He had freelance work for three years and in 2012, The Washington Post hired him to be its Tehran correspondent. There, he also met his wife, Yeganeh Salahi, or Yegi. All was going well in Rezaian's life. Suddenly it all changed on July 22, 2014. Iranian police arrested his wife and him as they were headed to a birthday party, ransacking their apartment and accusing him of being a spy. He details his ordeal in his new book, Prisoner.
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In Rezaian's first interrogation inside a maximum security prison, his questioners insisted his Kickstarter project to bring avocados to Iran was proof that he was a U.S. spy. "It's code for something. We haven't cracked the code, but we're sure this is something very nefarious that I was trying to bring avocados to Iran."
He told ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze in an interview that although he was not physically tortured, he was psychologically tortured by being placed in solitary confinement for seven weeks. Rezaian says he still feels the effects, two years after his release. "I don't have nightmares the way I did when I first came out, but there are little things. I get disoriented in crowds, I'm sensitive to noise and to light and all sorts of things that weren't issues for me before this happened to me that I had to learn how to live with."
Rezaian developed a close relationship with some of his guards, even talking about U.S. politics. They asked him whether he thought Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would win the Presidential election. He said neither and asked them what they thought. They answered, "Donald Trump. He's the candidate that hates Muslims the most. That's why we think he's going to become President of the United States."
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In January 2016, Rezaian was freed in a controversial prisoner swap deal brokered by the Obama administration. As he was boarding his plane leaving Tehran for the last time, he threw his arms around his guard to give him a hug. "We've been through hell and back together. We've been on opposite sides of this ideological struggle. And I just won. I'm going home."
Rezaian is now an opinion writer for the Washington Post and CNN contributor.
Honored to meet Journalist, former Iranian hostage, Author @jrezaian and lovely wife, Yegi. Guest on @abc7newsbayarea with @abc7kristensze. Thank you @asiehnamdar for the introduction. pic.twitter.com/r74Tm80II0— watkowski (@watkowski) January 29, 2019