Dorothy Parvaz is freed by Iran

The former Seattle writer arrived in Doha from Iran. Now she will join family and, perhaps, escape attention.

Dorothy Parvaz, missing in Syria.

Dorothy Parvaz, missing in Syria.

Dorothy Parvaz is free. For those of us who know her and for the thousands who have followed her disappearance while trying to report in Syria for Al Jazeera Engiish, that is what matters the most.

We don't know what Parvaz, the outspoken but deeply kind and conscientious former editorial writer and columnist (under the byline of D. Parvaz) for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has been through. Numerous thoughts and prayers focused exactly on what she might be experiencing.

But more than anything, the concerns were for her safety. And she got out of Iran safely, after being sent there by Syrian authorities. Her fiancee, Portland native Todd Barker, put out this statement Tuesday night (May 17), speaking of her father, Fred, in Vancouver, British Columbia:

Fred's family and I just got off the phone with Dorothy. She is safe in Doha and will be coming to Vancouver, B.C., soon. We can't wait to see her. She said that she was treated well in Iran. She sounded positive and grateful for the support — but a little embarrassed. We are very thankful to Iranian authorities for her release and good treatment.

Barker was quoted in The Seattle Times as saying that Parvaz's first words when she phoned after arriving from Iran in Doha, Qatar, were, "I'm so sorry." That was such vintage Parvaz as to take the breath away for those who know her.

In my case, it brought to mind the Hearst Corp.'s 2009 shutdown of its Seattle newspaper. We were the paper's two editorial writers, but she had gone to Harvard on a fellowship months earlier while I continued as the lone writer. The plan was for her to come back when she finished her stint so I could go off on a research grant for a few months. When the paper shut down, she repeatedly apologized for not picking up the writing duties while I went away, as if it were her fault rather than the corporation's choice.

And about that embarrassment Barker mentioned: Her friends who rallied widespread support on the Facebook Free Dorothy page and elsewhere knew quite well how she would hate having attention focused on her. This is a woman who disliked, or hated, being photographed. We consciously spread her picture everywhere we could. The topper was an image I saw somewhere on the Internet of a photo being flashed on an electronic display in New York City.

Her brother Dan Parvaz expressed gratitude to the Iranian government but adding he was more grateful for the people who supported his sister. The Facebook page had drawn some 16,000 supporters by the time she was released.

The Committee to Protect Journalists was one of the groups that took a lead in advocating for Parvaz's release. Before Parvaz's release, the committee counted 145 journalists as being imprisoned worldwide. Even amid relief and celebration of her release, that's a sobering reminder of the ways that freedom of information, thought, and speech continue to be restricted in much of the world.

Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.


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