Nizar Zakka is a Lebanese information technology expert and advocate of Internet freedom. He is a permanent resident of the United States, where he served as secretary general of the Arab ICT Organization (IJMA3) in Washington, D.C..
On September 18, 2015, Zakka disappeared in Iran after attending a conference in Tehran. In early November, Iranian media confirmed that Zakka was in custody on charges of being an American spy.
Early life and education:
Nizar Zakka was born in Lebanon, and holds permanent-resident status in the U.S. He attended the Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia, for high school, graduating in 1985. He attended the University of Texas, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and mathematics in 1989 and a Master of Science in computer science in 1991.
Arrest in Iran:
Zakka traveled to Tehran on September 15, 2015 to participate in a conference on entrepreneurship, at the invitation of the Iranian government. On September 18, he disappeared while on the way to the airport to leave the country. On October 31, 2015, the Beirut-based Daily Star reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) was holding Zakka.
On November 3, 2015, in the first official confirmation of his arrest, Iranian state broadcaster IRIB said Zakka was in the custody of authorities on suspicion of being an American spy. IRIB described him as a “treasure trove” because of “connections with intelligence and military bodies in the United States.” As evidence, Iranian state TV displayed a photo of Zikka in army-style fatigues, which Zakka’s family identified from a homecoming parade he participated in as an alumnus of his military high school in Georgia.
Prior to his arrest in Iran, he was living in Washington, D.C., where he served as the secretary general of the Arab ICT Organization, known as IJMA3. Zakka’s family said they were “shocked by these false accusations” and stressed that he has no “relation with any military, security institution or secret services whatsoever.”
Prisoner of Conscience & International Support for Nizar’s Release:
On January 9, 2017, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ms. Asma Jahangir, raised alarm over the critical health situation of several prisoners of conscience including, Nizar Zakka, on prolonged hunger strike in the country.
The United States Congress approved two resolutions H.Res.317 and S.Res.245 that mention Mr. Zakka and other U.S. persons unlawfully detained in Iran. The Congress urges President Trump to “take whatever steps are in the national interest to secure the release of such individuals. Lawmakers also stressed to “make the release of U.S. citizens and legal permanent resident aliens held hostage by the Iranian government the highest of priorities.”
As Iran is holding hostage nationals from other nations including innocent persons from the United Kingdom, among other nations, Congressional lawmakers stress the need for a multinational task force to work to secure the release of the detainees.