Between Two Worlds
Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran has been released in Italian and in Portuguese in Brazil. It has also been released in Danish, in German (also available in Switzerland and Austria), in Dutch, in Turkish, in Polish, and in Farsi. The English-language paperback edition was released in April 2011, and it is also available on Kindle.
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS
My Life and Captivity in Iran
By Roxana Saberi
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: My Life and Captivity in Iran (Harper; ISBN 0061965286; on sale March 30, 2010) by Roxana Saberi is the harrowing chronicle of an Iranian-American journalist’s arrest, sham trial, and sentencing to eight years in prison, as well as stories about the struggles and courage of the Iranians she met along the way.
Saberi had been living and working in Iran for nearly six years when four men forced her from her Tehran apartment one morning in January 2009. That night, she ended up in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison. Her captors harshly interrogated her and accused her of espionage, a charge she denied. Weeks passed before her family and friends learned her whereabouts.
Saberi’s captors threatened her with life in prison or worse but told her that if she cooperated with them, she would be released. Under this and other pressures, she fabricated a confession in return for her freedom, a choice she quickly came to regret.
It wasn’t until Saberi met other prisoners at Evin that she rediscovered her courage and her conscience. Her cellmates included followers of a civil disobedience movement, a humanitarian worker, a student activist, and Baha’is — members of the largest religious minority in Iran. When Saberi heard them talk of their deep convictions that had landed them in prison and their resistance to their captors’ demands, she realized even more the need to recant her false confession and stand up to her persecutors.
Through the prism of her interactions with her cellmates and captors, Saberi provides insight into Iranian society, the Islamic regime, and U.S.-Iran relations, shedding light on developments taking place today in tumultuous Iran.
Following broad-based international pressure, Saberi was released from Evin Prison on appeal on May 11, 2009.
Saberi, 32, was born in New Jersey and raised in North Dakota. She has a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University and a second master’s degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge. She has reported for NPR, BBC, ABC Radio, and Fox News.
For an excerpt, see NPR’s Weekend Edition.
Praise for Between Two Worlds:
“Between Two Worlds is an extraordinary story of how an innocent young woman got caught up in the current of political events and met individuals whose stories vividly depict human rights violations in Iran.” – Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
“Although ‘Between Two Worlds’ is not the first book that documents the quotidian hardships of a term in Evin’s Section 209, it is, by virtue of Saberi’s skillful reconstruction of dialogue, a spot-on chronicle of the paranoia and utter buffoonery of the Iranian government and its apparatchiks. … In the end, Saberi spent five months in Evin Prison fighting for her life. She would say that she fought for her soul as well. Her redemption is this compassionate and courageous memoir.” — Susanne Pari, San Francisco Chronicle
“…Here, she recounts the stories of her fellow prisoners, human rights workers and others, many of whom were arrested for their religious or political beliefs. Saberi believes in the future of Iran; she draws important distinctions between the people and the hard-line extremists in power. She was saved by international attention to her case and makes a plea for increased international vigilance.’I saw the dark and bright sides of human nature,” she writes of her months in prison, ‘including my own. I hope this account can also help shed light on events unfolding in Iran, where many people have gone through similar or much more difficult ordeals, but few have been free to speak of them.'” — Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
“The most compelling passages are about a form of religious experience — the struggle of this young American-Iranian as she moves from false ‘confessions’ calculated to secure freedom to fierce truth-telling that grants her an inner liberation so powerful that even death is no longer frightening. ‘Roxana,’ her father says, ‘just remember: they can never hurt your soul.’ Truth, in other words, is impregnable. — Roger Cohen, The New York Times
“Saberi … shows us she is neither a delicate beauty queen nor a fearless reporter. And this is why her story is so powerful. Saberi is flawed. Hers is not the tale of a great martyr who sacrifices her life for a cause, but the experience of an ordinary woman who finds herself in an extraordinary situation and struggles to make the right choices. And through this complex self-portrait, she hopes more of the world will demand an end to the human rights catastrophe in Iran.” — Eileen Flynn, The Austin American-Statesman
