There is more to Amir Hekmati’s arrest and imprisonment in Iran than being a decorated United States Marine veteran. In fact, the main reason for Amir’s 2011 arrest, imprisonment, and death sentence in early 2012 was his intellect and participation in the development of Kuma Reality Games as culture and language consultant.
Amir Hekmati completed his high school studies in 2001 and since then participated in several educational and training programs offered by the U.S. military. He participated in the Naval Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in 2001 and later attends the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, California. His intelligence, bravery, good conduct, and participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom earned him several awards and decorations, opportunity to study Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and later honorably discharged as a sergeant in 2005.
In 2006, Amir’s experience as a translator in Iraq allowed him to establish Lucid Linguistic LLC and acquire Arabic and Persian translation contracts from U.S. military. He later got involved in different translation projects for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and language-learning video game (Kuma Reality Games) for the U.S. Department of Defense. Amir was about to start an economics degree at the University of Michigan when he was arrested and detained for espionage.
There is nothing special about Amir’s enthusiasm for education and specialist training including his seemingly extraordinary intelligence, courage, and integrity. The reason is that Amir’s father (Ali Hekmati), before brain cancer diagnosis, was a college professor at Mott Community College, Flint, Michigan. His sister remembered Amir as an energetic young man who loves sports and was curious about culture and languages. Despite being a natural born American with Iranian descent, Amir is fluent in Arabic and spent most of his military service as a linguist and translator.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court labeled Amir as “Corrupt on Earth” and “An Enemy of God” for allegedly spying and helping the United States undermine Iran’s integrity. The basis for such claim is Amir’s alleged intelligence training in 2001, direct participation in the development of MITRE Corporation’s two-way translation system and design of the language–learning aspects of Kuma Reality Games that are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The first one is certainly baseless but the rest are facts that are enough to convince Iranian authorities of espionage.
Iran is historically hostile to insulting and malevolent activities such as Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, American government’s arrogance and consistent insulting remarks on Iran such as “terrorist allies”, “an axis of evil”, and “sponsor of global terror”, and death sentence for a 30-year old man who posted a religiously offensive remarks on Facebook.
Amir did nothing similar, but being an Iranian-American, a Middle Eastern culture, and language expert, and a favored contractor of U.S. military projects visiting relatives in Iran made him a credible spy in the imaginations of Iranian authorities. Amir’s education, military experience and recognitions, expertise, and chosen line of work are difficult to ignore particularly to people who are exceedingly sensitive and hostile to change and spread of democratic values.
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