For day after day, month after month, following his imprisonment in Iran on June 21, documentary filmmaker and NEWSWEEK correspondent Maziar Bahari did not see the face of his interrogator. Bahari, 42, was blindfolded or faced a wall as the accusations and questions—often it was hard to tell the difference—kept coming at him. And always the interrogator told him the same thing: "No one on the outside cares about you. Everyone has forgotten you." Nothing could have been further from the truth.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper called publicly for Bahari's release (he is a naturalized Canadian citizen). Behind the scenes, envoys and officials from other sympathetic governments raised his cause with Iranian authorities. The various media that Bahari has worked for—NEWSWEEK, Channel 4 News in Britain, CNN, and the BBC—all drew repeated attention to the unfairness of his detention, as did reporters and editorialists from many other outlets around the world. Hundreds of writers, filmmakers, and artists signed petitions calling for his release; so did thousands of ordinary citizens drawn to a Facebook site dedicated to his cause. His wife, Paola Gourley, pleaded with Iranian authorities to release Bahari before their first child was born.
On Oct. 17, the regime let Bahari out on bail almost as suddenly as it had arrested him, and with almost as little explanation. Through his months in solitary confinement, he had never once been allowed to see a lawyer, although he was pushed in front of government television cameras to confess that he had inadvertently helped to promote a "velvet revolution" against the Islamic Republic in the wake of the bitterly contested June 12 elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. In an appearance in early August, Bahari apologized and asked for mercy from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Then, this week, just days after he walked out of Evin Prison, the regime allowed Bahari to fly to London to join Paola as she waited in a hospital to give birth after several medical complications.
Now trying to regain some sense of normalcy, Bahari wants to collect his thoughts, not give interviews. Although he is some 25 pounds lighter than when he went into prison four months ago, he otherwise appears in good health. He says he suffered relatively little physical abuse, but a great deal of psychological stress, and he knows there will be aftershocks. He will be seeing physicians and counselors for some time to come. But Bahari says he takes great consolation in all that he has learned was done to try to free him, and he's already sending e-mails to those who helped out. "I was humbled by such overwhelming solidarity among my colleagues, friends, and even strangers, who all worked so hard to save me," he says with evident emotion.
Bahari knows, too, as do all of those who sought his freedom, that in dozens of other cells inside Tehran's Evin Prison, other political prisoners continue to languish, berated daily by faceless interrogators. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 Iranian journalists remain behind bars. On the day Bahari landed in London, Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was reportedly given a 15-year prison term. These men and women, too, are no doubt being implicated in a plot that doesn't exist, victims of their government's fear and paranoia. Bahari was not forgotten, not for a single one of the 118 days he spent in prison. We should not forget them either.