Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked on Tuesday with the loved ones of Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad – a gesture of support from the new administration that garnered high praise from the families who spoke with CNN.
It sent a promising signal, the families said, that the Biden administration will make the release of their loved ones a priority, and they expressed hope that the top US diplomat’s investment would translate into bringing their family members home.
“It just made my heart sing. I felt like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt heard. I felt cared for. And it was just, it was awesome to feel that way,” said Paula Reed, whose son Trevor Reed is imprisoned in Russia. “I was crying when we got off (the call); it was just so emotional.”
According to the Foley Foundation, there are at least 43 publicly known hostage or detainee cases in 11 countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
The video call was well-attended by family members and officials from hostage advocacy organizations, including the Foley Foundation, according to those who spoke to CNN. Blinken took time beyond the allotted hour to field questions from those in attendance.
“Secretary Blinken was patient and kind to answer all of our questions and concerns with real concern for each individual case. We are truly thankful,” Maryam Kamalmaz told CNN. Her father, Majd Kamalmaz, is a humanitarian worker who disappeared in Syria in 2017.