Our graduate student Esha Momeni is back from Iran after spending nearly a month in Evin prison and then being under a 10-month travel ban — all for simply interviewing the courageous women in the One Million Signature Campaign for women’s rights in Iran. Below are some of the articles documenting her return.
ABC’s Lara Setrakian, who has been one of the best reporters on the election protests and Green Movement in Iran, interviews Esha about her experiences during the election unrest this summer. (Like a lot of other people, I became aware of Lara’s work via her Twitter posts as they appeared on iran.twazzup.)
In an interview with Fox News 11, Esha noted that her goal — bringing a new image of Iranian women to the US — was accomplished even if her thesis materials including her videos were confiscated by Iranian security forces. Multiple reporters here and in Washington, D.C., from Fox maintained an interest in Esha’s story. While the national outlets pushed a confront-Iran frame, the local reporter, Christina Gonzalez, was quite responsible and fair in her reporting.
The Daily News’ Connie Llanos profiled Esha. Connie was one of the first reporters on the story when Esha was imprisoned and I was struck by how much attention she paid to getting it right while giving consideration to Esha’s safety.
In a second story, Connie reported on Esha’s classmates’ relief at her return, quoting Anasa Sinegal who, along with Kara Lawton, turned their master’s thesis into a project documenting their work to free their friend.
Called the Please Free Esha Project, it won the thesis of the year award in the Journalism Department, and is intended to serve as a both an historical record (see complete text version at Oviatt Library) as well as an online resource for other human rights activists and their supporters.
The news of Esha’s freedom came first via a website for the One Million Signature Campaign in California and where you can see a photo of her being greeted at the airport. That news was followed by the Cal State Northridge’s Daily Sundial’s text and video reports. The first photos (which one journalism professor said reminded her of Abercrombie and Fitch ads!) came from CSUN’s talented Jonathan Pobre. These appear with the Daily News story.
AP also interviewed Esha. They assigned the story to Shaya Tayefe Mohajer who speaks Farsi.
The Los Angeles Times ran a press release quoting CSUN’s president. Photos of Esha were initially hard to come by (unless you were willing to use Jonathan’s shots) and they choose to run one of the old photos of Esha from last fall.
For the big picture, the Department of Journalism has noted that
Esha’s imprisonment brought the department together for a common cause – the safe return of our student – and reminded us how important it is not merely to seek the truth but to support each other in our quest to bring the world news of injustices and oppression no matter where those stories take place or how difficult the pursuit of them may be.
And for the many people who have worried on Esha’s behalf about the loss of her thesis project, not to worry. She already has a new one in the works — a photography exhibition. Not surprisingly, it’s about human rights in Iran, it’s creative, it’s original, it’s surprising, in short, it’s Esha.