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.