At the Western Washington Society of Professional Journalists annual banquet on May 21st, I was honored to accept the Susan Hutchison Bosch award for perseverance and quiet courage on behalf of my good friend and journalism colleague Dorothy Parvaz, better known as D.
SPJ Western Washington Chapter President Clay Holtzman and I are grinning for good reason. D had just been freed. A citizen of the U.S., Canada and Iran and a former editorial writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, D was detained for nineteen days, ever since she boarded a plane from Doha, Qatar, to Damascus, Syria, while on a reporting assignment for her employer, Al Jazeera English. She was later deported against her will to Iran. On May 18, she was suddenly sent back to Doha by Iranian authorities.
What follows is a brief description of D’s life as well as kudos to all who helped free her. I was only one of a cadre of friends and colleagues who worked on the campaign and were bolstered by the support of news organizations, institutions, politicians and citizens worldwide.
D was born in Iran to an American mother and an Iranian father. She grew up in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Vancouver, B.C., where she graduated from the University of British Columbia. She moved to the U.S. to earn her master’s in journalism at the University of Arizona and became an editorial board writer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before that newspaper closed in 2009. D was awarded prestigious journalism fellowships at Harvard and Cambridge before being hired by Al Jazeera English online.
More than 1200 articles, radio and TV segments, and blog posts focused attention on her detainment. The Canadian and U.S. governments worked to free her. Supporters worldwide visited and “liked” the Free Dorothy Parvaz Facebook page, which has nearly 16,000 members and through which D continues to call for press freedom. Thousands of Twitter messages demanded her freedom at #FreeDorothyand @FreeDorothy.
Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation and Wolfson College Cambridge, where Dorothy held journalism fellowships, released statements lauding her reporting skills, affirming the rights of journalists and calling for her release.
Venerable news organizations and bloggers from around the world spotlighted Dorothy’s disappearance. Al Jazeera English, The Seattle Times, The Globe and Mail, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders and many other international institutions demanded her release, first from Syrian detention and then from Iranian custody.
Many political representatives joined U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Representatives Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott and Rick Larsen (D-WA) in supporting the effort to free Dorothy.
D has dedicated her life to reporting the news. She views journalism as a force for good. Thank you for taking action to help free her. Your participation was crucial.