A couple of nights ago I sat next to a young man at a drinks party who had escaped from Iran aged 14 in the back of a van. This was in 1987. So while I was going to dinner parties at university and making vital decisions like what to wear, he was risking his life for a better future.
“Iran is nothing to me now,” he told me. “I am an American.” Interestingly he also told me that if he ever wanted to go back, he would have to adopt Iranian nationality. Iranians are not allowed to visit unless they are nationals. The reason for this? “So they can throw you in jail with impunity,” he said.
As I write a young student from the University of California is languishing in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Her alleged crime? A totally fabricated minor traffic offence. Her real crime? Investigating women’s rights in Iran for her university thesis. She is also a member of the Iranian women’s rights group Change for Equality (www.forequality.info/english/). Esha called her family the day after her arrest on October 15th but no one has heard anything since then.
Esha Momeni is Iranian/American. Her family, who live in Iran, were told that if there was no publicity surrounding her arrest she would be freed. This has not happened, so her desperate family have told the press about it. They must remember the case of the Canadian journalist raped and murdered there a few years ago and countless others who have never been seen again.
Evin is not a place you would want to end up. I have just finished reading an excellent book about it called Prisoner of Tehran which tells the story of a young student who escapes the firing squad by marrying her interrogator. But not before she is tortured to within an inch of her life. And all because she wanted to learn something at school and not just listen to rants about how marvellous Khomeni was.
If you do nothing else today then please spare a thought for Esha and sign this petition (www.PetitionOnline.com/EshaM/) or join Amnesty International and find out how you can help Esha and others like her.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008