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Maryam Majd - arrested sports journalist

Update: Maryam Majd was released on bail on the 17th July 2011


 

Maryam Majd at Aziri Sports StadiumOn Friday 24th June 2011, Maryam Majd was due to fly from Tehran to Düsseldorf, Germany, where the Women's World Cup was being played.

Maryam was excited.

As a journalist she was excited to be able to cover the Womens World Cup, a prestigious sporting event. Of equal excitement was a meeting she was going to have with Petra Landers, a former German national soccer player, with whom she was planning to write a book.

At the airport in Tehran, while waiting for her flight, something happened and Maryam Majd never boarded the plane. Two days later it was reported that Maryam had been arrested and was now in the isolation ward of Evin Prison.

No one knows why.

Maryam Majd is a sports photographer, with a focus on women in sport.

Before its closure in 2009, Maryam worked for Zanan magazine, producing unique photos of Iranian sportswomen. She is a passionate campaigner for the right of women to attend sporting events in stadiums. Maryam's passion for women's rights included using her talents to support the Million Signatures Campaign and a series of photos by her were published in 2009 showing campaigners at work.

Maryam Miza outside Tehran UniversityMaryam Mirza is a women's rights journalist who was part of the Million Signatures Campaign.
In 2007 she was arrested during a silent protest in front of the Islamic revolutionary court in Tehran.
She was detained for 4 days in Evin prison and tried for 'collusion and assembly to endanger the national security and disturbing public order'.

 

Interview with Maryam Mirza, by Joanne Michele, Advocacy Correspondent for Safe World, 28th June 2011

Football girl by Maryam MajdPhoto by Maryam MajdI met Maryam four years ago while working at Zanan magazine.

It was Iran's only serious print-magazine that focused on women's issues, but it was closed in the first years of Ahmadinejad's first term.

At first I could not believe this young woman was to be a photojournalist. I still considered her a very young school girl-she was in the first years of her photography degree- and had a very messy blog.

But she had already done some work with news agencies and time would prove that she was serious and hardworking, especially regarding women's sports stories.

She loves photography itself as well as using it for social activism.

She loves to capture reality in both poor neighborhoods in big cities and in rural areas.

"She always focused on women and women's issues"

Maryam Majd - Women fencingPhoto by Maryam Majd

I don't know what sparked her interest in reporting, or why she chose sports.

Maybe it has to do with her character.

She's not one to keep silent in the face of discrimination. This, coupled with her skill in photography, makes her a great photojournalist.

The only thing I am sure of is, when I look back, photography was her connection to social activism. Even socially, she rarely talks about anything but her work and the issues it addresses.

Like anyone else here, Maryam had to adapt to the restrictions put on journalists.

This is a system where shutting down newspapers and magazines or blocking websites are routine! She has had to move from one publication to another as they are shut down.

Thankfully she has a large number of contacts and has always been able to find work.

"There has never been a doubt she was arrested"

Maryam Majd: Woman jumping hurdlesPhoto by Maryam Majd

There has never been any doubt that she was arrested. We as journalists know what colleague's disappearance means.

It's not just in Iran-this happens in other parts of the world with the same conditions. Look what happened to Dorothy Parvaz.

We have so many colleagues in Iran's prisons now.

Very recently we lost one of them, Hoda Saber, to a hunger strike. And now we have even more prisoners, some of them journalists, on hunger strike.

There are so many who have not been allowed to leave prison even for very necessary medical treatment.

"We know what a disappearance means"

Photo by Maryam MajdPhoto by Maryam Majd

Under these conditions, we know what a disappearance means.

We, Maryam's friends, know how enthusiastic she was about photographing the Women's World Cup in Germany. Nothing but a powerful suppression could stop such a passionate young woman from doing what she loved to do.

I don't know why she has been detained and I don't want to speculate. There is nothing Maryam could have done to deserve this. She has always been professional and acted within the law and only wants to help the people of her country.

Maryam is so kind to her friends. She is very attached to her camera and what it represents. She was humbled by the awards she won and devastated when she couldn't capture a moment or a person.

"This is a nightmare"

Maryam Majd: Photo of women activists in 2009Photo by Maryam Majd

This is a nightmare.  I can't believe, even in the worst totalitarian system, that Maryam could be considered a dangerous person.

But, she is always taking photos of Iran, and what could be more dangerous to a misogynistic government than a brave young woman who tries to improve the lives of other women?