Mary Breme Rezaian lives in Istanbul.
From an early age, my son Jason Rezaian has been fascinated by his father’s home country, Iran. Despite growing up in the United States, he learned Farsi, enjoyed playing backgammon at warm family gatherings with his Iranian relatives and came to love the music, culture and, of course, the food of Iran. His California car’s license plate holder reads “Powered by ghormeh sabzi” in homage to his favorite dish. It’s amazing how many Iranian Americans he has met because of that.
For his eighth birthday, we got Jason a passport in the hope that he would one day visit his father’s homeland, but it was not until he had completed college that he began to travel back and forth, increasingly captivated by a culture and a people he loves.
By his early 20s, Jason had traveled to historic Tabriz, to Bam before the disastrous earthquake, to magnificent and incomparable Isfahan and to the holy sites of Mashhad, where generations of his relatives live and are buried. He was fascinated by the interplay between modern cities and traditional rural villages that represent the two major facets of developing Iranian society.
The images of Iran that Jason saw in the U.S. media troubled him greatly because he knew how limited and inaccurate most of them were. “The American public and their leaders need to see the real Iran, all its parts,” he once told me. When he moved there to work as a freelance journalist (he eventually would become a correspondent for The Post), his aim was to showcase Iran’s untold stories to the West — and to always write nuanced reports.
For many hundreds of years, Persia has been a destination for world travelers. But during the past three decades, a generation of Americans’ knowledge of Iran has been shaped by watching archival TV footage providing precious little context.
Jason is a global citizen whose extended travels have allowed him to make many dear friends in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Everywhere he goes, he tells people about the beauty and wonders of Iran. He has encouraged countless people, including many Americans, to travel to Iran to experience this beauty for themselves.
Ironically, one of Iran’s premier ambassadors has now been silenced. For despite his great love of Iran, my outgoing son and his lovely wife, Yeganeh Salehi, have been detained in Iran, without charge, for three weeks. They and two others (one of whom has been released) were taken from their homes on July 22.
This kind of treatment of professional journalists who were credentialed by the Iranian government as members of the foreign press corps is unconscionable. We do not know why they were taken, who took them and what charges — if any — they face. I don’t even know if Jason and Yeganeh are being held together. Our family and hers have been turned upside down with fear and worry, and there has been little news to dispel that fear as we wait to find out why they are being held. While Yeganeh was allowed brief contact with her family, Jason’s brother and I have gotten no word from him.
Yegi is a vibrant spirit, and Jason is warm and fun-loving. Our families are deeply concerned for their well-being and about the consequences of their detainment. Jason has high blood pressure, which requires him to take medication daily. I have no idea whether his health is in peril and have no way of communicating with people around him to tell them of his medical condition. The silence is unbearable.
For all these reasons, I am imploring Iranian officials to release Jason and Yeganeh immediately.
Iran is a complex and multilayered society that is often misperceived and vilified by the West. My son and daughter-in-law have committed themselves to dispelling many of these misconceptions through their nuanced and fair reporting. And, once released, they will continue to do so in a country they both call home.