Friday, October 31, 2008

MSNBC - College Student Jailed In Iran

CSUN graduate students plan candlelight vigil for Esha

The graduate students at CSUN's Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communications are planning a candlelight vigil for Esha, the Iranian-American graduate student held in Evin prison since October 15, where they will be watching and waiting for her safe return home. The organizers are Esha's friends and classmates who, like Esha, are pursuing masters degrees at CSUN. Their myspace blurb reads: "As part of the same college, the same city, the same community she belongs to, it's our responsibility to unite, support Esha, and ask for her release. Right now, she needs us."

For more information regarding this event or to help go to:

Iranian-American organizations issue statements voicing concern about Esha Momeni's detention

Two Iranian-American organization, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued separate statements expressing concern for Esha Momeni's arrest.
In its statement, NIAC states, "We ask the Iranian government to cease actions which hinder the ability of individuals of Iranian descent to visit their homeland and their families,"
According to its statement, "PAAIA calls on the authorities in Iran to respect and safeguard the rights, safety and security of all Iranian Americans traveling to Iran, including Ms. Momeni, and to make every effort to bring her case to an expeditious resolution."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Interview with Esha's Father: from Traffic Violation to Section 209 in Evin Prison

By Mohammad Zarghami

An Interview with Reza Momeni, Esha’s father.

Translated from Radio Farda’s Article dated10/25/2008

Esha Momeni, an American- Iranian graduate student, traveled to Iran to work on her academic research on the subject of Women. After her car was stopped, allegedly because she had overtaken another car illegally, she ended up in section 209 of Evin Prison.

Esha’s family has spent the past 10 days waiting for Esha, while Iran’s judicial authorities told Mohammad Dadkhah, Esha’s attorney, that she has been arrested because of her association with the “One Million Signatures Campaign: Change for Equality” [this grass root campaign is working to change the discriminatory laws against women in Iran]

In an interview with Radio Farda, Reza Momeni, Esha’s father, talks about Esha’s life and studies and describes Esha’s arrest.

Radio Farda: According to news reports, Esha was born in the U.S., but you live in Tehran?
Reza Momeni: I was a student at California State University, Los Angeles. During my studies two of my children were born in America, one of them was Esha. After Esha was born, I finished my studies and the Iran–Iraq War broke out. Because of my devotion to my country we came back to Iran. We lived in poor and harsh places and tried to help.

Radio Farda: What do you mean by poor places?
Reza Momeni: I loved my country, I lived in Port of Bandar Abbas for example and for two years we lived in Hormozgan Province. I was a civil engineer and we build roads. All of my kids, especially Esha, grew up in that situation. When we came to Tehran I enrolled Esha in a music class. She was 10 years old when she started to learn the tar. Then she went to university and got her BA in Graphic Design. After her graduation, since she was a US citizen, she went to the U.S. for her graduate studies.

Radio Farda: How come Esha decided to come to Iran to do research for her thesis?
Reza Momeni: You have no idea how much Esha loves Iran. Every time we talked about Iran, Esha wanted to come back and work in Iran. We told her to do the research in U.S. and that it may be harder to pursue her research in Iran.

Radio Farda: Did you know that Esha was working with the One Million Signatures Campaign?
Reza Momeni: Yes, I often travel to the United States. I talked about this with Esha and I went to some of their gatherings. I saw among them many well educated and active women of the community; if it was a bad idea these intelligent women wouldn’t support the efforts of the campaign. Their requests are not against Islam or religion and their activities had nothing to do with Iran’s political order. I had no objections once I got to know them. And I did not stop my daughter from participating.

Radio Farda: Ms. Momeni came to Iran. But what really attracts our attention is the way she was arrested. Didn’t she talk about her project with the Iranian government before she began it?
Reza Momeni: There was no need for her to talk to the government, because she didn’t film in public places, nor was she bothering other people while shooting her interviews. Esha even asked me about the situation and I told her that if she wanted to talk to four people, she would not need permission from the authorities. Her work was not designed to question the political system in Iran and it was not against the law.

