California Grad Student Still Trapped in Iran

More than four months after California graduate student Esha Momeni was arrested in Iran as she worked on her master's thesis, she is still forbidden from leaving the country and now won't be eligible to graduate with her classmates this spring, people close to her tell And, they say, the story from the Iranian government isn't adding up.

"Her telephone conversations are being monitored, her other communications are being monitored," Momeni's fiance, Hassan Hussain, told "In addition to that, we don't know what else [officials] might be doing."

Momeni, 28, who holds both American and Iranian citizenship and who studies at California State University, Northridge, was filming interviews with women's right advocates in Tehran on Oct. 15 when the trouble began.

She was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation, according to reports. Once her video footage and computer were confiscated by authorities, she was then charged with acting against national security and propagating against the system, her father told the Los Angeles Times.

The videos were of interviews with advocates from the One Million Signatures campaign, which is fighting for the abolition of gender discrimination in Iranian law by attempting to collect one million signatures of Iranian citizens to be given to parliament.

Some of the laws the group seeks to change are equal rights for women in marriage and to divorce, an end to polygamy and temporary marriage, the right for women to pass on nationality to their children, equal compensation for bodily injury or death between women and men, equal inheritance rights, as well as the reform of laws that reduce punishment for offenders in cases of honor killings, according to the group's website.

After her arrest, Momeni was taken to Evin Prison, where she was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated often, according to her friends and to the Change for Equality activist group. The group said she was released on Nov. 10 once her bail was secured. Momeni's father, Reza Momeni, told the Los Angeles Times that he put up the deed to his family's apartment so that he could pay his daughter's $200,000 bail.

Friends Say Esha's Passport Was Never Returned

Momeni is now living with her family in Tehran, who moved back to Iran after her father studied in California in the 70s. She studied graphic design in Tehran but returned to California in 2006 to pursue her graduate studies.

Iranian officials said late last year that Momeni was free to return to the U.S., but her friends and family maintain that was never possible because the government would not return her passport. Then, on Jan. 13, a spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, told reporters that Momeni had been officially banned from leaving the country, according to the AFP.

The head of the Iranian Judiciary, Mahmoud Shahroudi, as well as the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei, did not return requests for comment on the status of Momeni's case. The Iranian Ambassador to the U.N., Mohammad Khazaee, did not return requests for comment. Her attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, could not be reached.

One Million Signatures Campaign

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