Saberi (Reuters)

Saberi to Lee and Ling: ‘You are not alone’

Roxana Saberi, who was imprisoned in Iran for nearly four months, offers her thoughts on the detentions of U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee in North Korea. In this interview with CPJ, Saberi, left, said she was “amazed and very moved at the support I received” while in prison. “You are not alone,” she advised her jailed colleagues. Here is the interview:

What was your reaction upon hearing the news of the sentence?

I was shocked and saddened when I heard about the convictions and the heavy sentences, and I was disappointed with the lack of transparency in the North Korean judicial process. 

Based on your own experience, what do you imagine they are going through?  

It is difficult for me to compare the Islamic Republic of Iran with North Korea, a country that I have never visited. However, the North Korean state seems even more closed than Iran’s, and it appears the two women are even more isolated from their families and the world than I was during my incarceration and trials.

I imagine they feel very wronged to have been detained and tried without their basic human rights being observed. They might also feel disoriented to be experiencing all this in a place whose laws and customs are foreign to those of the country in which they were raised. They likely see themselves as political pawns in a larger, complex game.

Is there anything you would like to tell your supporters that you haven’t had the chance yet?

I am extremely grateful for the support you gave me. I sincerely hope that you continue to support others who need help in the future and that I can join you in these efforts.

What did it mean to you to know that there were people on the outside working on your behalf?

I first learned of the support for me after several weeks in prison, after my parents came to Iran and were allowed to visit me. They gave me updates every week about the efforts that various governments, public officials, and private individuals and groups were making for my release. I was amazed and very moved at the support I received–both from friends and from strangers. This backing made me aware that I was not alone. It gave me strength to carry on, even in the darkest moments. I felt I could face my interrogators with more courage.

Without such support, it is highly likely that I would still be in prison today, just as the many political prisoners and prisoners of conscience I left behind. I hope that the same efforts can be made for others who are in similar situations, both in and out of Iran.

If you could say anything to Ling and Lee, what would it be?

Perhaps you are stronger than I was during the early days of my detainment, when I felt scared, weak, and alone. Over time, I learned several lessons, which you may already know well. In any case, I would like to share them with you: Try to turn the challenges you are facing into opportunities. Do not fear but love, have hope and courage, and stand up for what you believe in. No one can hurt your soul. You are not alone. You have a whole world of supporters who are rallying and praying for you.