But Iranian officials state that they originally arrested her for a traffic violation, because she was unlawfully passing another vehicle. Then while she was driving another car suddenly turned in front of her and from that car some special forces officers got out and arrested her. At first they had told her she had unlawfully passed another vehicle. She called me; she was frightened; she was crying. She told me, "They are telling me I have committed a traffic violation". Then they arrested her for that and brought her home. The police searched my home. There were four male officers and one female. They searched our home for one hour and then they took her with them to Evin.

Radio Farda: Is she in Section 209 in Evin Prison?
Reza Momeni: Yes and we hear she is not feeling well. The last time I talked to her she was crying. She was really upset. Our lives are upside down now. Esha needs to go to her classes. She will lose her job. This situation has made a mess of her whole life.

Radio Farda: Mr. Momeni, have you talked about her arrest with Iranian officials?
Reza Momeni: We went to the Islamic Revolutionary Court twice. We took the title to our house as a security deposit, just so they would let her out of the prison, and then we will take her back for the court date. But they said that her interrogation has not yet been concluded, and when the interrogation is over they will let us know what to do.

Six presidents of research universities planning joint trip to Iran

Inside Higher Ed wrote on Monday:

Six presidents of research universities on Friday announced plans for a joint trip to Iran next month to meet with academic leaders and students there. The presidents are: Jared Cohon of Carnegie Mellon University; David Leebron of Rice University; J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida; C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park; David Skorton of Cornell University; and Larry Vanderhoef of the University of California at Davis. They will be joined by Robert M. Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities, which is coordinating the trip. The announcement comes at a time that many academics in the United States are concerned about incidents involving the detention of scholars in the country. Currently, U.S. officials are pushing for the release of Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University at Northridge, who is being held in prison in Iran, where she was doing research on the women's movement there. A spokesman for the AAU said that this issue is one "of great concern, and we're making inquiries."

Related post: Letter of American Association of University Professors to the Iranian officials about Esha Momeni

Esha Momeni’s Dad, “This Is Not Good for the Image of the Administration...” , Rooz Report on October 27th

Translated by Yassmin

Original Article: 10/27/2008

"Gholam Reza Momeni, father of Esha Momeni—graduate student at State University California at Northridge and volunteer in the One Million Signature Campaign--sat down for an interview with Rooz online and said all their efforts to free Esha have led to nothing. “We have not been able to do anything. They don’t answer our questions. They ask us to leave and not to return until they notify us.” Despite this Mr. Momeni is hopeful that officials will act in accordance with the laws of the country, realize that his daughters arrest has been a mistake, and release her promptly. "
To read the full text of this interview please visit:

Esha Momeni’s Dad, “I don’t know how the officials answer their pangs of conscience?”

Translated by: Tara
"Change for equality, Elnaz Ansari: Esha Momeni, one of the members of the One Million Signatures Campaign in California was arrested on one of Tehran’s highways while driving on October 15th, and has been kept in Evin Prison to this date. Although she called her family a day after her arrest, she has not contacted anyone outside the prison after that call. Esha’s family has gone to the Revolutionary Court a couple of times since their daughter’s arrest; however, they have not had the chance to either see Esha or know about her charges. Gholamreza Momeni, Esha’s father, is a 60-year-old civil engineer, who returned to Iran from the United States, after the 1979 revolution and has dedicated thirty years of his life to road construction in the poorest parts of Iran. "
To read the full text of the interview please click below:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Letter of American Association of University Professors to the Iranian officials about Esha Momeni

Academic Freedom for Free Society
October 27, 2008

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
His Excellency Ahyatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, Ministry of Intelligence, Second Negarestan Street, Pasdaran Avenue, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Sirs:
We are very concerned about news reported that Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge, in the United States, was arrested by Iranian security officials on 15 October.
We understand that she has not been charged with any offence and that she is being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. It is our understanding that she was arrested while peaceably working on her graduate thesis, a video project.
We urge that Ms. Momeni be released immediately or charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence and brought to trial promptly, fairly, and with legal representation. While incarcerated, we hope you will ensure that she is well treated and granted access to a lawyer, her family, and medical treatment if needed.
The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has approximately 47,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Cary Nelson, President, AAUP

Monday, October 27, 2008

The California State University Northridge Daily Sundail - Imprisoned student wanted to break down stereotypes of Iranian women

Report from California State University Northridge with Interviews with Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, professor and chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies department, and Friends of Esha.

