Why Maziar Bahari Wrote 'Then They Came for Me'

In this video, the journalist Maziar Bahari conducts a question-and-answer session in Hong Kong on December 3, 2015.

In June 2009, the London-based journalist Maziar Bahari traveled to Iran, where he had been born, to cover the country's presidential elections. Soon after his arrival, he was arrested on accusations of spying and sent to Tehran's notorious Evin prison. There he languished for three months, with little human interaction besides interrogations from an anonymous official Bahari nicknamed "Rosebud" due to the scent of his perfume.

Upon his release, Bahari documented his incarceration in a best-selling book entitled Then They Came for Me, later adapted into the 2014 film Rosewater by television host Jon Stewart.

On December 3, Bahari participated in a question-and-answer session on the sidelines of the Asia 21 Young Leader's Summit, an annual event hosted in Hong Kong. Audience members asked a wide range of questions, prompting the journalist to discuss his imprisonment, the plight of journalists, and what it's like to work with Stewart. Bahari, an Asia 21 Young Leader, spoke at particular length about why, despite the enormous emotional trauma he endured in Iran, he wanted to tell his story.

"To start with, the idea was quite selfish," he said. But he added:

I wanted to talk about [my experience] so that I could heal my own wounds as much as possible, of course, but also because I thought my story was quite representative of the stories of many other people, thousands of other Iranians, and other journalists and activists and intellectuals and artists all around the world who are going through the same thing. I thought I had an opportunity — that I had had 15 minutes of fame and maybe should make it 16 minutes by talking about this case. Also, I cannot deny that I enjoy making the Iranian government feel ashamed of its actions through publicizing them. I’m turning something really horrible that happened to me and other people to something more positive by revealing these human rights abuses.

To see more of Bahari's Q&A in Hong Kong, check out the video embedded at the top of this post.


About the Author

Profile picture for user Matt Schiavenza

Matt Schiavenza is the Assistant Director of Content at Asia Society. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Fortune, and strategy + business among other publications.