If you’ve been reading the news lately, you’ve probably seen a story or two about US journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been arrested, imprisoned, and just now sentenced to 8 years in the can for spying on Iran for the US. It’s an interesting story for several reasons, one of which is the way it’s being covered here in the US. Of course my description above as well as all of the headlines read, “US Journalist Jailed in Iran for Spying,” but here we have to examine the terminology in use. “US journalist” is slightly problematic in my opinion because when Ms. Saberi entered Iran, she actually entered as an Iranian citizen. Iran doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. It’s complicated, but I think the effect of this phrasing is that it makes us think of Iranian authorities arresting some poor girl who didn’t know the language or the culture and was completely turned around and in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was evidently arrested originally for buying wine, something which the newspapers here have been constantly telling us is not such a big deal and usually warrants a slap on the wrist. I had previously thought otherwise but I guess I should check my sources again. Also, she was apparently doing research and writing a book after her press permit had expired, and I seemed to get the impression she was doing some work of a nature that would require a non-expired press license, but I can’t seem to get straight facts out of any news sources.
At this point, I must say that I’m not asserting she should have been jailed and that she is definitely a spy or irresponsible or deserves what she is getting, not at all, I just think there are a ton of facts here that need to be sorted out and that as usual, we are not really always getting the full story. Going back to the Iranian citizenship thing, some commenters on the New York Times had these things to say:
One important factor that NYT has either deliberately or unintentionally failed to clarify to its readers is the fact that Iranians with dual citizenship enter Iran on Iranian passports. While in Iran, they accept the laws of Iran as Iranians. When leaving Iran, they show their foreign passports along with their Iranian passports only as a proof of permanent residence overseas.
Therefore, this chest beating about American citizenship will not work. In fact, it will make the matter worse.
Finally, I would like NYT to let us know what happens if the press credentials of one of its reporters in a foreign country is revoked or if the press credentials of a foreign journalist in the US or a local journalist is revoked and that same journalist continues to report until caught.
- Meehanparast, Chicago
Rochelle from Chicago had this to say on the same story:
Yes, I would like to reiterate Meehanparast’s statements about dual citizenship. I am an American-only citizen and my mother is a dual American-Iranian citizen. When we go to Iran, I have to present a proper Iranian visa, while my mom must “hide”, so to speak, her American passport because Iran does not recognize dual citizenship. The Iranians do not recognize her American citizenship — it does not exist for them under international law.
This is important, because if heaven forbid we were both arrested, she would get thrown in jail as an Iranian and I would get a slap on the wrist as an American.
In fact, there have been many instances in which I was close to arrest (bad hijab for instance) but once presented with my American citizenship, the police really couldn’t do anything without inviting America’s wrath. But in the case, Saberi was under Iranian “law”, and thus subject to their faulty and mercurial judicial system.
Source: New York Times
These facts and anecdotes are, in my opinion, very important to consider, and as Meehanparast says, make all of the claims about US citizenship pretty meaningless. I mean, if she’s just another Iranian citizen to them, she can hardly be treated as an American one, am I right?
So, if you think I’m being insensitive, believe when I say I am a very compassionate person and I have nothing but the deepest of sympathies for someone that might be spending the next several years of their life in Evin Prison (unless they deserved it, of course…but in this case, who can say?), but I feel this too needs to be said: there actually is the possibility that she was spying. I mean, I’m not saying I think that’s what happened but you can’t just ignore that claim altogether, can you? Since the Iranian courts won’t make any evidence public (which in and of itself is shady), there’s no way for us to make any kind of decision on our own, but if the claim is made, it has to be considered on some level. A very small part of me actually hopes she was spying so that she is not going to jail for no reason at all (or for unfortunate political “bargaining chip” purposes to be discussed below), but in reality I hope and pray that she was not actually spying, because the last thing Iran needs is to find a real, live American spy in its midst at this critical moment in Iran-US relations.
That brings me to my next point, which is that I can’t help but wonder what this holds for the immediate future of Iran-US relations. I was really hoping to go teach English there and improve my Persian after I graduate in December and I’m kind of banking on things cooling off a little so it will all go a bit smoother for me (assuming it goes anywhere at all), but this has the potential to really screw everything up. That sounds selfish, I know, but believe me when I say I hope for general peace and happiness between the peoples of the word as an overall kind of dream – the facilitation of my personal travel would just be a welcome aftereffect, duh.
In what simply has to be a desperate attempt to keep me from experiencing any semblance of fun in the near future, Hillary Clinton has already made a few statements directed at Iran regarding Saberi, demanding her release and saying we’re “deeply concerned,” and Iranian officials have responded as you’d expect them to, but to be honest, I’m kind of hoping Obama doesn’t weigh in himself. I was a little annoyed when he appointed as Secretary of State the woman who had said not months earlier, “If Iran ever attacked Israel, we would obliterate them,” but you can’t always get what you want, huh? Sometimes you never do. Here’s hoping (unselfishly) that this doesn’t ruin that slightly groovy thing we had going.
Robert Mackey of The Lede Blog at the New York Times wrote an interesting article asserting that Iran may be holding Saberi as a “bargaining chip” for upcoming negotiations with the US regarding their enrichment of uranium, economic sanctions, or what have you. Iran may also be hoping for the release of the three Iranian diplomats arrested by the US in Iraq in 2007 that are still being held there. Gosh, we’re still holding three Iranian diplomats in Iraq that we arrested in 2007, and I haven’t heard even a whisper about charges or a trial? Kind of makes me step back a bit.
That brings me to my last point. The other thing that sort of bothers me is the indignant tone of all the news stories. Joe Peyronnin in the Huffington Post, which I’m told is supposed to be some kind of progressive liberal publication, wrote the most horrid, aggressive, alarmist article condemning the Iranian government and making huge, sweeping generalizations about Iranian society in a manner that I would expect to see on Fox, which tells me this is probably a black-and-white issue for a lot of people, but I believe there are little to no black-and-white issues. Indeed, what kind of godless nation of fanatics would imprison someone, hold them for a long time without trial, torture them, and then finally try them quickly and secretly and then imprison them, refusing to make any of the evidence public? Oh wait.
Anyway, my point here is not to get particularly political or cause any kind of debate or get anyone angry, I’m not taking sides and I’m not condemning the Iranian government or Roxana Saberi or even Hillary Clinton (but I do wish she would incorporate my post-graduation plans into her policies a bit more). I just like to try and lay out as many facts as I can and encourage productive discussion and see where things go.
And I’m pretty sure the formatting is all kinds of screwed up on here, but at any rate, thanks for reading.