Aaron Schachter: Our next story is about Iran and something we've sadly become used to hearing about: the arrest of foreign journalists. The latest case involves Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post Yeganeh Salehi and two others. One person who knows what it's like to be detained in Iran is Haleh Esfandiari. She was arrested in 2007 and held in Tehran's Evin Prison for 105 days. She's now in Washington, where she works as a scholar, journalist and writer at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. She says Jason's arrest definitely brought back some bad memories.
Haleh Esfandiari: The nightmare of 207 and 105 days solitary confinement came like a movie in front of my eyes. I really started visualizing how surprised he was, how probably frightened he was and how humiliating it is to be booked into Evin.
Schachter: Jason's wife, Yeganeh, has also been arrested, she's also a journalist, why would she have been taken, do you think?
Esfandiari: I think to bring pressure on him because I don't see any other reason why she should have been arrested because her pieces are just like Jason's pieces, very careful and very well-thought so not to ruffle any feathers inside the regime. One of her last pieces was July 19th, it was on the power outages during Ramadan, which is very normal and nothing unusual. Everybody who lives in Tehran has to cope with power outages and everybody knows about it, so it's nothing extraordinary and not a cause to be arrested for.
Schachter: You talked about the horrors of being in Evin Prison, tell us what the situation is like there.
Esfandiari: If they put you in solitary confinement like they put me, and I assume Jason must be also in solitary confinement, my cell had two windows near the ceiling, which were barred. The lights were on 24 hours a day and there was a broken sink in the corner of the room and an iron door. Every time you wanted to use the facilities, you have to knock on the door and hopefully one of the guards would come. They would bring food three times a day and if you were on medication, depending on whether they allowed you to have medication or not, they would bring it for you at night. But you're all by yourself, lonely and you don't know when they would take you for interrogation and the interrogation is the hard part. The interrogation lasted, at least in my case, 8 to 9 hours a day.
Schachter: If you could speak to Jason right now personally, what would you tell him?
Esfandiari: It's very difficult; I've never met Jason so I don't know what type of a person he is but I was very transparent with my interrogators and I didn't have anything to hide from them. Given from what Jason has written, I think he can defend every word that he put on paper. He has to be strong. What they want to do, and that's what they tried with me, was to try and break my spirit and that's what they will do. They'll try and break Jason and especially since they have arrested his wife too and they are not together, the wife is in the women's ward, so they will go to him and tell him "Your wife said this, this and that," and will go to the wife and say "Your husband said this, this and that." He should not just believe what they tell him and should do what his common sense tells him to do.
Schachter: Haleh Esfandiari, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story.
Esfandiari: Thank you very much.