Bahman Qubadi, well-known and highly-acclaimed Kurdish film director (A Time for Drunken Horses, Marooned in Iraq, Turtles Can Fly, and Half Moon) is devastated by the recent sentence handed down in Iran to his fiancée, Roxana Saberi. Saberi, a U.S.-Iranian journalist, was arrested in January and accused of spying on Iran, in the guise of a journalist, and passing information and documents to U.S. intelligence services. Days ago she received a sentence of eight years in prison.
Qubadi has just released an open letter to his fiancée in which he makes a ‘desperate call to all statesmen and politicians, and to all those who can do something to help [get her released].’ The full letter can be found here on the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran website. It is a poignant account of his feelings towards Saberi, whom he calls ‘my friend, my fiancée, and my companion.’
Qubadi and Saberi have known each other for years. Qubadi, who himself has suffered at the hands of the Iranian regime, understands very well what his fiancée must be going through. As a Kurd from Iran he has witnessed the atrocities perpetrated against the Kurds there firsthand. As for his filmmaking, Tehran’s censors banned his 2006 film ‘Half Moon’ because of its favourable portrayal of Kurdish culture, and it was driven underground, becoming part of the black-market DVD trade.
But now he is focused on obtaining help to get Saberi released from jail. He is deeply worried about her health, but is also ‘optimistic about her release’ and believes ‘the verdict will be cancelled in the next stage of the trial.’
Fueling that optimism perhaps, is that Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi will be taking up Saberi’s defence. Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, and her team will initially focus on getting Saberi, who worked in Iran for the BBC and U.S.-based National Public Radio, released on bail.
Erdbrink, Thomas. Iranian Nobel Winner to Defend U.S. Journalist. Washington Post, 20 April 2009.
Fleishman, Jeffrey. Iran sentences Roxana Saberi to 8 years. LATimes, 19 April 2009.
Editorial: A Plea from Roxana Saberi’s fiancé. Washington Times, 22 April 2009.