“An American of Iranian and Japanese descent, Saberi was Miss North Dakota and a Top Ten finalist in the Miss America Pageant in 1997, grateful for the scholarship that enabled her to become a journalist. She felt a deep connection to Iran when she moved there in 2003, and even though her press credentials were inexplicably rescinded in 2006, she stayed in Tehran to work on a book, unaware that she was under surveillance. Stunned by her arrest in early 2009, she struggled to make sense of the nightmare as intelligence officials denied her legal representation and contact with her family, charged her with espionage, and subjected her to solitary confinement and terrifying interrogations. Desperate to save her life, Saberi finally made a false confession, which ended her isolation and launched a moral and spiritual awakening as she shared cells with women prisoners of incredible courage, conviction, and kindness. She then discovered that, thanks to her parents, her story was headline news worldwide. Saberi tells the chilling story of her 100 harrowing days in Evin Prison with finely etched detail and heroic candor in an unforgettable chronicle of an all-too-common assault against universal human rights, justice, and truth.“ — Donna Seaman, Booklist
“…With no factional axe to grind, Saberi’s English-language memoir provides a candid, timely look at the injustices suffered by prisoners of conscience within Evin’s walls. … Ultimately, Saberi’s memoir brings us up-to-date on the state of Iran’s prisons, and the picture is grim.” — Elham Gheytanchi, Ms. Magazine blog
“I highly recommend picking up (or borrowing) a copy of Between Two Worlds, no matter how much or little you know of the situation in Iran. Seasoned activists will see a portrait up-close of why they do what they do; the casual reader will glean a sense of what the citizens of Iran face daily; and even those of us who wake up each morning to case updates and on-going heartbreak will be challenged, not just to do more, but to answer truthfully to ourselves: What would I do? And more importantly, what will I do now?” — United4Iran.org blog
“The author writes eloquently of both the brutality and beauty — in bonding with her cellmates, and even connecting with her guards — she experienced in Evin. And most importantly, in telling her own story, Saberi has raised critical awareness of so many other political prisoners who remain silenced in captivity.” — Heather Horiuchi, Nichi Bei Weekly
“Saberi’s deep understanding of the Iranian society has helped shape this personal memoir in creating a vivid portrait of a country that has always been in the news. Written in first-person, the author’s moving account, straight-from-the-heart perspective and lucid prose makes for eminent reading and leaves a lasting impression. Between Two Worlds is about courage in the face of adversity, about overcoming fear in the pursuit of truth and faith in God in the most trying circumstances. These virtues stood her through the prison ordeal and, now through this book, in tellng her story to the world.” — G. John, Time Out, Doha
“An incredibly riveting account of every journalist’s worst nightmare come true in Iran. In poignantly telling her own story, Roxana Saberi takes us inside the world of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, introducing us to a remarkable cast of women who have been otherwise forgotten.” — Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
“Between Two Worlds is a gripping account of a young journalist’s harrowing detention and prosecution for espionage in Iran. The author vividly conveys the fear, confusion and uncertainty experienced by an innocent person trapped in a repressive system where human rights norms have no meaning. Despite her ordeal, she draws strength and inspiration from other women prisoners of conscience detained with her in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.” — Elise Auerbach, Iran Specialist for Amnesty International USA
“A timely and gripping account of a young journalist caught in the web of the Iranian Intelligence agents searching for a bait to prove their fictional spy plot. Roxana’s engaging portrayal of her surreal journey at the notorious Evin Prison could not have come at a more appropriate time, when hundreds of prisoners of conscience are undergoing similar coercion to confess to crimes they have never committed. Her prison memoir sheds light on the incredibly cruel and unjust machinations of a paranoid intelligence apparatus bent on preserving its hold on power at any cost. To read Roxana’s re-telling of her ordeal is to take a rare and eye-opening walk through Iran’s horrible human rights record. Her careful and uniquely recalled experience, interlaced with insightful analysis of contemporary Iran and its past, makes this book a highly accessible gateway to understanding today’s Iran, its domestic turmoil, and its young population’s struggle, as they bravely push forward for greater freedoms, despite all the odds. A powerful testament to the fortitude of human soul and its ability to survive the most daunting of situations.” — Hadi Ghaemi, Director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