Esha Momeni's Arrest Confirmed by Iranian Officials

According to BBC Persian, Iranian Officials have finally confirmed the arrest of Iranian-American citizen, Esha Momeni, .Hassan Ghashgaee, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, stated to the press on Monday: "relevant departments are processing this arrest, however the final report has not been sent out to the Foreign Ministry yet. "

BBC reported that while 12 days have passed from the arrest of Ms. Momeni, none of the Iranian officials had confirmed her arrest until this day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

MoBlogicTV- Free Esha Momeni

Our Daily Notes to Dear Esha

Esha, is not a stranger!

By Tameshk

I was ready to write something about the new Art History lecture and some exciting art exhibitions; but I was called by my Iranian destiny to report on something more important than Art, and that is Life. This is for Esha: These are the memories of the first time we met; the memories I am anxiously looking forward to building-up on when I see her again.
We only shared a couple of glances in the morning and during the talk. At noon, for lunch break, Leva introduced me to her: She was Esha and I was Roja.
Her curly hair was tucked back from her broad forehead and formed a mass of fiery orange on her back. We walked to the nearest exit and found our way to a small lunch place in Bancroft Street.
She asked me if I studied Art back home, and the answer was yes: She studied Art as well and here she was a Communication and Arts student. I admired her camera; she looked tired. I got a salad and tea, she got a large blend of carrot and orange juice and while we talked she kept offering me to have a sip of her fruit juice and I refused! I only wished I hadn’t refused her offer. I am so devastated to think maybe if I had accepted to have a sip, somehow Esha would have been free; now I think, perhaps out of desperation, that if I had a different talk with her that day Esha was far away from the section 209 and Evin Prison. I am rebuilding our first three days, only wishing she comes back soon.
That night I was tired and I returned to the hotel early. I saw her the second day and I was too busy with my translations and she was busy with other things we didn’t talk much.
The last night of the conference, after the banquet when we shared a ride I just started to know her. It was short, her voiced was broken; earlier that night she had asked me who I have in Khavaran; I hadn’t answered; I gave a vague and cold answer. I did not know her to tell her: You see, it is not like you can walk around and say it out loud. I never talked about it, even with my closest friends; it is something they never ask and I usually don’t feel like telling. His name comes up, and his jokes and his green eyes and his pictures are everywhere in my room. But I never talk about it with strangers. Stranger, Esha wasn’t!
That night in the car she let me know with a broken voice, that she is not a stranger; she too lost someone in those dreadful years.


For Esha

Esha Momeni is one of my friends for more than ten years. She is an American citizen who lived in Iran till seven years ago. She left her country to continue her education and then come back to people that always loved and wanted to be next to them. As a human, she never lied to no one, never stole anything from no one, and for sure I can say that never thought wrong about anything. As a woman, she has always been trying to get more educated to help all the women around the world. As a student, Esha has been one the best. She has been working and studying so hard to reach her goals. As a hard worker and as a smart student every one respects her. As an artist, she always knew what she wanted and what people want to see and hear. I can hear her voice clear through her music playing. As a friend, she has been so helpful to me. When I was alone she treated me and talked to me and made me hopeful about the future. She believes in a bright future for everyone. She has been so honest and faithful in her life. I ask you, as a human, woman, student, and artist to do not let her be harmed with what we all might had been touched by or may will be touched by. For her bright future which can make all of us proud and hopeful help her to get out of the prison of unjustly.



For Esha

And I, what shall I say?

