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3575093555_1ce34cca43The Ath was packed this Wednesday as Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi gave a presentation titled “On the Streets of Tehran.”  Saberi had been living and reporting in Iran for the past six years, but in January of this year was arrested on espionage charges and placed in solitary confinement with an eight-year prison sentence. She did not have access to a lawyer and the legal process was disregarded until international protests and governmental involvement led to her eventual release. While acknowledging the magnitude of her own experience, Saberi also made it clear that many other journalists continue to be imprisoned; Iran is currently the world’s fourth-worst offender in this regard.

On civilian journalism…
Saberi recognized the impact of civilian journalism, citing the example of Neda Agha Sultan, the woman whose murder was recorded by a bystander and widely publicized, especially on YouTube. “Civilian journalism does not replace professional journalism, but can complement it,” Saberi said.

On youth…
Saberi provided insight into the lives of Iranian youth, speaking of the young people who participated in political demonstrations, as well as those who expressed their feelings in other ways, including music. She shared a song titled “In Iran” by an Iranian rock band headed by a young man named Ashkon who was arrested for putting on a show without a permit, which Saberi asserted the authorities saw as “cultural invasion.”

Ashkon’s motivation behind the song, relayed by Saberi, provided a vivid glimpse into the concerns of Iranian youth. He spoke of youth taking their beliefs to the streets “at any price.” “But what about their lives? What about their futures? I sang this song because Iranians just need peace. Why doesn’t anyone ask, ‘Is Iran at peace?’ instead of asking ‘Is Iran making nuclear weapons?’”

On women…
Saberi described Iranian women’s significant involvement in the political process, ranging from campaigning and voting to protesting, where they outnumbered the men at times. Saberi displayed a clip from a 2006 news report she had done about women in Iran. Through the clip and a series of photographs, female firefighters, police officers, and taxi drivers were introduced, showing that there is some progress being made despite the restriction of women’s rights in Iran. Opinions from Iranians on both sides of the issue were shared, including from one woman who stated, “If the woman wants to go to work, the family will have many problems.”

On children…
Saberi spoke with some young girls at a Kurdish school, who want to be teachers, doctors, or police officers when they grow up. She also described the confusion that children face  with the incongruity between public and private lives, giving the example of a child being taught to hide parents’ “sins” when in public to avoid their suffering punishment or shame.

On identity…
Saberi touched on the “duality, or multiplicity, of identity” in Iran. Fear of punishment by the authorities causes many Iranians to live very differently in public than in private. The resulting discrepancy between what is said in public and what is done in private can cause a lot of confusion and identity struggles.

The bottom line…
The range of attitudes and beliefs Saberi encountered reveal that Iranians are a very ideologically diverse group, making the social and political situation highly complex. When asked whether a secular government, as opposed to a theocracy, is necessary for stability in Iran, Saberi asserted that she wants what the Iranians want, although there is no reliable way to determine what that actually is, nor is it likely that all the citizens desire the same thing. The speech provided a moving insight into a country whose people we would do well to understand.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for that link.

    I just want to reiterate that anyone interested in a video copy of her lecture should contact me. I have it, but she won’t let me put it on YouTube! I wonder why…

  2. Thanks for that link.

    I just want to reiterate that anyone interested in a video copy of her lecture should contact me. I have it, but she won’t let me put it on YouTube! I wonder why…

  3. Ms. Saberi wouldn’t be able to make money off of it that way, Charles. And she is probably afraid of what she has said during a lecture could be used against her — which it seems that there is plenty to use against her. The real question is if we, as the American public, are going to allow that kind of manipulation of our morals or not. I would hope not, but well, you never know.

  4. Ms. Saberi wouldn’t be able to make money off of it that way, Charles. And she is probably afraid of what she has said during a lecture could be used against her — which it seems that there is plenty to use against her. The real question is if we, as the American public, are going to allow that kind of manipulation of our morals or not. I would hope not, but well, you never know.

