Iranian Dissidents Find Escape Route Through Iraq

I was in danger because I know the truth. And it was bad for them.

– Sepideh Pooraghaiee

by Quil Lawrence
National Public Radio
December 29, 2009

Demonstrations in Iran have been centered in big cities, and so far haven’t gained traction in the traditionally rebellious Kurdish province in the northwest of the country.

But while Kurdish Iranians don’t appear quite ready to join the “Green Movement” — as the opposition is being called — they do seem to be helping dissidents from Tehran escape Iran on the way to Europe.

Sepideh Pooraghaiee and her husband — Iranian journalists who have both spent time in Iran’s infamous Evin prison — contacted friends who live in the Kurdish area of Iran when they decided they needed to leave.

Pooraghaiee and her husband were already in trouble when the protests over June’s disputed election began.

She had spent 110 days in jail, and her husband about six months, she says. To be released on bail, both Pooraghaiee and her husband signed statements saying that they would no longer be involved in politics.

But after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was returned to office in an election they both believe was stolen, they began writing about the government crackdown. When Pooraghaiee got a threatening call directly from a government ministry, she decided her time was up.

“I was in danger because I know the truth,” she says. “And it was bad for them.”

Escaping Iran

Pooraghaiee and her husband got in touch with friends from the Kurdish area of Iran, which has a long, porous border with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. Through methods she would not describe in detail, Pooraghaiee soon found herself in Iraq, where she gave this interview.

“It was the first time that I rode a horse, especially in mountain,” she says. “It was vey hard.”

Sitting nearby is the Kurdish man who helped Pooraghaiee escape. He asked not to give his name, but he did volunteer that he’s helped about 100 Iranians recently, most of them en route to Europe.

The article continues at NPR.

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