--"From the heart, may it go again to the heart".

Yet who can give voice to the heart? How can I scoop up these troubled, joyous passions from my heart's depths and give them wings that they may bear these glad, sad tidings? Even there where there are none to hear in time some shall come. How can I sing who cannot sing yet must sing? How can I tell the earth of this my friend whose friendship's telling far exceeds these weak and woeful words? How should we speak of our love, that love that all who know you bear for you, when love, even love! is silenced by a prison wall?

"Two things trouble reason: to be silent when we should speak, and to speak when we should be silent". If now I speak, let us think not that I speak from disrespect, even though I do speak from disrespect; I speak because I cannot sing. At this hour to be silent were still greater disrespect. For singing I have not the voice, for it is grown dull and hoarse from want of use.

You, dear Esha, you can sing! Even were I standing on a mountain top with the last inhabitant of the earth, I could say nothing truer than that. "You, dear Esha, you can sing!" Even were I alone with only gusting winds for company, with your name, dear Esha, would I reproach those winds and swiftly would they fall silent. You Esha, you! You I see now, "in my mind's eye"--but no, this is not enough! I hear you now, in my mind's ear, I see you radiant--but you deserve better than this, than this meagre cliché, than all these half-stammered words so threadbare--I hear you radiant--your passion lights up the room--but no! still a cliché--your passion strikes an audacious harmony that sets all our souls a-quivering--that is how I hear you now, dear Esha! You and us, all of us, sitting in a circle in your apartment one spring evening, a happy gathering. With what bright animation you tell your tale, you tell us all of how the committee came for you, you tell us of the insult to your dignity--to yours, and ours, all of us--you tell us and yet in the telling, in the animated cadences of your voice, in the quickness and boldness of your gestures, in the sparkling and shining of your eyes, into what rapture this insult is transmuted! You charge us all with hope, Esha, dear Esha, in that moment you become hope, for all of us. Your words, your dancing words are become hope and hope is become those words. Your laughter--as what else shall we know your laughter, dear Esha, other than as precious shards of the divine?How else shall we call it, we who are now bereft of it? We who sit in silence, forlorn?

Ah, but Esha, dear Esha, you know that we do not sit in silence, you know we do not sit forlorn. You tell us even now that we are anything but bereft. Esha, dear Esha, for us your laughter cannot be silent; may ours, feeble though it is, not be silent for you! For you even now how many of us are resolved to labour so that even on the mountain-tops the whirling winds may know that you are not silent. That they may know that we are not silent, even though we work in silence. That they may know that we work in silence because we cannot be silent. Yes! Because our every deed brings to the ears of others your laughter, our every action becomes your laughter and your laughter becomes us, even though we ourselves dare not laugh, not yet. Yes, on the mountain-tops, dear Esha, and everywhere where there are ears to hear--for even on the mountain-tops the winds have ears for us! Not us will they hear, dear Esha, but you, Esha, you, dear Esha, you, dearest Esha! Dearest Esha, you, and us and all of us!



An Illegal Turn

Esha Momeni, an Iranian-American 28-year old graduate student studying arts and media at California State University, Northridge, was arrested on Wednesday October 15th in Tehran, Iran. Esha is a member and volunteer of the One Million Signatures Campaign--a grassroots movement that has emerged inside Iran demanding gender equality. She had flown out to Iran from Los Angeles in July to visit family and friends. While there she was also working on a film about the One Million Signatures Campaign to submit as her final graduating project at CSUN.Esha now sits in Iran's notorious Evin prison after being pulled over by police on the pretext of having made an illegal turn at an intersection. Authorities subsequently entered her parents' house and removed items such as books, camera footage, and computers. The authorities thus far have not mentioned to her parents or her lawyer what the charges are, if any.Members of the Campaign in both Iran and California are working tirelessly to spread the word about Esha's arrest, which comes as a surprise considering the fact that all she was doing was filming campaign members and those interested in gender related issues. It should be stressed that all her activities were in fact in accordance with the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I myself, also a member and volunteer in the campaign would like to write a few words about my friendship and experiences with Esha Momeni. But, let me say that I will not give a melodramatic soliloquy on the matter nor do I feel the need to interject with a character defense. What is obvious is that as a woman, a friend, a confidante, and a mentor Esha Momeni stood up for me, and all the other women and men in or outside of Iran that have raised their voices for change. But as we gaze from wherever our "outside" may be, Esha is still standing for us, even if it is in the 209th ward of Iran's Evin prison.