  5. Many people have relatives in the military. This had nothing to do with Saberi’s jailing. The article in Salon claims of being scammed but really has no opinions or assertions and asserts that the document she had was classified which has not been established. Saberi is working on a book and its possible that her book deal limits use of video (such as youtube) until the book is out. I don’t think a woman who lived in Tehran for 6 years and was imprisoned is afraid of contents of a lecture that she presented….seems a bit farfetched. Knowing her personally, the conspiracy theories are humorous.

  6. Many people have relatives in the military. This had nothing to do with Saberi’s jailing. The article in Salon claims of being scammed but really has no opinions or assertions and asserts that the document she had was classified which has not been established. Saberi is working on a book and its possible that her book deal limits use of video (such as youtube) until the book is out. I don’t think a woman who lived in Tehran for 6 years and was imprisoned is afraid of contents of a lecture that she presented….seems a bit farfetched. Knowing her personally, the conspiracy theories are humorous.

  7. Of course knowing her personally, you are to quickly jump to her aid, I understand that. However, it does matter when military regulations in and of themselves forbid such a situation – let alone a relative working in military intelligence. The article didn’t assert that the brother in the miltary had anything to do with Roxana’s jailing. It does, however, bring into question valid questions as to why the United States worked so hard for her freedom, while three individuals sit in Iranian prison as this moment with very little said about them. it asserts that Roxana’s own actions by reporting without press credentials, traveling to Israel, meeting with different individuals for her book, and filming a movie underground all demonstrate foolish behavior on her part, which led to her arrest.

    The taking of the document was established when she admitted herself that it was not a document she was working on.

    Why did her family hide her brother?
    Why did she lie about her ablility to speak Farsi?
    Why did she deny the need for press credentials?
    Why did she lie about her Master’s degree in Iran?
    Why did she not return to the United States immediately after being freed instead of going to Vienna where she met with United States officials?
    Why does she refuse to take responsibilty for any of her actions?

    Since you have a personal relationship with her, please ask her these things and get back to me. They are the same questions that everyone else is asking, particularly now since suddenly the US has information about a secret nuclear plant in Iran.

  8. Of course knowing her personally, you are to quickly jump to her aid, I understand that. However, it does matter when military regulations in and of themselves forbid such a situation – let alone a relative working in military intelligence. The article didn’t assert that the brother in the miltary had anything to do with Roxana’s jailing. It does, however, bring into question valid questions as to why the United States worked so hard for her freedom, while three individuals sit in Iranian prison as this moment with very little said about them. it asserts that Roxana’s own actions by reporting without press credentials, traveling to Israel, meeting with different individuals for her book, and filming a movie underground all demonstrate foolish behavior on her part, which led to her arrest.

    The taking of the document was established when she admitted herself that it was not a document she was working on.

    Why did her family hide her brother?
    Why did she lie about her ablility to speak Farsi?
    Why did she deny the need for press credentials?
    Why did she lie about her Master’s degree in Iran?
    Why did she not return to the United States immediately after being freed instead of going to Vienna where she met with United States officials?
    Why does she refuse to take responsibilty for any of her actions?

    Since you have a personal relationship with her, please ask her these things and get back to me. They are the same questions that everyone else is asking, particularly now since suddenly the US has information about a secret nuclear plant in Iran.

  9. Karen…having been in the military and had a high clearance once myself, the reason the regulation about the clearance exists is so that someone who is in a position like her brother could not be blackmailed, tortured, etc. under the threat that their family member would be harmed. I assume that the family asked to keep her brother’s occupation out of the press because it would only give the Iranians something else to throw about in the press, even though it really has no substantive link to what happened to her. Many people will assume a correlation when there is none.

    I don’t speak for Ms. Saberi, but have read much about her case. I have seen other reporters who worked in Tehran who vouched for the fact that these credentials are only required in certain circumstances and also vouched that Ms. Saberi was very cautious about what she participated in to avoid that issue. The document that you mention was not marked with a classified stamp (which was widely reported) and my experience in the military was that properly marking such documents is almost a religion in itself as the consequences for mishandling and not marking it can be severe and career ending.

