Arsalan Iftikhar | BIO
To the 65.8 million wonderful people of Iran:
As an American Muslim human rights lawyer, I write to you today to kindly ask for the immediate release of American journalist Roxana Saberi. In order to continue the advancement of peaceful dialogue between our two nations, it is an absolute moral (and religious) imperative to release Ms. Saberi immediately so that she can continue her work in journalism and continue to give a voice to the majority of voiceless Iranian people to the rest of the world.
Roxana Saberi was first arrested in January 2009 in Iran; her family was told it was for simply buying a bottle of wine - an act banned under the country's Islamic legal code.
However, Iranian prosecutors have since then decided to accuse her of working as a journalist ‘without a valid press card,’ and finally, last month, of being a ‘spy’ for the United States.
And between January and March 2009, Ms. Saberi was only able to contact her family in the United States twice, according to international human rights group Amnesty International.
“The fact that Roxana Saberi faced a shifting tide of accusations from the time of her arrest until her trial is an indication that the Iranian authorities were looking for any excuse to detain her,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program for Amnesty International. “There is no reason for holding Roxana Saberi, unless the Iranian authorities can provide convincing evidence that she committed a recognizable criminal offense…”
Ms. Saberi has told her family that she has not been physically harmed in jail, but was finding life difficult in the notorious Evin prison; near the capital of Tehran.
According to Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders), Roxana Saberi has been on a hunger strike since April 21, 2009. In solidarity with their fellow reporter, several journalists from Paris to New York to Washington DC have also participated in hunger strikes.
“Roxana has been considerably weakened by her hunger strike and, like her family, we are very concerned for her health,” Reporters Without Borders recently said in a statement. “We are therefore symbolically taking over her hunger strike in a gesture of solidarity, so that she does not have to continue it herself…”
Jamila Bey, a former NPR colleague and a friend of Saberi, told me in an exclusive interview for this column, why she was fasting in solidarity with Roxana: “I believe this unjustly imprisoned woman's work could bring about peace between our cultures," she said. “Roxana is a shining example that educating a girl, permitting her to travel and encouraging her to ask questions can produce a citizen of the world who can help us to better understand each other…”
Bey added that “it's harder to go to war with nations that share some connection. My hunger is a small sacrifice to pay so that this journalist may continue her work for truth, and perhaps, someday for peace…”
As a journalist and international human rights lawyer, I join with Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to call for the immediate release of Roxana Saberi. Allowing Ms. Saberi to go home to her loving family will send a resonating message to the rest of the world that the 65.8 million people of Iran are peace-loving people who want multi-cultural journalists of all religions and ethnicities to be able to travel the globe freely in their quest to help continue to give a voice to the voiceless worldwide.
Editor’s Note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of http://www.TheMuslimGuy.com and is a contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington.
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