Esha Momeni's Mother: "Esha Wanted to Show Just How Powerful Iranian Women Are"

The One Million Signatures Campaign in California , 24th October 2008

Campaign for Equality: A number of the members of the Mothers Committee visited the mother and grandmother of Esha Momeni on 20th October and conveyed their regrets at Esha's arrest.
Esha's mother, who was extremely upset by her daughter's arrest, said the following during this meeting with the Mothers Committee:

"During the time Esha has been here, I have seen very little of her. I took the matter up with here, and she said that I should come to America and see her there. She has been pursuing her tasks and research with great enthusiasm." Her mother, emphasizing that she was sure Esha had not been engaged in any oppositional activity and that she would be released, said: "I feel so emotional every time I think of that day when Esha explained to me with such tremendous enthusiasm what her thesis project was and how excited she was to be coming to Tehran and how while she was spending a few months with us she would also be working on her Master's thesis. She wanted to show her professors and her American friends how powerful Iranian women are, and that the Taleban are not in power in Iran, to show how much progress Iranian women have made. She said that in America people have absolutely no idea about the situation of women in Iran and that they confuse us with Afghan women, that Iranian women dress in the same way as Afghan women and that they are prisoners in their homes. They even think that we don't have the right to vote and that is the reason I want to carry out research on Iranian women. And now she is in prison, and I am here waiting for her. Esha loves Iran and the people of Iran. For this reason she chose to write her thesis about active Iranian women. I hope she is freed as soon as possible and that she doesn't fall behind in her work and study."

Concerning the original motive for Esha's involvement in women's activism, she said: "The most important reason for Esha's being drawn to women's issues was her personal experience of a life full of violence. She was deeply saddened by this. I said to the gentlemen who came to the house, "if you were in her place, you would do the same thing". And I would do the same thing too. She has suffered a lot by taking this course. From every standpoint she was superior to her husband, but she was forced to put up with him."

Maryam Zandi, one of the mothers of the committee, said at this meeting: "Esha was extremely glad to see that three generations of Iranian women were working hard side by side, in a peaceful and civil manner, in order to obtain equal rights. It is truly a great shame that this passionate woman should spend even one day in prison. I hope that she is quickly set free."

Khadijeh Moghaddam, another member of the Mothers Committee, continuing Ms. Zandi's words, said: "Esha, like many of the young members of the Campaign, is enthusiastic, compassionate, and desires the progress of her country. When I spoke with Esha, I used to forget that she doesn't live in Iran. While possessing a sharp intelligence, she is also patient and capable. When I read Esha's biography, I realized how much trouble she has gone to in order to get where she is today. I truly congratulate Esha's family on having such a daughter and I hope she is set free as soon as possible. A cell is no place for such a young person."

At the conclusion of this visit, the Mothers Committee expressed the desire that Esha be released as swiftly as possible, and declared that they were ready to provide help to Esha's mother in any form that she might request.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Petition for the Immediate Release of Esha Momeni

We strongly encourage all readers to sign the following petition addressed to senior figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran and demand Esha’s immediate release . Additionally please, forward the link to others.
Click below to sign the petition:

We request you not to sign petitions not listed on this blog. While such petitions may mean well, they often contain inappropriate language and factual errors and as such are more likely to endanger Esha than help bring about her release. We are, however, grateful for the information provided by reputable independent human rights organizations like Amnesty International and OMCT and we are working with such organizations in order to make our efforts as effective as possible.

