Dorothy "D" Parvaz, a former P-I columnist-turned-Al Jazeera reporter, was finally freed by her Iranian captors yesterday after 19 days behind bars there and in Syria. And in fitting fashion, she was immediately handed a deadline to write a recap of what happened to her--which is riveting.
I was standing in two fist-sized pools of smeared, sticky blood, trying to sort out why there were seven angry Syrians yelling at me. Only one of them--who I came to know as Mr Shut Up during my three days in a detention center, where so many Syrians 'disappeared' are being kept--spoke English.
Not long beforehand, Parvaz says, she had been driving with two armed security guards in Damascus who said they were taking her to her hotel, but she knew better. She'd only been in Syria a few hours, there to cover the budding rebellion for her Qatar-based network. But spooked by the satellite phone and Internet hub they found in her luggage, the Syrians decided there was no way they'd let her on the streets.
The agents couldn't seem to agree what I was, or which was worse: an American spy for Israel, or an Al Jazeera reporter--both were pretty much on a par.
Parvaz was taken to a tiny cell where she met another woman who said she'd been there for four days and who couldn't stop crying. Parvaz heard frequent beatings all around her and wondered if she might be beat next.
A man came to the door a couple of times before he took me from the cell, handcuffed and blindfolded me, and led me to what seemed like a courtyard.
He pushed me up against a wall and told me to stand there. As I did so, I heard two sets of interrogations and beatings taking place, about 10 meters away from me in either direction.
The beatings were savage, the words uttered by those beaten only hoarse cries--"Wallahi! Wahalli!" ("I swear to God! I swear to God!") or simply, "La! La!" ("No! No!").
I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, before someone approached me.
"Who do you work for?" he hissed.
"Al Jazeera. Online."
"Are you alone?"
Parvaz was kept in Syria for three days where the sights and sounds of beatings were frequent, the food barely edible, and the conditions barely livable.
But then she was taken (forcibly) to Iran, a country she holds dual citizenship in, but one known for executing those its officials considers to be spies.
But although she spent some two weeks locked up in Iran, she says that the conditions there were remarkably improved.
Although I have written critically of some of Iran's policies, I was treated with respect, courtesy, and care throughout my detention there.
My room was spotless, my interrogator flawlessly polite, and the women who looked after me at the Evin Prison Women's Detention Centre saw to it that my every need was met--especially the sleeping pills I required, because every night, without fail, I would hear the cries of men screaming in Syrian "Wallahi! Wallahi!" and wonder how their wounds will ever heal.
Here she is telling the tale in her own words: