The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 20, 2011

Jacque Gage, book review: Stay in Iranian prison relates to Egyptian revolution

JOPLIN, Mo. — My big brother lives and works in Joplin. For the most part, he’s been a great big brother. Of course, there are exceptions.

I’ve forgiven the initiation exercises I had to endure to be inducted into the “club” he and Peter Patterson had. However, the jury is still out on his exoneration for an embarrassing moment in front of the student body at Ozark Christian College more than 30 years ago. Still, I’m glad to be known as his sister.

Nowadays,  it isn’t uncommon for him to ask me, “Have you read this author?” or “Have you seen this book?”

Then, if I haven’t seen or read what he is talking about, he’ll say, “It’s a good read.” I’ve discovered authors and books from him that I truly enjoy and may not have otherwise read.

Case in point: “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran,” written by Roxana Saberi. It details her days of captivity in an Iranian prison.

This book reminds me of current news stories about the revolution in Egypt and hearing about the journalists evicted from Tahrir Square. Each time I heard one of these journalist’s stories, it reminded me of what the author of this book experienced. It made me wonder if circumstances could expose these men and women to similar treatment at the hands of those in power in Egypt.

Born and raised in North Dakota by an Iranian-born father and a Japanese mother, Roxana went to Iran in 2003 in order to get to know her father’s native land, learn Farsi, and realize her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent. Everything was going according to plan when, unexpectedly, the Iranian officials revoked her press credentials.

Instead of leaving the country, she chose to stay in the country to research and write a book about Iran as “seen through the eyes of a wide range of Iranians.”

Without warning, four men arrived one morning at her apartment to take her to Evin prison for interrogation. Evin is a notorious prison where torture is common, and is a place of alleged mass executions. Their claim was that if she cooperated, she would be home by evening.

Thus began her months-long imprisonment at Evin. The book recounts her internal struggles with how to deal with her imprisonment. Should she stand firm and deny all charges? Should she “confess” to uncommitted offenses to earn her freedom? What track should she take in dealing with her imprisonment and captors?

The book also introduces the reader to others imprisoned by the Iranian regime for various “crimes.” Described as “Angels in Evin,” her fellow prisoners offer support and strength, even though they were facing similar circumstances to hers.

Roxana’s story has a resolution, but I won’t give it away here.

Unfamiliar terms are defined in a glossary. Also included are notes on the sources used and suggestions for further reading.

This book gives insight to a bit of the culture and political climate of Iran, and allows Western readers a glimpse into what one person has described as a country and culture which, “from the outside looking in you can’t understand it and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”


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