Statement from President Koester, California State University, NorthridgePresident

Jolene Koester on behalf of CSUN university and faculties has released the following official statement regarding the arrest of their graduate student, Esha Momeni.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Amnesty International's Appeal for Esha's Immediate and Unconditional Release

Amnesty International has recently launched an appeal for Esha's immediate and unconditional release. The public is invited to send letter of appeal to senior figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran. You can read the statement by following the link below:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Organization Against Torture's Appeal for Immediate Release of Esha Momeni

The OMCT has launched an appeal for the immediate release of Esha Momeni. This appeal also calls for the government of Iran to protect other women's activists and human rights defenders, including from judicial harassment. It notes that Iran has an obligation to do so according to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international human rights instruments, all of which Iran has ratified.
Please follow this link if you wish to respond to the OMCT's appeal to free Esha Momeni. The OMCT appeal gives details about her case and provides the contact details of senior figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran to whom your appeal may be addressed. It also offers detailed guidelines for what to include in your letter, fax, or e-mail. You can find the link to the appeal here.

The OMCT or World Organization Against Torture* was founded in 1986 and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Through a network of organizations and correspondents across the world, this organization aims to promote human rights with particular attention to the prevention of all forms of torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Among its activities is the launching of world-wide appeals designed to protect individuals at risk. It pays particular attention to vulnerable categories of persons such as children, women, and human rights defenders.

* OMCT is the French acronym of this organization, standing for "Organisation mondiale contre la torture".

Esha's Biography

Esha Momeni was born in Los Angeles in 1980 to Iranian parents. Her father had come from Iran to pursue a degree in civil engineering at California State University, Los Angeles in 1977. As Iran began to experience the turmoil of revolution and war with Iraq, her parents decided to take her and her sister and return to Iran in order to be with loved ones and their fellow Iranians through the turbulent times. Despite the masses of people fleeing the hardships of life in Iran during the war and the opportunity for Esha's family to enjoy the comfort of living in the United States, her family remained committed to stay in Iran living in war torn areas of the south where her father directed construction efforts and transportation projects.
Artistic expression and commitment to the welfare of Iranians has been a mainstay of Esha's life since her early childhood. Esha started painting from an early and began studying traditional Iranian music at the age of fourteen (14). She studied traditional music and learned to play the tar (a Persian musical instrument) performing professionally as a member of Chakavak Women's Classical Music Group from 1998 to 2001. She preformed at venues such as Banu Women's Cultural Center in Tehran August 2000 and Fajr Musical Festival in January 2001.
Esha followed her passion to the university and completed a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design from the Arts Faculty at Azad University of Tehran in 2002, where she produced a short movie entitled "Adam and Eve's Banishment from Heaven" and an animation entitled "The Little Prince and Me." She also worked with the Saadabad Art Gallery and the White Wall Art Group. As a university student, she began to become interested in social issues and art. She was a monthly contributor to the student magazine Kalagh o Kalameh, and volunteered at Ameneh Orphanage, where she taught art classes to children to encourage them to express themselves.
However, it was her short but agonizing experience in a marriage tainted by domestic violence that would prove to be a turning point in her life. Rather than allowing the experience to break her, she became determined to use art to redefine her own life and to give a voice to others. Therefore, she decided to come to the United States to continue her education. Esha matriculated into the Masters in Mass Communication program at California State University Northridge and enrolled in photography and film classes. She produced a photo essay and worked on a short film on attitudes towards race in America entitled "N Word" presented at CSUN Showcase.
During her studies Esha was stunned by stereotypes of Iranian women in the United States as weak and passive as well as distressed by the possibility of American military intervention in Iran. Therefore, Esha decided to make her master’s thesis project a personal exploration of the shared experiences of everyday Iranians which included interviews with some members of a grassroots women's rights campaign called the "One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws." The Campaign has made it clear that its activities are peaceful and merely aimed at reforming the Iranian laws in areas that discriminate against women and that it has no political objectives otherwise. Esha is determined to better the lives of her fellow citizens and banish stereotypes of Iranians through photo and film.

