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Iran: Radio Farda Journalist Describes Life 'In Limbo'

Parnaz Azima (file photo) (RFE/RL) August 27, 2007 -- For more than eight months, Iranian authorities have prevented Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima from leaving the country. In an interview with Radio Farda's Mosaddegh Katouzian on August 26, Azima said she lives in a state of limbo, never knowing precisely what are the charges against her or where they may lead. A citizen of both the United States and Iran, Azima has not been allowed to leave Iran since January 25, when she returned to visit her ailing mother.

RFE/RL: Court authorities have shown your attorney, Mohammad Hossien Aghasi, the specifics of your case for the first time. What is your reaction to the fact that it is now official that you have been barred from leaving Iran indefinitely until Intelligence Ministry officials return your confiscated Iranian passport?

Parnaz Azima: It is like you are in an unknown situation spending time in a state of limbo.... It is hard to put up with this when you don't know how long [it takes] and for an indefinite amount of time you end up living in a temporary situation, especially when you suddenly left everything [in the Czech Republic] and find yourself in Iran due to the illness of your mother.... I have left my apartment abroad for eight months, hoping God would look after it.... My grandchild will be born soon in the United States and I wish I could be there to experience this. I was under medical treatment before coming to Iran and that is now interrupted.

"Now, imagine a life in which you permanently think and feel that you are under surveillance, your visits and probably your phone calls are under control, and it is not clear when these will end."

In addition to all of this, an article was published in a newspaper in Iran in which it was implied that I was under surveillance.... I mean it was said that my visits with others are related to my work and things like this, which shows that therefore I am under surveillance. Now, imagine a life in which you permanently think and feel that you are under surveillance, your visits and probably your phone calls are under control, and it is not clear when these will end.... On top of that, if I have a security-related case, you have the feeling of threat or this concern that at every moment they may come to your home to inspect your residence.... The situation has become such that my close friends hesitate to visit me because these arrests and all the existing conditions have caused a fear among people, to which I give them every right. But, well, it is not that easy to bear this situation, especially when it becomes long-term and when you do not know when it will end.

RFE/RL: Have any officials made hopeful promises to you?

Azima: Well, some institutions representing the judiciary have tried to do some mediation; but they, too, made some suggestions to me that the Intelligence Ministry had suggested to me before -- i.e., the conditions they set up were similar to those of the Intelligence Ministry and under no conditions did I bend over and accept them. This has been the limit of such efforts and this contact, of course, was made only once.

RFE/RL: Which institution within the judiciary was it that contacted you?

Azima: I prefer not to mention its name.

RFE/RL: What were the specific suggestions made to you that you alluded to?

Azima: There was, of course, a new condition added. The first condition was to cooperate with the Intelligence Ministry -- the Intelligence Ministry had already proposed this to me, but I had rejected it. Then they suggested resigning from my position at Radio Farda, to which I said I thought it was a personal issue for individuals to decide where to work or not work or to resign or not resign. These cannot be dictated. Therefore I rejected these suggestions. I said, if I make a decision to cooperate with Radio Farda and continue my cooperation or at another point in time to leave Radio Farda for whatever reason, this would be my personal issue and no one else can dictate this to me.

RFE/RL: You also alluded to the article published in the daily "Etemad" about two months ago. Before you had mentioned that you and your attorney would try to have your response to the article published. Where have these attempts led?

Azima: After the talks with the representatives of those institutions in the judiciary, an article against me was published in "Etemad," which was very strange because usually "Etemad" does not publish this kind of article. There are other specific newspapers that we are familiar with that publish such articles. It was clear that the writer of the article had access to my case file, and it probably was an article dictated by the Intelligence Ministry or those who have had access to my case. And, of course much of the information in the article was altered and unreal. The writer attempted to prove that I was involved in actions against national security because I work for Radio Farda, or that since allegedly Radio Farda is an institution that seeks to instigate a soft revolution, therefore someone who works for Radio Farda is also involved in actions against national security, which were the same issues that I was asked about several times and which were mentioned during the interrogations. I mean, I had said that what you refer to as "propaganda against the state" is the same thing that we in professional and international journalism refer to as "the free flow of information."

In this article, in short, several unreal allegations were brought up and since in it there were allusions to the content of my case file, it is itself a crime, because it is first of all regarded as a kind of exposure of classified documents and, secondly, parts of it can be regarded as unfounded accusations.

Therefore, I wrote a letter to "Etemad" and asked the newspaper to publish my response. Despite my attempts and the contacts I made with the daily's editor and publisher, several phone calls and numerous visits of the "Etemad" office, unfortunately without officially saying that my response would not be published, the issue was constantly postponed to future weeks.

Then I sought my attorney's help in this matter, and following all contacts, he also faced a similar response. And, it is very strange to me why this newspaper is not willing to publish the response of a citizen who wishes to defend her honor and prestige, although this newspaper is a pro-reform publication. This is very strange to me. I asked them to publish the response by the end of the last month. But more than one month has passed since then and the response has not yet been published.

Radio Farda's Parnaz Azima

Radio Farda's Parnaz Azima