Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Note from Esha on the Anniversay of her Release from the Prison

One year ago, on a day like today, after 28 days in solitary confinement, I got my freedom back. One year ago, in the other side of the world, in one of the most notorious prisons on earth, in the section 209 assigned to prisoners of conscious held by an order from Security Ministry, the guard opens the cell’s door, hands me a piece of paper to sign. Silva Harotonian an aid worker and Negin Sheikholeslami a Kurd activist, my cellmates, are more experienced than me. They have seen a lot of prisoners come and go. They tell me they are setting you free. I can’t believe it. I sign the paper with shaky hands. When the guard leaves I don’t know what to say. I can not share my happiness. We all have mixed feelings. They are happy for me but at the same time my freedom adds to their disappointments. I can not look in to their eyes. I am ashamed. It is like leaving your squad behind in the middle of the war, betraying them. In Farsi we call it “rafighe nime rah” a half way friend…. Later Negin was released but Silva is still in prison.

I change, wearing my own clothes and putting my All Stars shoes feels so good. I hug my cell mates and I say farewell. I say: “we will see each other sooner than you think”; at least that is what I want to believe. Another Bell rings, I put the blind fold on voluntary. My interrogator is waiting for me and for the first time I follow him eagerly. I don’t ask anything since I am afraid of hearing something that I don’t want to. Until the very last moment when I saw the happy faces of my family I didn’t believe that they would let me go. Tears of happiness roll down our faces and the warm embrace of my mom injects me with all the hope that I had lost in the past one month. I feel free not knowing that I still have a long way to go to freedom.

When I was released I was completely shocked by the extent of the support I received from everyone. A ray of hope, hope in people's will, reminding me that we can still make a difference. It is your support that brought me out of that abysmal well. In today’s world even though the technology has given us the chance to communicate worldwide, we still know so little about other people’s culture, history and the truth. We still see the differences more than similarities. We still think others are far enough that their lives have no impact on ours and vise versa. But with your support, you proved that we are all connected and we can make a difference even on someone’s life on the other side of the world. The more we realize this connection the better our world will become.

Thank you! Thanks to everyone who worked so hard on my behalf, many of whom I have never met, in particular thanks to my family and friends, Professor Wall, my comrades in One Million Signatures Campaign, my classmates at CSUN, and last but not least my dearest friend and supporter Hassan.

I Hope for the day that there are no longer any political prisoners anywhere in the world.

With love,


November 11, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amnesty International USA- 2009 Southern Regional Conference Featuring Esha Momeni

A weekend of workshops and panels led by Human Rights experts and community advocates.

Support Esha and hear about her experience

When: Sunday, November 1st at 11 am.
Where: Holiday Inn Decatur Conference Plaza
130 Clairmont Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030
Find more information on the conference here

Monday, October 26, 2009

Esha Momeni: From CSUN to Iran and Back Again

CSUN- The Women's Research and Resource Center present a special event featuring Mass Communication graduate student Esha Momeni on Monday, Nov. 9, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the USU in the Northridge Center. Listen as Esha tells her story, discusses her research and answers your questions. For more information, call: (818) 677-2780.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Audio files of interviews with Esha

Daily News:

Listen to Esha talk about her experience in Iran and the original goals of her project before she was arrested. (Note: Audio is in .wma format and you must have Windows Media Player to listen)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Friday, August 14, 2009

Interviews with Daily Sundial- Esha Momeni Returns to US

Friends, Family, Professors and Fellow Students Are Celebrating the Return of Esha Momeni to Los Angeles

After 10 months of travel ban, almost one month in Evin Prison, many false promises from the judicial system, several attempts to leave the country, many court hearings and continued harassing phone calls from the interrogators, Esha Momeni* was finally able to board the flight destined for Frankfurt and then Los Angeles on Tuesday August 11th. Her friends were notified early in the morning that she had been able to leave the country. Pleasantly surprised, thrilled and delighted friends and family rushed to LAX airport to greet Esha on her return home.

She is in good health and spirits and she was thankful to all of the wonderful people who followed her story, who made sure that the world did not forget her and to all who took action and demanded her release. She has many stories to share and we will continue to bring up-to-date information about Esha.

