Roxana Saberi is an author, journalist and human rights, advocate.
A political prisoner caught in the middle of a dramatic political struggle between Iran and the U.S., Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi captured the attention of the world when reports surfaced of her imprisonment in Iran. Abducted by four men early one morning in January 2009 and placed in solitary confinement, Ms. Saberi was falsely accused of spying for the United States and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her battle for freedom would last 100 days until an appeals court released her following an international uproar. In the midst of reaching out to Iran to start a dialogue after decades of political deadlock, the Obama administration harshly criticized Iran over her imprisonment, and there was speculation that Iranian President Ahmadinejad intervened on her behalf as a diplomatic overture. Ms. Saberi grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, the daughter of Reza Saberi, who was born in Iran, and Akiko Saberi, who is from Japan. Ms. Saberi graduated in 1997 from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota,with degrees in Communication and French. Chosen as Miss North Dakota in 1997, she was among the top ten finalists in Miss America 1998, winning the Scholar Award. She holds her first Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and her second Master’s Degree in International Relations from Cambridge University.
A freelance journalist, Ms. Saberi arrived in Tehran in February 2003 to open a fully accredited news bureau for the independent broadcast news agency Feature Story News (FSN). FSN distributed her reports to a wide range of broadcasters around the world, and Ms. Saberi's work soon became familiar to audiences of Channel News Asia, South African Broadcasting, DW Radio, Vatican Radio, Radio New Zealand, Australian Independent Radio News, and others. She also made occasional contributions to PBS, NPR, and Fox News. While researching a book on Iran, Ms. Saberi was arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 2009, and placed in solitary confinement. She was blindfolded and interrogated for hours, and promised freedom if she falsely confessed to being a spy.
After more than six weeks' captivity, on March 8th, Ms. Saberi was finally allowed to see an attorney for the first time. On April 6th, her parents were allowed a 20-minute visit with her in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she was being held.
During this time, Ms. Saberi’s plight gained international support. The U.S. administration expressed its concern at her detention, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding her release. On March 10,a number of international news organizations wrote an open letter to the Iranian government, calling on Iran to allow independent access to Ms. Saberi, expressing deep concern about her well-being and "the deprivation of her rights." Her situation was also followed closely by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Asian American Journalists Association, Committee to Protect Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, and UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.
On April 8, the Iranian government charged Ms. Saberi with espionage, and she was subsequently sentenced to an eight-year prison term. Her appeal was heard by an Iranian appeals court on May 10.On May 11, Ms. Saberi was freed from Evin Prison, and credited her release in large part to the outpouring of international support, both political and public.
Ms. Saberi's gripping memoir of her experiences in Iran, Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran, was released in March 2010. She has also been speaking out for Iran's "prisoners of conscience" as well as the Iranians who have been detained in the aftermath of Iran’s disputed presidential election. Ms. Saberi has been honored with the Medill Medal of Courage, the Ilaria Alpi Freedom of the Press Award, the NCAA Award of Valor, and a POMED (Project for Middle East Democracy) Award. She has been named Jaycees’ 2010 Outstanding Young North Dakotan and honored by the Japanese American Citizens League as an “Outstanding Woman.”
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