Roxana Saberi

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For several weeks last year, I shared a cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison with Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, two leaders of Iran's minority Bahai faith. I came to see them as my sisters, women whose only crimes were to peacefully practice their religion and resist pressure from their captors to compromise their principles. For this, apparently, they and five male colleagues were sentenced this month to 20 years in prison.

I had heard about Mahvash and Fariba before I met them. Other prisoners spoke of the two middle-aged mothers whose high spirits lifted the morale of fellow inmates.

The Bahai faith, thought to be the largest non-Muslim minority religion in Iran, originated in 19th-century Persia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shortly after Iran announced that it had executed five Kurdish political activists on Sunday, I received an e-mail from a human rights campaigner in Tehran who knew one of them, asking me to spread the word about the hangings.

"We are truly helpless," she wrote, "and we feel lost."

Iran labeled the five "terrorists," but human rights advocates have said the prisoners denied the charges against them, were subjected to torture and convicted in unfair trials. One of the five, Farzad Kamangar, was sentenced to death after a trial that his lawyer said lasted seven minutes. Another, Shirin Alam-houli, wrote in several letters from jail that she had made false confessions on camera after being tortured.…  Seguir leyendo »

"Roxana, when you go back to America," my cellmate entreated me last month, "please tell others that our country is not only about the nuclear issue. It is also about people like us."

My cellmate was one of the many "prisoners of conscience" I left behind when I was released from Tehran's Evin Prison on May 11. Many were women, student and labor activists, researchers, and academics who have been detained solely because they peacefully pursued freedom of expression, freedom of association or religious beliefs. Several of them face vague charges such as "acting against national security," like I did.

Iran's hard-liners frequently accuse such people of using "soft warfare" -- allegedly in collusion with state enemies, the United States in particular -- to penetrate Iranian culture, society and politics.…  Seguir leyendo »