While Esha may be free, there are still countless other prisoners of conscience suffering in prison cells in Iran and we hope and continue our efforts so they can join Esha in freedom.

*: Esha Momeni was arrested on October 15th for an alleged illegal turn in Moddaress highway and taken to section 209 of Evin Prison, which is special section for those considered as treat against national security. Her lawyer, Mr. Dadkhah (who is now a detainee due to the post election arrests) was not allowed access to her during the interrogations. On November 10, after nearly a month in prison, Esha Momeni was released on $200,000 bail in the form of the deed to her parents' home. The California State University student was visiting Tehran to conduct an academic research on the women's rights movement in Iran.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The acceptance letter written by Esha Momeni for Kappa Tau Alpha Outstanding Service Award

The acceptance letter written by Esha Momeni and delivered at the May 1, 2009 award ceremony by her fiance, Hassan Hussein 

I first would like to thank the department of Journalism for the honor of receiving this award and to the entire CSUN community, students, staff, administration and alumni for your support while I was in prison and even now while I am banned from leaving the country and returning to Los Angeles and my studies at CSUN. 

I always thought being a woman growing up in a patriarchal society and fighting to erase its impact on my life would be the most difficult challenge of my life.  However, during the past few years, I realized that being a citizen of two countries in conflict, Iran and America, and struggling against the biases resulting from their politics would radically change my life and put me on a journey of self identity that I could never have imagined. 

In Iran I constantly had to struggle against being packaged as the Muslim Iranian woman that the regime wanted us to become, and in the United States I felt disabled as a woman by the stereotypes behind the terms Iranian and Muslim. I wanted to do something to break the chains of misrepresentation in both Iran and America that tie stereotypes and assumptions to being a Middle Eastern woman. 

At CSUN with the dedication and experience of my professors, a whole world of possibilities opened up for me. They gave me the chance to fulfill my dreams and serve both of my communities. Unfortunately, the Iranian government saw my American citizenship and my effort to break down entrenched stereotypes of Iranian women as a threat to national security. I was in Evin prison for 28 days,  25 of which was in solitary confinement. I had 19 interrogation sessions, sometimes starting from morning till night during which I was constantly trying to convince the interrogators of the truth, that I am a student working on my thesis and not part of a project to overthrow the government. Now I don't have permission to leave the country and the court decision is completely unpredictable as we saw in Roxana Saberi's case.  The experience left me devastated and feeling hopeless. 

However, when I was released I was completely shocked by the extent of the support I received from everyone. A ray of hope, hope in people's will, reminding me that we can still make a difference. It is your support that brought me out of that abysmal well. In today's world, no matter what our nationality, our lives are interwoven with each other. The more we realize this the better our world becomes. The blue American passport that I had, never really made me feel American.  But the love and support you have shown me makes me proud to identify myself as an American. 

Professor Wall and Professor Blumenkrantz I especially want to thank you for believing in me. With all of the concern and all the worries you had in my doing this project I thank you for not limiting me and my dreams. Rather you gave the best tools and the hope I would need to realize them. To CSUN Journalism Department faculty and students, I am so proud to be 
one of you. Anasa, John, Kara and the many others that I cannot thank individually now, being your classmate is such an honor. I am with you in spirit today and wish I could walk with you in our graduation ceremony, but my heart will be with you and I can't tell you how happy I am to be able to try with you to make this world a better place to live in.  Even though I am so disappointed to lose the footage for my project, I am sure we all have started a life time project together. 


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The PRI's The World: Graduate student confined to Iran

"Journalist Roxana Saberi has been released by Iran. But she hasn't left the country yet. We hear about the case of Esha Momeni, an Iranian-American woman like Saberi who served time in an Iranian jail and was later released. But Momeni is forbidden from leaving Iran. Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with Momeni's fiance, Hassan Hussein, in Los Angeles."

To listen to this interview please click here

Click here to read the transcript

Friday, May 1, 2009

CSUN to Honor Iranian-American Graduate Student Esha Momeni with its First Academic Freedom Award

CSUN- Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester will present an Academic Freedom Award to Esha Momeni, an Iranian-American graduate student who was held in solitary confinement in Iran for 25 days last fall while researching the women’s movement there, in a ceremony on Tuesday, May 5.