“Roxana Saberi’s Between Two Worlds is a story of redemption and grace. After succumbing to intense pressure from her interrogators, Saberi retracts her false confession, vowing to face the consequences. Her principled stand and her willingness to speak out about her ordeal have made her an ambassador for press freedom and human rights. She has also become advocate for those still in prison in Iran. This compelling and moving account is a tale of resistance.” — Joel Simon, Executive Director of Committee to Protect Journalists
“Between Two Worlds is an incredibly compelling and moving personal story about triumph over adversity. But it’s also such a unique portrayal of Iran’s judicial system, of life in Evin, of the system’s callousness, and of the daily injustices meted out to those Saberi encountered there. Beyond that, her measured assessment of the Iranian experience is – after what she went through – a further tribute to her profound understanding of the country and its people.” Simon Marks, Feature Story News
“A compelling and painful story about a young woman tangled in a legal system that was deciding her fate in an almost labyrinthine and surrealistic way.” – Guillermo Arriaga, author, director, and screenwriter
“[Roxana Saberi’s] moving descriptions of prison scenes and judicial settings offer one of the best accounts of what takes place in the darkest corners of the Islamic Republic. …[She] offers a wealth of information and insights on the workings of the ‘security system’ in the Islamic Republic, highly valuable to human rights scholars and monitors. Saberi’s book is an impressive combination of investigative journalism and prison memoirs. Authoritarian regimes have yet to learn not to imprison, on spurious charges, talented authors and journalists, contributing to the enrichment of prison literature.” — Reza Afshari, author of “Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism”
Saberi quotes Saeb Tabrizi, a 17th century Persian poet at the start of her memoir,“When a bird realizes that it is other than the cage, it is already free.” There is a recurring theme of mental strength and the power of the mind throughout the book. Narrating her interaction with other women in her cell, the significance of these words becomes clear. The book is dedicated to Saberi’s cellmates and “all other brave souls standing up for human rights, freedom and dignity.” — Neha Banka, The Brooklyn Ink
What readers are saying on Amazon.com:
A brilliant, humble story of courage and perseverance, April 12, 2010
By “Sleepless in CA”
Having two young children, I have not read a book (other than parenting books) from cover to cover in a few years. I purchased “between two worlds” the day it was released and could not put it down…finished it in 4 days! Roxana’s book is not only a chronicle of her life in Iran and captivity at Evin prison, but also informative about Iran as a country, it’s history, culture, and how the islamic regime came to power. It is not overwhelming in that context, but enough knowledge to shed some light on how things ‘came to be’ as they are, and to what extent.
Saberi’s writings beautifully paint a landscape of who she is, her love of Iran and its people, as well as that of America, and her love and admiration for her family and friends. That care and admiration extends to the amazing women she meets in Evin prison. All of this sets the stage for how Roxana gains the courage to be true to herself, and to those suffering and fighting for basic human rights in Iran, despite the dreadful conditions, intense psychological pressure and threats she is under. Her story is carefully, compassionately and whole-heartedly written. I commend Roxana for coming forward with her story, for sharing her knowledge and passion with others. I truly believe that her sincere nature, combined with her knowledge and determination, can turn her horrific experience into something meaningful for the rest of us.
The book that silenced my television for three days. April 17, 2010
By Maurya Laqua
The joke amongst my friends is that I don’t read books. I’m known as someone who prefers Reader’s Digest. I received a gift card from the PTO where I teach and one day on the way to a hair cut I impulsively stopped and bought Roxana’s book. As a college classmate of Ms. Saberi I had followed her story with some interest, but I never expected to become so captivated by her book. This “Reader’s Digest reader” couldn’t put the book down. I read it in 3 days, finding my television silent as a result. Not only was I drawn in by Roxana’s personal story, but fascinated by a culture and a country I knew little about. The story read like a movie on the big screen and left me aware (which I think more Americans need to experience) of how our democracy protects and affords freedom without fear of persecution. If you are looking for a story about the triumph and strength of the human spirit, the struggle to do the right thing and the power of faith, family and friends…you won’t be disappointed.
