Last month, protests erupted in Iran after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, was killed by Iranian authorities for not wearing her hijab properly. It became an international story for all the obvious reasons, including teenage girls flipping the bird to some of the scariest men in the world. So I turned immediately to my friend and Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, who understands the dynamics in the country perhaps better than anyone outside its borders.
Jason and I met shortly after his release from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, where he had served a year and a half, much of it in solitary confinement, on bogus charges of espionage. Jason and his incredible wife Yeganeh, an Iranian journalist who was also imprisoned for several months, were freed as part of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, and they became instant celebrities when they moved to Washington upon their release. (Jason has written a book about his experience, which was also made into a podcast.)
But as we grew close, I could see that the torment did not end with the prison gates being flung open. The trauma lingered for years. Yegi’s parents were still trapped in Iran and she was unable to see them because of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. We bonded over what it’s like to leave your family behind forever, thinking that you’ll never see them again. Thankfully, both my family’s and Yegi’s stories had a happy ending: shortly before the pandemic, her parents were guests in my home, bearing a gift of Persian saffron.