"A Different Experience"- By Esha Momeni

Translated by: Sudi Farokhnia

*Note: This article was written by Esha Momeni in the Summer of 2007. Esha Momeni was arrested on October 15, 2008, while on travel to Iran visiting with family. During this trip Esha worked to complete her Masters thesis project on women activists involved in the Campaign. To this end, she conducted a number of video interviews. She was arrested and taken to Evin prison in relation to her masters thesis, where she remains still. Read the news about her arrest.

I am dressed in white, head to toe. I am aware that the serenity and peacefulness of white does not represent my city, but when I am dressed in white I feel like a dove that is free, one that has not been earmarked and was never kept captive. As I stroll along the streets of my city, I feel like a bride, a bride that is walking towards a new promise, the dream of equality.

Iran and all that makes it unique - steep streets, narrow alleys and unmarked homes - is still the land of promise that we hold dear to our hearts. The women of this land are peacefully writing a glorious end to the bitter long story of inequality and injustice. Iran is still the covenant to those hands that would like to wash the mud of distress from the yarns of this land in the stream of peace and unity. Only then we can resurrect equality and knit white wings for the dove that represents unity. Meanwhile, behind every closed door, a young girl dressed in white is making history so that she can embrace the future with pride and honor.

My grandmother everyday practices her signature, as evidence of her existence and her uniqueness. Here in Iran, I, you, and our mothers are all brides dressed all in white, and with our peaceful approach we dance in the alleys from house to house so that our promise of equality and unity transforms the sounds of the chains on our feet to the melodies of an anklet.

Los Angeles, Mehregan Festival, 2007 (1386)

We plan to wear white. I would like to wear a white shawl but then I change my mind. Dressed in white pants and a long white shirt that covers my waist line, I look in the mirror and take account of my imperfections; I should go on a diet.

After a 45 minute drive, I arrived at the OC fairgrounds where the festivities are to take place. The volunteers of the California chapter of the Campaign have raised a small amount of funds and have been able to get a booth in the not-for-profit section of the Bazaar. They want to target the large group of Iranians attending the festival in order to collect signatures for the Campaign’s petition. I volunteered to help.

Next to the Campaign’s booth, an organization offers people the chance to become guardians of orphans and poor children, of course only financially. There is an album of children’s pictures to choose from, like a catalogue for furniture. I am so curious to know how people decide which child to sponsor, is it gender, color, size…? Of course the children return the favor by occasionally sending a letter of appreciation or pictures that can be displayed on the refrigerator. It will remind the sponsor of what a good hearted person they are.

I pick up a few petition forms and step out of the Bazaar in to the main ground. It is very crowded and I can hear a song by the Black Cats playing: “Delo har ja mikhay mibari,…. “ People who are walking away from the music are still dancing and shaking. On the other side is the bridal booth, full of businesses that offer services one would need at their wedding – from limousine rental to Persian threading for hair removal, from hair stylists to belly dancers. Some young women are dressed in wedding gowns and they walk around the booth. I scan the people to see who would be most receptive to what I have to say. A young lady with Channel eye-glasses is standing right outside the bridal booth:

"Excuse me, but may I have a few minutes of your time?"

There is no reaction so I continue.

"Have you heard of the One Million Signatures Campaign?"

She shakes her head as if to indicate “no” (at least I know she understands ¨Persian).

"Would you like to know?"

This time, she doesn’t even move her head so I continue:

"The One Million Signatures Campaign ….. inside Iran..."

She interrupts me: "I don’t travel to Iran."

A couple of meters farther on, a female artist is discussing the work she has for sale. Self-assured, I walk towards her and it doesn’t take long before she says: “bring me the petition that fixes the root of the problems, these things won’t do the job” and then she walks away.

