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In Memoriam: Radio Farda Loses Respected Colleagues In Highway Tragedy

Amir Zamanifar and Rosa Ajiri
Two young broadcasters for RFE/RL's Radio Farda -- Rosa Ajiri and Amir Zaamanifar -- have died in a car crash outside the Czech capital, Prague. Broadcaster Mahin Gorji remained in critical condition at a Prague hospital. RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari offers this look at the tragic loss of two much-loved colleagues.

Rosa Ajiri and Amir Zamanifar had short lives, but they lived them to the fullest.

Rosa was 27 years old, and Amir 29 when they died in an early morning automobile accident on September 29.

The preliminary investigation indicated that their car was stopped in the emergency lane of a highway north of Prague when it was struck from behind by a tractor trailer.

A journalist friend of Mahin Gorji -- who was herself gravely injured and remained in critical condition -- was suffering from shock after the tragedy.

Those who knew Rosa and Amir remember, first and foremost, their smiles and laughter.

Radio Farda colleague Hannah Kaviani said with the deaths of Rosa and Amir, Prague has lost two of its most beautiful smiles.

Rosa was cheerful and always eager to learn more and improve her journalistic skills. She used to tell her friends and relatives that one day she would become a well-known international reporter.

Rosa had been deeply affected by the crackdown in Iran following the presidential election in June. When the death in custody of student Amir Javadifar was made public, it was Rosa who secured an exclusive interview with a friend of Javadifar's who had seen his body and who charged that he had died as a result of torture.

Rosa once said that she couldn't stop crying after watching video images of the death of Neda Agha Soltan, the 27-year-old woman shot dead during a postelection protest in Tehran.

Amir was a respected moderator with a baritone voice. He was perhaps best-known among colleagues and listeners for his signature close to Radio Farda's evening-magazine program: "I wish you a peaceful night," he would say in his calm, steady voice.

Amir liked poetry, literature, photography, and Iranian food. He claimed that even pizzas made in Iran are the best in the world.

Like Rosa, Amir was struck hard by recent events in Iran.

One of the last reports he'd filed was based on interviews with relatives of journalists jailed in the crackdown, who are said to be under pressure.

When juvenile offender Delara Darabi was executed in Iran in May, Amir switched his profile picture on Facebook to an image of Darabi.

Despite agonizing over events in Iran, Rosa and Amir remained committed to the principles of professional journalism.

They felt they were making a difference by covering events in Iran fairly and providing a platform for those who otherwise had none in the country.

They both hoped that one day they would be able to go back to their country.

Rosa and Amir loved their work and they loved life. Their tragic deaths came on the way home from a trip to Berlin for a meal of "chelo kabab," the traditional Iranian rice-and-kebab dish.

Rosa's sister, Denise Ajiri, who spoke to them a few hours before the accident, said it sounded as if they were having the time of their lives.

"Rosa's life ended too soon," said her sister, "but she had a great life. She had lots of fun."

Rosa and Amir died before they could realize their plans and dreams. Rosa was preparing for a visit from her parents, and Amir was planning a trip with his best friend to a place they had never been before.

They're gone. But their memories will remain alive in the hearts of their families, friends, colleagues, and Radio Farda listeners, who had come to count on and trust their reports and voices.

Radio Farda was quickly flooded with messages of condolences for friends and family of Rosa Ajiri and Amir Zamanifar, and with prayers for Mahin Gorji, who remains in a coma.

Mahin was one of Iran's best-known sports reporters before joining Radio Farda. There, she switched to politics and excelled at securing exclusive interviews with Iranian political figures that were quoted from by Iranian and international news websites.

Many of those who had become used to her reports have called Radio Farda to say they pray she will recover soon.

"I pray for Mahin Gorji's health, just like you," said a caller from Arak. "I hope she will be able to get up from bed very soon and continue her political reporting."

Another Farda listener expressed a desire shared by many whose lives have been touched by Rosa, Amir, or Mahin.

"I wish this report would turn out to be untrue," the listener wrote. "But unfortunately there's nothing we can do. Destiny cannot be denied."