Help Save Emad, an Iranian Dissident Who Was Tortured After Obama Signed the Nuclear Deal
“I just want you to know that I am going to keep fighting ‘til the last minute. I am not quitting this, not now.”
I wrote looking at my watch, Maybe an hour and a half left at most. Emad was encouraging me to drop everything and to go to sleep, but I refused. But inside, I thought it was over.
Emad could not see my despair, but I felt imminent disaster, which seemed particularly bitter because we were so close to our goal and had been through so much in the last few months. Still, I told Emad, and myself:
“I owe you nothing less than to keep doing the best I can until the last minute. That’s the only thing that I can do -- not to give up until the end. And if I somehow messed up in the past, and brought about this current situation -- still more reason for me to keep trying until the very last minute.”
I had spent the last 48 hours trying to raise thousands of dollars to rescue Emad, this being his seemingly final chance to escape Iran.
The intelligence services were after him; we knew that they were searching for him from the communications with his family. Although he had relocated from Teheran, he could easily be uncovered any minute and all would be lost. The sum of money I had to raise was enormous, and the several big donors that I had initially relied upon to secure this possibility failed to come through in time. I went through 48 hours of insanity, which included calling completely random individuals on the phone in the middle of the night and desperately appealing for whatever small sums of money they could donate.
Surprisingly, a number of pledges came through, among dropped phone calls and curses from people who did not appreciate being awakened at 2:00 a.m. with desperate pleas for money. The full sum still failed to materialize.
Then -- a sudden extension of the deadline. Even though I was only given a few more hours, we knew we could get it done.
In late March of 2015, I first connected with Emad (Emadeddin) Tayefeh, a young Iranian dissident filmmaker/animator, on Movements.org, a social media platform that matches human rights help-seekers with those offering assistance. It is run by an organization called Advancing Human Rights. Emad was living in Teheran and working clandestinely on a human rights documentary commissioned in 2011 by his mentor, famed director-turned-activist Mohammed Nourizad, known for founding a human rights organization called Eshgh.
Emad was looking for a way to leave the country and come to the United States while finishing the film. I found his story moving and heartbreaking. Over the next few months, we became close friends, scheming his escape and discussing Iranian politics and international indifference while also sharing family stories and culinary ruminations.
In April we were supposed to meet to discuss next steps when Emad messaged me to say he had been badly beaten.