs like that for the family.

We are standing a 1000 minute vigil for Amir starting at 2:20 AM this morning. So 2:05 is T-15 minutes (or days). This would be when Amir arrived in Iran, and met family members he had never seen before. The two weeks he had with them was something he looked forward to ever since he took a trip to the Middle East with his brother in law Ramy, witnessing him meeting his relatives for the first time. 
 
I can only imagine how nice it must have been, and how much they must have liked to have met him. His parents had left Iran during the revolution more than 30 years before, and seeing this young man must have brought back memories of their time together.
 
This was August 15th. On August 29th, Amir did not show up at his family’s house. He had been staying at a cousin’s apartment, and when the family went there, it was empty. They had no idea where Amir had gone. 

It wasn’t until December that the family definitively knew where Amir was and why he had been taken. The darkness of this abandoned park is a poor comparison for what they must have felt, but as I sit on the bricks within my self-imposed limits that match his cell’s size, I can only wonder at the pain both he and they felt. 

 
It is not lost on me that his ordeal is one thousand four hundred and forty times longer than my own little picnic in this park. that’s how many minutes are in a day, So while you only have to wait until 4:17 AM to find out what happened next in his story, it was months for him.