PBS - Frontline

Notebook
January 2012


16 Days in Evin Prison

TEHRAN BUREAU — "We've convicted people with thinner files and less evidence," a judge told me on my first morning in Iranian detention.

Pointing to a thick folder, he continued, "You might as well just tell us which American agency you work for."

Ending up in Evin is every Iranian's nightmare. It's not the only prison and detention center in Iran, but it's probably the most infamous.

Horror stories pouring out of Iranian prisons are in no shortage, and cases of torture and rape have been reported by opposition and foreign media, as well as rights groups from the Shah's time and since.

I was in Evin in May after the Syrians (who didn't care for an Al Jazeera journalist reporting the events there) alleged that that I was a spy and forced me onto a flight to Iran. But not before locking me up and interrogating me for a few days in one of their own hell holes -- a secret detention center not far from the Damascus airport.

Those three days in Syria were all blood, screams and cruelty meted out casually to Syrians, with me as a witness.

Despite all of that -- including the 16 days of solitary confinement and interrogation in Evin (after which Iranian authorities released me, saying only that there was "nothing wrong" with my passport) -- it's clear that I am among the fortunate. I have multiple citizenships, so there would be more to answer for in harming me, and the intense social media campaign launched by my high-profile employer, family, multiple rights groups, and network of amazing friends put extra pressure on my captors to free me.  read more →