Al-Jazeera Reporter Dorothy Parvaz Detained In Iran

May 12, 2011
Originally published on May 12, 2011 6:38 am
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We now have a partial answer to a case that involves a missing journalist. Dorothy Parvaz was born in Iran but also holds American citizenship and spent many years as a reporter in Seattle. She now works for Al-Jazeera's English language channel. And last month she flew to Syria to cover the unrest there. Upon her arrival in Syria, she disappeared. It turns out she's being held incommunicado in Iran. NPR's Kelly McEvers has the story.

KELLY MCEVERS: The Syrian government says Parvaz violated its laws by not identifying herself as a journalist and by entering on an expired Iranian passport. But, says Mohammad Abdul Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists, that's no reason for Syria to send Parvaz to Iran, or for Iran to detain her.

MOHAMMAD ABDUL DAYEM: What are the conditions of her captivity? And why is she even being held when as far as we can tell she has not broken any Iranian laws?

MCEVERS: Dayem says Iran is the world's leading jailer of journalists. As of the end of last year, Iran was detaining 34 reporters. Dayem says that number is even higher now. He says journalists are usually charged with crimes against the state.

ABDUL DAYEM: Many of those journalists were not even allowed to meet with their legal representatives, were denied family visit, were denied medical care. And in close to a handful of cases the actual lawyers defending the journalists had been detained and in some cases convicted of anti-state activity themselves.

MCEVERS: The most high-profile case of a detained journalist in recent years was Roxana Saberi, who's also of Iranian descent and holds an American passport. She was charged with espionage and held for 100 days in Iran's notorious Evin prison. Parvaz's close friend Melanie McFarland says she recently picked up Saberi's book as a way to get a picture of what her friend might be going through.

MELANIE MCFARLAND: I have no idea what the people who are detaining her might be saying to her, but I just wanted to get the physical, like, what might this be like? What might she be eating? Where might she be sleeping?

MCEVERS: McFarland says Parvaz wanted to use her dual identity to help American readers understand Iran.

MCFARLAND: There are many parts of Dorothy's life that inform the kind of, you know, strong and passionate person that she is now.

MCEVERS: Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.