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Interview: RFE/RL Journalist Reflects On Iranian Ordeal

U.S. – Radio Farda broadcaster Parnaz Azima after her arrival in Washington, 18Sep2007
Radio Farda broadcaster Parnaz Azima after her arrival in Washington on September 18
September 20, 2007 -- Radio Free Europe correspondent Parnaz Azima went to Iran in January to visit her ailing 94-year-old mother, who had fallen and broken her hip, and then suffered embolisms. But after Iranian authorities took her passport upon entry, Azima began what became an eight-month ordeal of being unable to leave again as she became one of four Iranian-Americans held against their will. Now, back in the United States, she reflects on what happened in this conversation with RFE/RL correspondent Mosaddegh Katouzian.

RFE/RL: Can you tell us a bit more about why you went to Iran and whether you suspected that you might face difficulties in doing so, given Tehran’s opposition to your employer, Radio Farda, the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the tensions in general between Washington and Tehran?

Nazy Azima: I was almost sure that I would be in trouble but I thought that, I mean, in the end I decided to go because otherwise maybe my mother wouldn't be alive. That is the truth. According to her doctors, they told me that they had no hope that she would recover and then suddenly at the hospital they found that she had changed and she told them, 'do you know that my daughter is here?' I think it was very important. Before I entered the country she had been in a coma but when I entered Iran she was in ICU (intensive care unit) for the third time because she had an embolism in her lung and also in her leg, and her doctor told me that she could face a very difficult situation.

While two are freed, three other Americans are still being held or are missing in Iran. Read about their cases here.

RFE/RL: Once you were in Iran, how did you cope with the stress of suddenly no longer being in control of your own fate?

Azima: I was with my mom, and many people, as well as her doctor, told me that my presence there was very good for her health and for her recovery. But there were bad sides, as I was feeling that I am constantly under (security) control. But maybe it was not like that, I don't know. But I had that feeling, especially during the first two or three months. And then I tried to convince myself that I can’t go on like this, so I tried to just ignore things. And I found that others -- my friends and others that I knew in Iran -- were doing the same thing. They felt that maybe they are under control but they ignored it and they continued their ordinary life.

RFE/RL: Now that you are out, has the experience left you somewhat traumatized?

Azima: I don't want to say yes, but I think I am. Because I don't want to give in, or give up. My time in Iran, as I told you, I had good times but also I had bad times. For example, I didn't write anything, or I didn't keep anything in written form because I was all the time thinking that maybe they would again come to my house and make a house search. You never know what could happen. So that is why maybe I am traumatized.

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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