A Reporter's Arrest Casts A Vast Shadow

Maziar Bahari. Photo courtesy Jacki Lyden i

Maziar Bahari was reporting for Newsweek when he was detained in Tehran on June 21. Courtesy Jacki Lyden hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Jacki Lyden
Maziar Bahari. Photo courtesy Jacki Lyden

Maziar Bahari was reporting for Newsweek when he was detained in Tehran on June 21.

Courtesy Jacki Lyden

There's been an undeniable shadow in my life recently — an absence in presence, a missing voice in the chorus that forms the circle of my closest friends. It's a shadow, too, that touches my work — journalism — and sometimes engulfs the mission of truth-telling that journalism at its best can bring. The best I speak of is the work of reporter Maziar Bahari.

On June 21, my friend's wife phoned me from London. She told me Maziar was reporting in Tehran for Newsweek and had been arrested at his mother's home. He'd been covering the big demonstrations that followed the contested June 12 elections.

Maziar's arrest might have been foreshadowed — but that doesn't cover the enormity of his arrest. Nor does it cover all the things that happen to those of us who feel the weight and sorrow and anxiety caused by his absence. His wife is Paola Gourley. When Maziar was arrested, she announced she was in the fifth month of her first pregnancy. Instantly, an extra sense of vulnerability crept in.

I met Maziar in Tehran in 1996. His world view is both carefree and full of compassion. I've worked with him often — in Iran, Iraq, the U.S. He isn't the first friend or acquaintance who's been in a dangerous position of detention, but there's never been anyone whose face I can picture so well.

The last time I saw Maziar he was standing in my kitchen, sobbing, undone over the news of his sister's death from cancer. We lit a candle for his sister, Maryam, and Maziar grabbed his bag and went out for a walk. He never came back. He'd walked to the subway, taken a train to the airport, flown to London, and on to Tehran.

The next time I saw Maziar, I was in Boston's airport. There, in the newspaper, on a Saturday, was a picture of the previous day's show trials. A quick Internet check and there was he was, being made to say lies about his work. He looked haggard. Hollow.

So what is the face of a captive supposed to look like? What goes on in jail? What lies are forced into the place where truth was?

Recently, for the first time, he was able to talk to Paola about the baby, due in in late October. One phone call.

"The baby," he said, "helps me dream."

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