The Iranian Foreign Ministry has condemned Syrian opposition forces for death threats against Iranian hostages, saying the responsibility for those Iranian lives lies with the kidnappers and also the supporters of the Syrian opposition forces.
Ramin Mehmanparast, a foreign ministry spokesman, called for the immediate release of Iranian hostages in Syria, adding that “taking advantage of defenseless pilgrims as a human shield was against human rights principles.”
On Friday, September 5, Syrian opposition forces released a video of Iranian hostages, saying all negotiations for their release had failed. While Iranian authorities claim the hostages are religious pilgrims, the Syrian opposition forces claim they are members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
In the video, the Syrian opposition representative addresses families of the hostages, saying they had called on Iran to negotiate on their behalf with the Syrian government in exchange for their release but Iran had failed to cooperate with their demands.
The video goes on to warn that if their prisoners are not released within 48 hours and “the shelling of civilians is not halted, for every martyr on our side, we will kill a hostage.”
The head of the Iranian committee charged with monitoring the situation of hostages in Syria has dismissed the threats in the video as a “bluff.”
Mansour Haghighatpour said: “Our initiatives we have taken to release the hostages is one side of the issue, the other side is what is unknown to us, and we have not been able to establish contact with them.”
The first video of the hostages was released two months ago by the Syrian opposition forces after the 48 Iranians went missing near Damascus.
Iran claims they were a pilgrim caravan on its way to a holy shrine near the Syrian capital. They have acknowledged, however, that some retired members of the IRGC were among the pilgrims.
Iran has been a supporter of the Syrian regime over the past year and half of unrest in that country, and the Syrian opposition has accused Iran of lending the regime a hand in its crackdown.