I attempt to talk to a few others, I get some smiles which have various meanings embedded in them: "forgive me I can’t", caution, skepticism, pity…

I walk back to the Campaign booth inside the bazaar. I see my imperfections, I feel as if I have forgotten how to speak Persian or I can’t find the right words, or maybe words don’t have the same meaning in different parts of the world. Of course, I did manage to collect many signatures, and each person had their own personal reasons for signing. However, I couldn’t stop thinking: I, my mother, my sisters, Marjan, Azadeh, Maryam,… we were all just images, just like pictures that one quickly browses through in a furniture catalogue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Interview with Dr. Melissa Wall, Chair of Esha's Master's Thesis Committee in Arts and Communication Department of CSUN

By: Peyman Malaz

1- As Esha's professor and adviser, How do you describe her? Would you please tell us what Esha's project is focused on?

Esha is a wonderful young woman, very smart and very talented. I have learned a lot about Iranian culture from my discussions with her. She was concerned that Americans often misunderstand Iran and she wanted to help them see a fuller picture of her country. Her project is a video documentary about Iranian women.

2- Are you surprised about her arrest? Do you see any reason why she should be in jail now?

I am very surprised by her arrest. I am certain she was doing nothing wrong. I'm sure all my colleagues in world would be surprised to hear that a young communication and Art student has been arrested for no apparent reason.

4- Does California State University, Northridge use the student's projects for any other purposes other than for the purpose of completing a program of study?

No, the university does not use student work. It is submitted to a three-person committee, which judges whether she should be awarded a master's degree for the work. It's the equivalent of taking an exam.

Interview with David Blumenkrantz, Esha's Visual Communication Professor

By: Peyman Malaz

1- As Esha's professor and adviser, How do you describe her? Would you please tell us what Esha's project is focused on?

Esha is an exceptionally bright person, very creative and artistic. As a member of her thesis committee, I understood that she was mostly interested exploring issues related to women in Iran, with an emphasis on clearing up misconceptions the world might hold in this regard.

2- Are you surprised about her arrest? Do you see any reason why she should be in jail now?

Not just surprised, but shocked. I'm aware that such things happen in Iran, but I'm confident that they have nothing to fear from Esha's research project. It is simply an academic exercise, not meant for publication outside of academic circles. I cannot image why she should be held in detention.

4- Does California State University, Northridge use the student's projects for any other purposes other than for the purpose of completing a program of study?

Not at all. This is simply a student research project, a requirement toward
earning her Master's degree.

Thank you,

Esha Momeni, Volunteer of the Campaign Arrested

Esha Momeni, women’s rights advocate and a volunteer of the Campaign from California was arrested on Wednesday October 15, 2008, while on a visit to Tehran. Momeni who is a photographer and graduate student was arrested in an unusual and illegal manner after being pulled over on Moddaress highway, by individuals who identified themselves as under cover traffic police on the pretense that she had unlawfully passed another vehicle while driving. Esha was arrested and taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison, managed by the Intelligence and Security Ministry.

Prior to her transfer to Evin, security officials searched her home and seized property, including her computer and films which were part of her thesis project. The security officials had an arrest warrant and court permission to search the home and seize property.

While Esha’s friends and colleagues were insistent about announcing the news of her arrest immediately, based on requests from her family this news was announced with delay. Security forces had promised Esha’s family that she would be released quickly if news of her arrest was not published.

Esha’s parents went to the Revolutionary Courts today, on the fifth day of her arrest, to follow up on the case of their daughter. Court officials told the Momeni family that they should not come to the courts again, and that their questions will not be answered until the investigation of Esha’s case comes to a close.

Esha Momeni is a graduate student at the School of Communications, Media and Arts at California State University, Northridge. Esha had come to Iran two months ago to visit with her family and to work on her Masters thesis project, focused on the Iranian women’s movement. To this end, she had conducted video interviews with members of the One Million Signatures Campaign in Tehran.

Women’s rights activists object to the unusual manner in which Esha was arrested, as well as the irresponsible treatment of her family members by security forces. Further they strongly object to the unjustified and unwarranted arrest of this women’s rights defender.