    I have seen interviews where Ms. Saberi took responsibility for her actions, perhaps you have not seen these. I also have not seen any claims about lying about a master’s in Tehran. I have seen some report that she was working on one but I don’t know if she was or not. There were also news reports that she was arrested for having a bottle of wine, which were false. The news cycle doesn’t always have it right. I also read that upon her release she had stayed in Vienna as a guest of the Austrian govt. which had been key in obtaining her release and travel documents. An Austrian friend of the family (govt. official) had offered his home as a resting place after her stay in Evin and she was weak from fasting, etc. If, as you claim, she met with US officials there, why would it matter if she immediately came to the US to meet them or met them in Vienna? I’m not sure what the insinuation is. Can’t speak to the Farsi comment..seemed unusual to me as well. I’m sure there are dialects and I work in a multinational company…some people’s english is fairly good but you have to be careful about vocabulary for someone who is ESL to make sure they understand. There is speaking and there is mastery.

    I agree about your comments on the hikers. Ms. Saberi has spoken out asking for their release. I think the reason you see the difference is that Ms. Saberi has more friends in places where the story would get out. Obviously many friends in the press given her job. My personal opinion is that she was taken 10 days after inauguration as a challenge to Obama and the administration wanted to be at once tough, responsive, but show that they were willing to have a dialogue with Iran. Obviously many things have changed since her release (their elections, the missile tests, etc.)

    FYI…the US didn’t “suddenly” learn of the nuclear facility. You don’t build a facility like this in a mountain overnight and without satellite imagery noticing it. Check out this link from PBS that I was sent some time ago. Late in the clip, they show an Iranian nuclear processing plant (a different one) and how the facility is really more than 2x the apparent size as they hid part of it in a hill. The satellite imagery shows how we would have known about the recently revealed facility as well.

  10. Karen…having been in the military and had a high clearance once myself, the reason the regulation about the clearance exists is so that someone who is in a position like her brother could not be blackmailed, tortured, etc. under the threat that their family member would be harmed. I assume that the family asked to keep her brother’s occupation out of the press because it would only give the Iranians something else to throw about in the press, even though it really has no substantive link to what happened to her. Many people will assume a correlation when there is none.

    I don’t speak for Ms. Saberi, but have read much about her case. I have seen other reporters who worked in Tehran who vouched for the fact that these credentials are only required in certain circumstances and also vouched that Ms. Saberi was very cautious about what she participated in to avoid that issue. The document that you mention was not marked with a classified stamp (which was widely reported) and my experience in the military was that properly marking such documents is almost a religion in itself as the consequences for mishandling and not marking it can be severe and career ending.

    I have seen interviews where Ms. Saberi took responsibility for her actions, perhaps you have not seen these. I also have not seen any claims about lying about a master’s in Tehran. I have seen some report that she was working on one but I don’t know if she was or not. There were also news reports that she was arrested for having a bottle of wine, which were false. The news cycle doesn’t always have it right. I also read that upon her release she had stayed in Vienna as a guest of the Austrian govt. which had been key in obtaining her release and travel documents. An Austrian friend of the family (govt. official) had offered his home as a resting place after her stay in Evin and she was weak from fasting, etc. If, as you claim, she met with US officials there, why would it matter if she immediately came to the US to meet them or met them in Vienna? I’m not sure what the insinuation is. Can’t speak to the Farsi comment..seemed unusual to me as well. I’m sure there are dialects and I work in a multinational company…some people’s english is fairly good but you have to be careful about vocabulary for someone who is ESL to make sure they understand. There is speaking and there is mastery.

    I agree about your comments on the hikers. Ms. Saberi has spoken out asking for their release. I think the reason you see the difference is that Ms. Saberi has more friends in places where the story would get out. Obviously many friends in the press given her job. My personal opinion is that she was taken 10 days after inauguration as a challenge to Obama and the administration wanted to be at once tough, responsive, but show that they were willing to have a dialogue with Iran. Obviously many things have changed since her release (their elections, the missile tests, etc.)

    FYI…the US didn’t “suddenly” learn of the nuclear facility. You don’t build a facility like this in a mountain overnight and without satellite imagery noticing it. Check out this link from PBS that I was sent some time ago. Late in the clip, they show an Iranian nuclear processing plant (a different one) and how the facility is really more than 2x the apparent size as they hid part of it in a hill. The satellite imagery shows how we would have known about the recently revealed facility as well.

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