We are pleased to welcome Shahriar Aliabadi, a former seafarer based in Iran, to the ISWAN team. As a former hostage who spent nearly four years held in captivity by Somali pirates, Shahriar has a passion for helping fellow seafarers and will be working with ISWAN to support seafarers and their families in need of assistance in Iran.
Welcome to ISWAN, Shahriar! Tell us a bit about yourself.
In short, my father served in the Navy for 30 years and I have been interested in working at sea since I was a teenager. I served as a bosun on a container ship. I used to love the seafaring profession, but I did not return to it after my release from captivity at the request of my wife and family.
How did you first come into contact with ISWAN?
After my release, I realised that the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme [MPHRP, which became part of ISWAN in 2015] had played an important role in our crew’s freedom. Even after my release and my return home, they gave me maximum support so that I could quickly reach the right mental and physical condition to return to society. Since we were released, I have been in contact with Mr. Chirag [Bahri, ISWAN’s International Operations Manager] for medical assistance.
What is your motivation for working with ISWAN?
During my four years of captivity, I experienced the moment of death for many times, and every time God saved me in some way. I do not know these events as luck, but I believe that I had to experience the most difficult conditions possible and come back alive so that I can use my experience to save people’s lives and help them for the rest of my life.
My family and I have experienced that when a sailor gets into trouble, both he/she and those around them are under a lot of pressure. If outside help is not available in this situation, it will cause many problems, so I decided to do my best to help the sailors and their families when they were in serious trouble, just as MPHRP helped me.
You have previously worked with ISWAN to support four Iranian crew members of FV Siraj, who also spent several years held in captivity by Somali pirates, and their families (the story can be found on our website here). What was your role in this case, and what are your hopes for working with ISWAN moving forward?
I informed ISWAN about the problems of the hostages and their families, and with ISWAN’s strategy and planning, we were fortunately able to provide maximum assistance to the hostages and their families.
This opportunity has been given to me by ISWAN so that I can do my best to help sailors and their families and the maritime industry.
Because God has given me this great opportunity to live again, my goal and desire has always been that just as many people have played a great role for me to be alive and continuing my life, I also consider it my duty to continue the path of my life serving other human beings. Because I believe that nothing lasts forever in this world except serving others.