When Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America went on sale inside Iran in 2005, Iranians snapped up more than 100,000 copies.
Written by Firoozeh Dumas, the book had been such a success in America when it was published in 2003 that it was translated into Persian by Iranian poet and scholar Mohammed Soleimani Nia.
Two weeks ago, Iranian authorities arrested Soleimani Nia. According to a petition demanding his release, he was questioned by intelligence officials in late November. Then in January he was called to the Revolutionary Court. Security guards searched his home and seized electronic devices and documents. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Iranian American writer Dumas worked closed with Soleimani Nia on the translation of the book.
“The irony is Mohammed is the least political person I know,” she said. “He’s like this sort of nerdy poet, and this is why I find it so painful for him to be in prison, because I know that man is completely innocent.”
Dumas says Soleimani Nia had also been working on developing a website similar to LinkedIn, designed to help Iranians find jobs.
"I’m guessing that that must have been something that was suspicious for the government,” Dumas said.