As a Cal State Northridge graduate student begins her second week of imprisonment in Iran, voices in the United States are expressing both support and caution against overreaction.
Esha Momeni, 28, is enrolled in a masters program in journalism at CSUN. She had traveled to Tehran to videotape interviews with women as part of her research into Iranian women's issues, according to Melissa Ware, a faculty advisor on the thesis committe.
Momeni is also a member of the Iranian-based women's rights advocacy group Change4equality, the organization confirmed.
Change4equality provided this scenario of Momeni's detention: Momeni was arrested during a traffic stop on October 15. Momeni was told she had illegally passed another vehicle, but then was taken to Section 209 of the Evin Prison, which is managed by the Intelligence and Security Ministry. Iranian authorities searched her home in Iran and seized items including her computer.
She has been denied bail and family visits, but has been provided books to read.
CSUN President Jolene Koester expressed concern in a statement released Thursday afternoon:
"Anyone who values knowledge and the role of academic inquiry in shedding light on the human condition should be conerned. We are in support of the efforts of the U.S government in their efforts to secure Ms. Momeni's immediate release and are in the process of contacting the following indiviiduals and organizations to obtain their assistance: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Barbara Boxer, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, the Department of State, and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Mohammed Khazaee."
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Momeni was born in Los Angeles in 1980 after her father had come from Iran three years earlier to study engineering at Cal State Los Angeles. Her family later returned to Iran, and Esha obtained her bachelor's degree in 2002 at the Azad University of Tehran. Esha returned to Los Angeles for graduate work and arrived at CSUN in 2006. Her field is communication studies.
Esha's parents had been assured by Iranian authorities that she would be released quickly if news of her arrest were not made public, according to Change4Equality, in explaining its delay in revealing the arrest.
As many as 50 Iranian-based members of Change4equality have previously been detained in Iran, according to member Roja Bandari, who lives in Los Angeles. Bandari told NBCLos Angeles that those members invariably were released without harm within a matter of weeks, and that is their expectation for Momeni. Their concern is that there not be over reaction. For Momeni's sake, they do not want to see this escalate into a political or diplomatic confrontation that could delay her release..