Compelling Modern-day Real-Life Drama, June 2, 2010
By Kenneth Edward Piner
Saberi’s book “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” was a very compelling read even though it came from difficult circumstances. I loved how real and open she was in it to expose how such events happen in Iran. I enjoyed reading about her transition in attitude through her incarceration and especially when she started to stand up to her captors. It made so much sense to me. Who hasn’t initially made a choice in their life for safety/security reasons and to survive whatever circumstance they are in and then realized later they had to amend their initial choices for the respect of their own soul. It made complete sense to me and I was fascinated to read how she worked through that for herself. Very well done.
Helped me feel brave against bullies, September 15, 2011By Emily M
I also learned a lot on how to look for happy things even if things seem really sad. Even though Ms. Saberi was away from all the people she loved and all of the things she enjoyed by being in prison, she was able to find things to be happy about in jail. I thought it was funny that she taught inmates how to swear and that they told jokes. I also thought it was neat how she became such good friends and did things like her eyebrows. It showed me that no matter how bad things might seem and even if you are in a place you don’t want to be in, there is always something to find to be happy about.
Mostly Ms Saberi taught me how people are badly treated in other places of the world and how sometimes, no one knows that they are. We are all people and it is our jobs to take care of one another. I am just like a girl in Iran and she is just like me, even if we live in different places. I would want someone to care about me if I was being treated badly and I want to care about her because she is being treated badly. I think adults sometimes forget that and maybe Ms. Saberi can remind them to just be nice to each other no matter where they are at or what things they like. We are all different like a box of crayons, but we are all crayons and we all live in the same box. I thought it was really neat learning about Iran and some of the things they do there. Some of them are really neat and I wish we did here too!
Ms Saberi taught me about using my voice, not my anger. She taught me to use my heart, not my fear. She taught me to always try to do the right thing, no matter how mad I get and no matter who my bullies might be.
“The women she described in this book, her fellow inmates were incredible. Strong and spirited…the ultimate beauty in my opinion. They knew that they fought the system alone…and yet they still fought. There was no United States, no pleas from the president, little or no media coverage to hang their hope on. They put their foot down…on their beliefs, their God, their unwavering resolve and were prepared to stand there in Evin, until they and their conscious could be called free.” — Jessie Jo, blogger
“In November 2010, I had the pleasure of seeing Roxana’s presentation in Brazil. She told us her experience so lively that I couldn’t help buying her book. It illustrates perfectly everything she said about the disrespect of human rights in Iran. I found it very beautiful when I realised that, actually, the book is a tribute to everyone who stands up in front of all the injustice held by the Islamic Republic. ‘Between Two Worlds’ gives voice to this people who bravely fight for freedom of expression, association and religion in Iran. Congratulations for your beautiful work, Roxana. You reach the heart of the ones who read. I felt like I was very close to you, like I have lived everyday in prison with you, like I should do something to help, too. I hope all the others had felt the same. Wish Iran the best,” — Danielle Villanova, student in Brazil
A review of “Between Two Worlds” (called Entres Dois Mundos in Portuguese): Um dos melhores livros sobre uma história real. Desde o livro “O Diário de Anne Frank”, não surgira um livro tão emocionante. Roxana Saberi consegue de uma forma simples e objetiva, nos levar para dentro do regime fechado do Irã, nos mostrando como é a rotina em uma prisão iraniana, e como pode ser perigoso o radicalismo religioso. Uma aula de história, agregando uma cultura que nos impressiona! É um tipo de história que você fica ansioso pra ver o que vai acontecer com a personagem, e um pouco “triste” quando acaba, pois a aventura termina e você é obrigado a diminuir a adrenalina! Pra quem gosta de história e aprender sobre uma cultura diferente, tá aí um prato cheio! — Alexandre Silva, Brazil
Translation of above review of Between Two Worlds:
For someone like me, who grew up in a peaceful society where I could speak freely, this is such a different world that I felt as if I was reading fiction.
How frightful it must have been when Roxana realized she was under close surveillance for her entire 6 years in Iran. I felt empathy for her when one day in prison, she erupted with uncontrollable rage and tears that she had suppressed until then. Her 100-day experience in this book may be equivalent to many decades.
As I learned about her women cellmates who kept their faith and positive attitudes despite their sufferings in prison, I reflect on myself and feel ashamed.
The author wishes that this book will be read in Japan, where her mother is from. I wish the same. — Tomoko, Japan