Hey Iran! Free Roxana Saberi! Free Her Now!

Free Roxana Saberi! Free Roxana Saberi!

Come on, chant with me. Free Roxana Saberi! Release her now unconditionally! Tell those Iranians to release her from prison immediately and allow her to return home to North Dakota! Now!

Whew. I’m glad I could get that out of the way. Now I can rest assured knowing that I made at least some noise to protest this travesty of justice.
On April 18, U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage, according to her lawyer and family members. The 31-year-old reporter worked for NPR and various other news organizations throughout her career. She has reported for BBC, ABC, and Fox. She decided to move to Iran in 2003 to report on its life and culture for an upcoming book.

Saberi has dual American and Iranian citizenship; which explains why the Iranian government has the ability to arrest her. She was given a “trial” that was closed off to the public. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, was not allowed to be present. Talk about abusing justice.

This kangaroo court gave her no chance to refute accusations of being a U.S. spy. The U.S. and Iran have not had regular diplomatic relations together since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent storming of the U.S. Embassy that led to 52 American diplomats being held for 444 days in captivity. The authoritarian regime in Tehran has recently expressed interest in developing nuclear energy. They say it is for peaceful purposes. U.S. officials believe otherwise.

Former President George W. Bush infamously called Iran one of the “Axis of Evil,” along with Iraq (which we later invaded) and North Korea. Despite talk by new President Barack Obama to open up dialogue with the regime, hostilities between our two countries still exist.

Saberi’s arrest is just the icing on the cake. There are currently other U.S. citizens being held in Iran, including a student arrested last October and a former FBI agent held since 2007. In addition to accusations of developing nuclear weapons, the U.S. believes Iran supports terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and aids Iraqi insurgents against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Iran somehow suspects that the U.S. and Israel will invade it someday. That makes sense, considering the United States has invaded two Middle Eastern countries since 2001 and has talked of using military force to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has been known to fight wars against its Arab neighbors, so the Islamic Persian nation is justified into thinking a similar war is pending.

Or are they? The U.S.’s new administration is unlikely to use military force against such a large and powerful Muslim country. It can’t afford to. Israel’s image in the world is quickly deteriorating faster than it can do damage control for. One more image of Israeli aggression against an Islamic state will surely bring about her total isolation from the Muslim world.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Iran feels threatened, whether it has proper justification for believing so or not. It makes sense that they would see any U.S. incursion on its soil as an act of hostility.

Which brings us back to Ms. Saberi. Do the Iranians actually believe she is a spy who works for the CIA, NSA, or State Department? I have no idea. While Iran has reasons to believe that the U.S. would spy on them, it seems ridiculous that America would send her, of all people, to complete reconnaissance missions. She’s a journalist, for crying out loud! Her intention is to publish her findings, not secretly give them to the U.S. government.

But what’s the difference if you live in constant fear of military attack? The Bush administration’s harsh language against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad throughout the past few years makes it sound like American B-52s would be dropping bombs on Tehran at any moment. Such has not been the case yet.

For Iran, Roxana Saberi might as well be a spy. She’s an American who is there to record her experiences and share them with the Western world. Sounds like spy work to me, doesn’t it?

My guess is that Iran really doesn’t suspect that she’s a spy. Her arrest and imprisonment is meant to send a message to Americans and journalists everywhere that Iran’s sovereignty will not be violated. No one can find out about Iran’s dirty secrets and get away with it.

Authoritative regimes have the tendancy to make sure no one knows what happens within their borders. Just look at North Korea. Although Iran is no where close to North Korea’s isolation from the rest of the world, Tehran has enough skeletons in their closet to not want journalists to report on what happens behind closed doors.

Iran is sending a message to the United States that if you want to find out about us, you have to act on our terms. That means withdrawing from Iraq, ending talks of nuclear nonproliferation, and condemning the war crimes committed by Israel.

American journalists cannot expose what life is like in Iran before the U.S. concedes that it will no longer a threat to Iranian sovereignty. After all, you don’t see Iranian journalists coming over here to find out what American culture is like, do you?

For now, Saberi’s prison sentence will be a symbol of hostilities between our nations. She cannot be both an American and Iranian citizen; she must be one or the other. By her coming over there in order to report on what life is like in Iran, deep down inside the Iranian government is insulted because, in a way, she’s implying that life in the U.S. is better than it is over here. She’s an Iranian citizen, but chooses to call America her home. What could be more insulting than that?

But that is all speculation. What we do know is that she needs to be released now. She’s a journalist, not a spy. She reports the truth, not conceals it. Free her now! Free her now! For the love of Allah, free her now!

I can hear you chanting already.




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