NU fasts in show of solidarity for Saberi

Alexandra Finkel

To honor the 12 days that Northwestern alumna Roxana Saberi has fasted to protest her imprisonment in Iran, members of the NU community are holding their own hunger strike from Sunday through May 15.

Saberi, Medill ’99, was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison less than two weeks ago. The freelance journalist was allegedly arrested in late January for purchasing wine, although Iranian officials later claimed she was taken into custody for reporting without press credentials.

The former Miss North Dakota had been working in Iran since 2003, and although her press credentials were revoked in 2006, she continued to file stories for various news outlets including NPR, BBC and FOX News.

On April 21, Saberi began a hunger strike to demand her freedom. She has already lost 10 pounds, according to international news sources.

Alexis Grant, Medill ’05, fasted Sunday, which was also World Press Freedom Day, “so that Roxana doesn’t have to,” she said.

Grant joined the FreeRoxana campaign – composed of NU students, faculty, alumni and others – last month and currently runs the campaign’s Twitter account. She said she hopes the hunger strike will not only raise awareness of Saberi’s situation but will also encourage her to stop fasting.

“We’d like her to regain her strength in prison,” Grant said. “We’re hoping that she’ll feel like she doesn’t have to fast anymore, although we know that she may continue to do so.”

Volunteers can sign up on FreeRoxana.net and pledge to fast for 24 hours between May 3-15, she said. More than 230 people have already signed up, including Medill Profs. Jack Doppelt, Loren Ghiglione and Jon Marshall, as well as people from Mexico, the United Kingdom and Geneva, according to the participant list on the Web site.

Several other organizations including Reporters Without Borders already have or will fast to show their support for Saberi in the coming days.

Grant, who has never fasted before, said the hunger strike is important because it’s a constant reminder of Saberi’s situation.

“I think about the cause every time I’m hungry, which has been all day, ” she said. “It makes me realize that if Roxana has been doing it for 12 days, then I can definitely do it for one day.”

Iranian authorities insist that Saberi’s case will get a fair review, according to Iran’s foreign minister in a news conference.

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