“Esha Momeni is being honored for her commitment to academic research,” Koester said. “Through her graduate research, Esha was working toward creating a cross-cultural dialog to help us better understand Iranian women. She believed that academic research would promote that goal."

The Academic Freedom Award is being given by CSUN’s Department of Journalism in recognition of Momeni’s pursuit of truth, equality and social justice through academic research.
Momeni, 28, a mass communication student, was arrested on Oct. 15, 2008 in Tehran for videotaping interviews with members of the Campaign for Equality, a gender rights group in Iran, for her master’s thesis. She was held in solitary confinement for 25 days in Evin prison and charged with acting against national security. Momeni has been forbidden to leave Iran since her release from the prison.

To read more click here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Imprisoning Womens's Rights Activists Does Not Equal Imprisonment of the Women's Movement

The coalition of women's movement groups for the freedom of Alieh Eghdamdoost gave a press conference with the title, "imprisoning womens's rights activists does not equal imprisonment of the women's movement". 
This press conference was held to protest against the carrying out of Eghdamdoost's sentence, and against other sentences of imprisonment confirmed against some of the activists of the women's movement. To this end the lawyers of some of th women's rights activists at this press conference requested that the head of the judiciary in Iran halt these sentences on  account of legal irregularities in the rulings handed down against these activists. 

At this conference, Sara Sabaghian, Esha Momeni's lawyer, after a brief description of Esha's case, added that "although close to 3 months have passed from the time Esha was freed on bail, the heads of the judiciary have maintained a ban on her leaving Iran and contuining her studies" 

Iran and Iranian Women Panel at CSUN Report

photo with courtecy of Jenny Lee and the Daily Sundial
As International Women's Day was approaching, California State University Northridge held a panel with the topic of "Different Views of Iran & Iranian Women" inspired by CSUN graduate student and Campaign member Esha Momeni who has been forbidden to leave Iran for more than 100 days. This panel, which was also broadcast on March 9th on local California radio KPFK, focused on three sets of discussions. Participants were "Free Esha" CSUN graduate student activists Kara Lawton & John Daiquoag, One Million Signatures Campaign member Roja Bandari, and Code Pink members Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen who had recently come back from a trip to Iran.
For a full report on this event please click here.
To hear parts of the KPFK report please refer to Professor Wall's blog by clicking here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

ABC News- New Hopes for Freedom Focus on Obama and Iranian Elections

Photo  Courtesy of Sanam Dolatshahi

From a recent comprehensive article in ABC news on Esha:
About her personal well being we read:

At the beginning of her ordeal, Momeni was angry and frustrated that she couldn't go on with her life, her fiance told But, "at this point, she's sort of given up hope, but only in order to allow herself to maintain her self-dignity," Hussain [Momeni's fiance] said.

"She has to imagine that she is going to be there forever mentally," Hussain added, "because each day she can't wonder if she might be released tomorrow." He said Momeni fills her time by working on art projects.

And her academic work and work with The One Million Signatures Campaign:

Momeni's friends say her arrest and the confiscation of her research materials don't make sense because she wasn't attempting to make a political statement and was not filming in public without consent, which is against Iranian law. Instead, they say, Momeni was filming intimate interviews in volunteers' homes in her quest to show Americans how stereotypes of Iranian women as weak or helpless are wrong...

"She was trying to bridge these two cultures that have not understood each other for a long time," said Momeni's thesis advisor, Professor Melissa Wall.

And Roja Bandari, a volunteer with the One Million Signatures campaign in California, said the Iranian women who are working on the project in Iran should be considered a source of pride to the country instead of a threat against it.

"They aren't doing anything covert or working to topple the Iranian government," Bandari said, adding that the grassroots movement does not contradict Iranian law.

To read the complete article please click here.

Also on Professor Wall's blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Different Views of Iran & Iranian Women" panel at CSUN March 2

Cal State Northridge  will be hosting a panel discussion about Iran and Iranian women at Cal State Northridge on Monday March 2 inspired by Esha Momeni who has been forbidden to leave Iran for more than 100 days now.

Code Pink, the US activist women's group, will talk about citizen diplomacy trips to Iran (a new trend among faith groups and others including uber travel expert Rick Steeves.) Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen 

One Million Signature Campaign, a grassroots group of Iranian women in Iran and the diaspora which seeks gender equality, and is one of today's most important civil rights campaigns. Roja Bandari 

Free Esha student activists at CSUN who will talk about their archival project to document their activities to free their classmate. Anasa Sinegal, Kara Lawton & John Daiquoag

Where: at the Library Presentation Room- CSUN

When: 3-4:30 pm Monday March 2

Click here for more info on this event in Professor Wall's blog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"For Esha: A Night of Music, Poetry and Reflection" - Friday, January 23, 2009

This collaborative event between Esha's friend and family, CSUN students and the Campaign members was sponsored and managed by one of Esha's friends, herself a Campaign member. Thanks to two months of intense work, the group was able to put together an impressive and well-managed program and in so doing was able to pay a rich tribute to their friend Esha in the form of a peaceful night of art and music, highly appropriate since Esha herself is both an artist and a musician

A harmonious blend of musical performances and speeches, the event informed attendees about Esha's bright character and various activities, as well as the obstacles faced by the women's rights movement in Iran, all the while relaxing and soothing the souls of those present

You can follow the links to listen to talks from Ms.Elahe Amani(from California State University , Fullerton), Omid Koohi (a friend of Esha, and a volunteer of the One Million Signatures), and Professor Melissa Wall(California State University, Northridge

>>Read More

Also Read Report From CSUN Newspaper

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Statement from Esha Momeni's thesis adviser, Melissa Wall

"Classes begin next week and still the Iranian government has not allowed 

our graduate student, Esha Momeni, to return to the United States. Esha was 
first arrested and jailed in October for conducting video interviews for her 
master's thesis about the Iranian women's movement. Although she was 
released in November on a $200,000 bail, she was not allowed to leave Iran 
and missed the entire fall semester.  If she does not return within the next 
few weeks, she will miss spring semester as well.  As 2009 begins, everyone 
is paying close attention to Iran.  The government of Iran has said that it 
wants educational exchanges with the United States, yet it will not allow 
Esha, a dual national, to do exactly that – to return to the U.S. to 
continue her academic work, which aims to present a positive image of 
Iranian women to the West.  In the spirit of supporting cross-cultural 
understanding, we are asking that Esha be allowed to return to California 
this month to resume her studies." 

Friday, January 16, 2009

For Esha: A Night of Music, Poetry and Reflection

We, as friends of Esha, students and faculty of CSUN, members of the Million Signatures Campaign in Southern California, academics and fellow artists, are delighted and honored to invite you to an evening event that seeks to highlight Esha's continued restriction under a travel ban.

We would like to acknowledge the unity displayed to secure her release and to highlight what can be accomplished when we join hands and work together with a common purpose and unified goal.

Please feel free to bring family and friends. We look forward to seeing you there.

Time: 8:00 pm (Doors open at 7:30 pm)
Date: Friday January 23, 2009
Admission: Free

United University Church
University of Southern California
817 West 34th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0751

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Esha, dressed in white

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Esha Momeni, banned from leaving the country

(January 13, 2009)

According to AFP, Judiciary spokesperson Ali Reza Jamshidi said on Tuesday that Esha Momeni, has been banned from leaving Iran.  "Ms Momeni was banned from leaving Iran a week ago," Jamshidi told reporters. "Her passport had been given to her but a new issue has opened and the examination of this issue will take about one month," he said, without giving further details. 

Contrary to the recent statement by the Judiciary spokesperson, since Esha Momeni's release from Evin Prison in mid November 2008 her passport has not been returned to her, and she has been unable to leave the country.  An earlier statement that was released by Judiciary spokesperson Mr. Jamshidi early December 2008 stated that there are no travel restrictions for Ms. Momeni; however, officials continued to hold on to her travel documents and prohibited her from coming back to California even when the travel ban was legally lifted.  

No details have been released regarding the claimed new issue.