The unmotivated arrest and custody of Iranian journalist Marzieh Hashemi, an American national working for Press TV, has shown the whole world once again how the paragon of the Free World tramples on reporters’ rights.
Marzieh Hashemi, the face of the Iranian channel, an African-American with dual citizenship, was detained at an airport in St Louis, Missouri, on January 16. She had come to the US to see her sick brother.
For quite some time, no one knew anything about her fate. Press TV reported the arrest only five days later after hearing from her son, Husain Hashemi, that Marzieh had been detained based on US authorities’ claims that she was an important witness in a criminal case. Husain also said the Americans had not actually issued any charges against his mother.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the arrest and demanded Hashemi’s release from custody, describing the US’ actions as racially and religiously motivated.
The details shared by Marzieh’s children appalled the international community. The FBI treated her like a criminal rather than a “witness” as they claimed. She was handcuffed, ordered to take off her hijab and handed a prisoner’s uniform. Her captors fed her sandwiches with pork, which is prohibited in Islam, and denied her relatives access for a long time.
As for the mainstream media which loves to wax dramatic on “violations” of rights and freedoms in Iran, they maintained total silence and didn’t offer a single detail on what was happening to the American citizen, totally indifferent to why Melanie Franklin (Marzieh’s name before conversion to Islam) was denied her rights.
It’s worth mentioning that Marzieh Hashemi is an unconventional person. Not only has she made an illustrious career in journalism by becoming an anchor at Press TV, but more importantly she has fought all her life against injustice and for true freedom in the US.
Melanie Franklin grew up in an inner city district. She was born into a highly religious Christian family; she made friends with rappers, played basketball, and drew inspiration from the ideas of Communism for some time. She was an activist and freedom fighter from childhood who sought to be a voice of truth, a voice of the oppressed. That is why she chose to pursue journalism in college.
Hashemi said in interviews that working for the US media became far more difficult for her after her conversion to Islam. Few around her accepted her choice of religion, her choice to wear a hijab and especially her political views. She turned into a fiery fighter against oppression and racism towards non-white Americans.
Hashemi kept up her lifelong struggle of speaking the truth and protesting abuse of power at all costs after she joined Press TV. She never bypassed an important event in the Middle East when it came to the rights of women or Muslims. Leading mainstream media outlets, including Western ones, invited Ms. Hashemi on talk shows. As an expert, she appeared on top-rated programs live to speak about the realities of Iranian society and life, debunking the falsehoods propagated by many Western media outlets.
The very same media veiled her arrest, suddenly becoming meek when faced with a difficult truth. They drowned their sacred notion of “human rights” in oblivion with their silence. The Western media didn’t dare to mention Washington’s misconduct towards an American citizen, despite clear human rights violations. Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bans torture, inhumane treatment, punishments, enslavement, arbitrary detentions, and even interference in private or family life; Marzieh Hashemi’s arrest without charges was arbitrary and an encroachment on international law. As a devout practicing Muslim, US authorities violated her rights under the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, and disregarded the American Convention on Human Rights (the Pact of San Jose) and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Following reports of Hashemi’s arrest, empathetic people across the world, including those on Farsi and English-language social networks, launched an energetic campaign to #FreeMarziehHashemi. They voiced their strong concern that Hashemi might share the plight of Jamal Khashoggi, the famous Saudi journalist brutally slain in the consulate of his homeland in Istanbul. Khashoggi, too, leveled open criticism at the policies of his home country – at the cost of his life.
Fortunately, the Americans have proven to be somewhat wiser than their Saudi allies. Hashemi appeared in a courtroom just ten days after the arrest. She spoke in front of a jury as a witness. The session was held behind closed doors. The US authorities didn’t bother to explain why they were treating an important witness like a fugitive criminal.
The US’ foul actions towards a Shiite woman is heavily rooted in the propaganda war that Washington has declared on Iran. Psychological pressure and threats against Tehran are a regular feature in statements by Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who hope these actions will break down Iran’s resistance and force it to offer concessions. Marzieh Hashemi became a hostage of their propaganda warfare.
Marzieh Hashemi openly criticized US policies as a journalist. She cited facts, unmasked US authorities and exposed their true colors, exposing the harsh realities in contemporary US society. Standing out, among other things, is her most recent documentary project about Black Lives Matter which revealed the facts of apartheid in the US which continue into the 21st century. It is exactly this kind of frankness, transparency, and willingness to tell the truth that made her a target of US authorities. In the name of Democracy, they handcuffed a journalist who has been fighting for justice for the oppressed around the world: in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the US. This “democracy” failed to ensure even elementary rights to a person who represents its spirit far more than most, proving the importance of defending and honoring journalists like Marzieh Hashemi.