SCOTT SIMON, host:
We've learned that Roxana Saberi, who has reported from Tehran for NPR News, has been arrested and jailed by Iranian authorities. The details we have are limited. Roxana Saberi is 31 years old and has also reported for the BBC and other news organizations. Her father's, family is Iranian. She was born in New Jersey, but grew up in North Dakota where she was a star high school soccer player and a pianist and Miss North Dakota.
Reza Saberi, Roxana's father, who is a teacher and translator, joins us now from Prairie Public Radio in Fargo, North Dakota. Mr. Saberi, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Mr. REZA SABERI (Teacher, Translator): You're welcome.
SIMON: I'm told that your daughter's arrest was January 31st.
Mr. SABERI: January 31st, but the first call we got from her was February 10. You know, we were having, like, email and telephone contact every day, but all the communication cut off with her since January 31st.
SIMON: Has she been charged with something? Do you know any reason cited for her arrest?
Mr. SABERI: She said that she had bought a bottle of wine, and the person who had sold had reported that one, and they came and arrested her. But later, we found out that for a bottle of wine they don't keep the person in detention. It's just some fine that they get. And also, this is an excuse they make in order to arrest someone. Someone else also had the same experience, we heard, and they had made the same excuse for him. That person didn't drink.
SIMON: And have you been able to speak with Roxana while she's…
Mr. SABERI: That's the only time that we have talked to her, February 10, and since then we don't have any information at all. We have asked three lawyers to go and find out, and they haven't given any information to the lawyers, either.
SIMON: How long has she been in Iran, Mr. Saberi?
Mr. SABERI: She has been in Iran for six years now.
SIMON: And what's life been like for her there?
Mr. SABERI: Oh, she liked Iran and the people. And she had quite a few friends among other journalists. She enjoyed, you know, her stay there and - until recently, she was planning to return to the United States in a couple of months, actually. She was coming back for good. But before this happened, they arrested her.
SIMON: And has she ever communicated to you any concern for her safety?
Mr. SABERI: No. She felt pretty safe over there.
SIMON: As we said in introducing you, we noted that Roxana was born in New Jersey and raised in North Dakota. That makes her a U.S. citizen.
Mr. SABERI: Yes.
SIMON: What contact have you had with the U.S. State Department?
Mr. SABERI: So far, they were telling us that we better solve it, you know, without making any noise about it, you know.
SIMON: So, your daughter was arrested and rather than contact the State Department immediately, you were hoping that something would change. She might get released.
Mr. SABERI: Yeah. She actually - she called us, February 10 for us, and then, of course, just a few words. She said very quickly that - why she is in detention, that alcohol was the reason they had. And they had planted the story. But after a few minutes, she called again, said that - don't take any action because they say that they are going to free me in two or three days, and the charges are (unintelligible). Now, it is - 18 days has passed since then and no news at all. And we don't even know where she is, you know, this is - and so we are quite worried about.
SIMON: Yeah. May I ask if you know now what you're going to try and do over these next few days?
Mr. SABERI: Well, we are going to involve the American government so that they can contact the ambassadors, you know, Iranian ambassador in the United Nations. Roxana is an American citizen but in Iran, if the father is Iranian and the child wants to visit there, they issue Iranian passport. I believe they consider anyone with Iranian passport their citizen and - but, of course, American government doesn't accept that. They consider their citizens once we are - she is born here and she has American passport.
SIMON: How do you fill your days now, Mr. Saberi?
Mr. SABERI: It's been very, very uncomfortable about this matter. She was calling us and contact us every day. And now, we don't know how they are treating her or where they are keeping her.
SIMON: Mr. Saberi, thank you so much.
Mr. SABERI: You are welcome.
SIMON: Reza Saberi, speaking with us from Prairie Public Radio in Fargo, North Dakota. Of course, the Saberis are still waiting for news of their daughter, reporter Roxana Saberi. And we want to play an excerpt from a report that Roxana filed for NPR in August 2007, about the police in Tehran reinforcing a strict observance of dress codes on the street.
ROXANA SABERI: Many offenders are simply given verbal warnings on the street. But the six young women on this van are heading to a police station. There, the authorities will call their parents, who must bring longer coats and fuller headscarves for their daughters.
If the young women sign pledges that they won't repeat their offense, they'll go free. In rare cases, offenders could be taken to court and fined. But Zara(ph) says this campaign will do little to keep her from changing her style.
Ms. ZARA: (Through translator) My clothing, no, there's no problem with it. I'll go out dressed just like this again.
SABERI: In fact, she says, next time she'll make sure to wear an even shorter jacket.
For NPR News, I'm Roxana Saberi in Tehran.
(Soundbite of music)
SIMON: To hear all of that story, and to see Roxana Saberi's photo when she was Miss North Dakota in 1997, you can go to our Web site, NPR.org. And we want to note that we have contacted the Iranian government for a response but so far, they have not provided one.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.