Ahmad Zeidabadi (born 21 July 1965 in Zeidabad, Sirjan) is an Iranian journalist, academic, writer and political analyst and the secretary general of Office for Strengthening Unity. He is one of the notable figures of the Iranian reform movement.
|Editor-in-chief AZAD Newspaper|
Zeidabadi has been arrested multiple times for his journalistic work. In June 2009, shortly after the Iranian presidential election, Zeidabadi was arrested and held in conditions which the World Association of Newspapers called "horrific." In December 2009, Zeidabadi was sentenced to six years in prison.
Zeidabadi is the winner of the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award for 2010 and UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2011.
Zeidabadi holds a doctorate degree in international relations from Tehran University. His PhD thesis topic was "Religion and Government in Israel". His articles appeared in many newspapers and other media such as Rooz and BBC Persian.
Zeidabadi's professional work as a journalist started when he joined Ettela'at newspaper in 1989. He also worked with Hamshahri newspaper as well as other reformist newspapers which started being published after Iran's election in 1997. He is the secretary general of Office for Strengthening Unity and is one of the notable figures in Iranian reform movement. He is a member of the board of Iran's Journalists' Union.
He has always defended ethnic and religious minority rights in his articles and speeches. He also is an expert on Arab-Israeli conflict and has published articles supporting the peace process. His courage and integrity is been admired over the years even by his colleagues who did not share the same political views with him.
In 2000, Zeidabadi was arrested and was sentenced to 13 months in jail. He is mostly known for an open letter he wrote from prison during this time. In the letter, he protested how Iran's judiciary dealt with the journalists in prison.
In 2003, Zeidabadi was arrested again. This time, he was sentenced to 23 months in jail. This was reduced to 13 months on appeal.
In June 2009, right after the Iranian presidential election, security forces arrested Zeidabadi and took him to prison. The living conditions Zeidabadi endured while in prison prompted him to partake in a hunger strike that was broken by force by security forces. Amnesty International described the conditions of his imprisonment as follows:
Ahmad Zeidabadi, a journalist for Roozonline, an online publication based in Belgium and spokesperson for the Graduates’ Association, was arrested on 21 June. He was held incommunicado until his appearance on 8 August at the second session of the “show trial” (see Chapter 7). His wife was only allowed to visit him in Evin Prison for the first time on 17 August and said that he was in an extremely bad physical and emotional state. She said that Ahmad Zeidabadi told her that he had been held in solitary confinement for 35 days after his arrest in a coffin-like cell only 1.5m long. He had apparently gone on hunger strike for 17 days until doctors convinced him to stop. His wife met him again in mid-September, when he told her that he had been severely beaten during interrogation. In an interview with Radio Farda on 23 September, she said his interrogator told him: “We are ordered to crush you, and if you do not cooperate we can do anything we want with you and if you do not write the interrogation papers, we will force you to eat them.”
In December 2009, the Iranian Judiciary sentenced Zeidabadi to 6 years in prison, 5 years in exile in Gonabad, and lifetime ban on social and political activities in an in camera court. He is charged with sedition and propaganda against Iran's regime.
On 17 December 2009, Zeidabadi won World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award for 2010.
In the award citation, the World Association of Newspapers said:
"All journalists are aware of the dangers of challenging the autocratic regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the actions of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Mr Zeid-Abadi has chosen to repeatedly brave them and publicly support reform and the rule of law in Iran. He was sentenced to six years in prison, five years in internal exile in the town of Gonabad and a lifetime writing ban in the wake of the disputed presidential election in June. Mr Zeid-Abadi has refused to give in, despite the horrific conditions in which he is being held, and his courage makes us feel very humble. We hope Mr Zeid-Abadi's sentence will be overturned."
- "Press Freedom". Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- "UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2011". UNESCO. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
- "Move Follows Killing of Press Reform Bill : Leading Iran Journalist Arrested in Crackdown". International Herald Tribune. 8 August 2000. Retrieved 13 November 2008.[dead link]
- "Imprisoned Iranian Journalist Awarded Golden Pen of Freedom". World Association of Newspapers. 17 December 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-07-03. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Erdbrink, Thomas (30 June 2008). "Oil Cash May Prove A Shaky Crutch for Iran's Ahmadinejad". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 November 2008.