Prisoner, the true story of what Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian went through when detained in Iran on false charges from 2014 to 2016, is out now.
Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi – also a journalist – was also imprisoned.
In an era where the US president uses Soviet-style language to call the media ‘the enemy of the people’, and in an era where journalists are routinely murdered in countries like Russia, this is an important book.
I’ve come across readers who say they’ll never read a book with a hero or heroine who is a journalist, which is disappointing. If only more people appreciated the risks they take to put the truth out there.
In July 2014, Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian was arrested by Iranian police, accused of spying for America. The charges were absurd. Rezaian’s reporting was a mix of human interest stories and political analysis. He had even served as a guide for Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Initially, Rezaian thought the whole thing was a terrible misunderstanding, but soon realized that it was much more dire as it became an eighteen-month prison stint with impossibly high diplomatic stakes.
While in prison, Rezaian had tireless advocates working on his behalf. His brother lobbied political heavyweights including John Kerry and Barack Obama and started a social media campaign—#FreeJason—while Jason’s wife navigated the red tape of the Iranian security apparatus, all while the courts used Rezaian as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal.
In Prisoner, Rezaian writes of his exhausting interrogations and farcical trial. He also reflects on his idyllic childhood in Northern California and his bond with his Iranian father, a rug merchant; how his teacher Christopher Hitchens inspired him to pursue journalism; and his life-changing decision to move to Tehran, where his career took off and he met his wife. Written with wit, humor, and grace, Prisoner brings to life a fascinating, maddening culture in all its complexity.
“Jason paid a deep price in defense of journalism and his story proves that not everyone who defends freedom carries a gun, some carry a pen.”
—John F. Kerry, 68th Secretary of State