Former Iranian Prisoner and US Navy Veteran Reunite in U.S. After Extraordinary Friendship Behind Bars

Former US Navy Veteran and Iranian Activist’s Remarkable Prison Friendship Leads to Reunion in the US

Michael White, a US Navy veteran held in an Iranian prison for alleged spying, developed a deep friendship with Iranian activist Mahdi Vatankhah while in jail.

 

US Navy Veteran
Michael White, a US Navy veteran held in an Iranian prison for alleged spying, developed a deep friendship with Iranian activist Mahdi Vatankhah while in jail. (PHOTO: Stars and Stripes)

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US Navy Veteran and Iranian Activist Bond Behind Prison Walls

In an extraordinary tale of friendship forged behind prison walls, Michael White, a US Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges he vehemently denies, found an unlikely ally in Mahdi Vatankhah, a young Iranian political activist. According to New York Post, the US Navy veteran and the Iranian political activist, brought together by shared interests in politics and human rights, developed a deep bond during their time in captivity.

Vatankhah, who had faced multiple imprisonments due to his activism and criticism of the Iranian government, played a pivotal role in White’s ordeal. He helped the US Navy veteran’s mother by providing crucial firsthand accounts of her son’s prison conditions and delivering White’s letters from behind bars. Vatankhah’s assistance continued even after his release, where he became a vital link between White and the outside world.

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US Navy Veteran’s Mission to Bring Iranian Activist to Freedom

The US Navy veteran’s release in June 2020, as part of a prisoner swap, marked a turning point. According to the reports, the Navy veteran was determined to repay Vatankhah’s selfless support. White successfully advocated for Vatankhah’s admission to the United States under a government program called humanitarian parole, which allows entry for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

In a heartwarming reunion last spring at a Los Angeles airport, the US Navy veteran and the Iranian political activist, once unlikely friends in an Iranian prison, embraced freedom together. Vatankhah, now living in San Diego, has applied for asylum in the U.S., securing a work permit and a job as a caregiver. This remarkable story of friendship transcending borders and adversity serves as a testament to the enduring power of human connection and the pursuit of justice.

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