Freed journalist Jason Rezaian: “I was told that I would be executed"

"We had a choice, either start spying for Iran or spend the rest of our lives in prison." Journalist Jason Rezaian, the former Tehran bureau chief at the Washington Post, opened up to SalonTV's Dean Obeidallah about how he went from an accredited journalist living and working in Iran for years, to being a hostage of the Iranian government and spending over 500 days in prison.

Rezaian details the story of his widely covered arrest, imprisonment and release in the book "Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison." "They [the Iranian government] showed up at our house one day in July of 2014 and basically ransacked our home, blindfolded my wife and me, hauled us off to prison," Rezaian explained.

Rezaian had written hundreds of stories for the Washington Post and was familiar with "the security apparatus inside Iran and internationally in the media," but never imagined he'd be used as a political pawn and labeled a spy by the government.

Speaking on his experiences in solitary confinement, Rezaian said, "There were days that I was told that I would be executed within hours, and I believed that. There was days that I was told that I would be released the next day, and I wanted to believe that." He continued, "The constant fear was what if this takes many years to resolve? What if a good chunk of my young productive years is stolen from me? Unfortunately that's what's happening to all of the Americans that are still in prison in Iran right now."

Following a large social media campaign led by his brother Ali Rezaian, #FreeJason, and lobbying from John Kerry and Barack Obama, Rezaian was released in January 2016. In "Prisoner," he makes it a point to find humanity in his captors. When asked if it was by design, he said, "if you lose your humanity you've kind of lost everything. Part of the human element of these guys is the fact that they're f**king idiots. I want people to know that."

Watch the episode above to hear about some of the lighter moments in prison and why he wrote the book with a lot of nuance and wants to avoid painting Iran in black and white. Plus, listen to Rezaian describe his relationship with slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who also worked at the Washington Post.

SalonTV host Dean Obeidallah is also the host of the daily national SiriusXM radio program, "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on the network's progressive political channel. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


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