Roxana Saberi is an American foreign correspondent and former Iranian political prisoner. After her release in May 2009, she wrote Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran, released March 30, chronicling her experience in Iran and her five months in Tehran’s Evin Prison. I interviewed Saberi for The Rotarian, Rotary International’s U.S. magazine. To read the full story in The Rotarian, click here.
Tara: You made a rule for yourself not to cry before your release. Why was this so important to you?
Roxana: Not crying was a message to try to stay strong and to try to keep a positive mentality. I cried enough before that, it’s not like I was holding in my emotions. Enough is enough. It doesn’t help to think about the past, or the world beyond the prison walls. I should think about what I do have.
Tara: What are some of the greatest lessons you learned from the women with whom you were imprisoned?
Roxana: One is to try to change challenges into opportunities. Sometimes through suffering we can have an opportunity to become stronger. And even when you’re imprisoned you still have a power to control your attitude.
Tara: What aspects of your trials bothered you most?
Roxana: There are so many problems with both trials. The first trial I didn’t know was my trial until after the first 15 minutes. It was just a joke, it was a sham. I didn’t get the attorneys I wanted. I was threatened I shouldn’t take them and the attorneys I had, I was not happy with. I think they were under a lot of pressure from Iranian authorities, so much so that they have been intuited into sacrificing their own principles to have me as their client.
Unfortunately a lot of Iranians are falsely accused of crimes, including espionage, through the soft revolution or whatever charges they fabricate. In my case, in my false confession, they knew. ‘We know you’re not a spy’; they told me this in private. It made me wonder, do they knowingly falsely accuse people to tighten their grip on society and to silence people? In many ways it is not unique.
Tara: What message do you want readers to take from the book?
Roxana: What happened to me is happening to a lot of people who are still in Iran today. They are faced with many injustices. International support and media attention helped in my case. I think similar support can be given to them as well.
Tara: Do you understand Iran better now, after your imprisonment?
Roxana: I understand certain aspects of Iran better than before. One way, I’ve seen how certain people in power are so blinded by their want of power that they’re willing to go to almost any means to keep that power, including trampling on the rights of individuals. In the long run this only breeds resentment. Instead I think they should tolerate different ideas and allow for an exchange of ideas and try to tackle the roots of problems instead of people who speak about them.
Tara: Do you love Iran any less after being imprisoned? Do you love it differently?
Roxana: I love it just as much as before. In fact, I met some of the best Iranians I’ve ever met in prison; they were my cellmates.
Hungry for more? Listen to Roxana Saberi’s hour-long presentation to Northwestern students, detailing her experiences in Evin Prison:
–Tara for TKGO