Roxana Saberi released, but one local woman remains in Iran

Photo Roxana Saberi courtesy of NPPA.org; photo of Esha Momeni courtesy of for-esha.blogspot.com.

U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi was released from prison in Iran, NPR reported Monday morning.   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the press Saberi would be returning home in soon.

But one local woman, Iranian-American Cal State University Northridge grad student Esha Momeni (left, below), remains in Iran.  (Note: this blogger reported the story for the university’s Daily Sundial last semester.  Read a summary of Momeni’s case at the newspaper’s website).

Arrested last October while she was working on her thesis documentary project about the women’s rights movement in the Middle Eastern country, Momeni was held in solitary confinement for two and a half weeks until she was released from Evin prison, the same jail Saberi was held.   Initially, government officials said there were “no obstacles” keeping her from coming home, but it quickly became clear that this was not true when Momeni’s family said the student’s passport had been siezed.  Later, Iranian officials said a travel ban had been issued against Momeni, and that she would be charged with “acting against national security.”

Momeni had been recording interviews with volunteers of the One Million Signatures campaign, an organization that seeks to amend Iranian law to recognize men and women as equals, for her documentary.  At the time of her arrest, she had been pulled over on a highway for allegedly passing another car illegally.  Momeni was then escorted home, where her computer, video footage and other personal belongings were confiscated.

Her fiance, Hassan Hussain, has worked relentlessly for her release.  “I don’t know what to do,” he says, adding all he can do is “hold on and keep trying.”

Hussain says he does have some hope the new Obama administration will help the process of Momeni’s release, but with Iranian elections coming up in June, he adds that the Middle Eastern country’s government might be more preoccupied with a new administration’s transition than mending relations with the U.S. by allowing Momeni and others like her to return.

CSUN’s journalism department awarded Momeni with their first Academic Freedom Award last week.

For those interested in helping Esha Momeni return home, a petition is available to sign electronically: http://www.petitiononline.com/EshaM/petition.html.

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