"I felt contradictory feelings, because on the one hand, of course I was very happy to come out and to be with my family and friends," Saberi told Diane Sawyer today on "Good Morning America." But on the other hand, I felt very sorry about those women who had to stay behind."
Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist who had been living in Iran since 2003, was arrested on Jan. 31 while working as a freelance journalist and researching a book on Iran. She was working without press credentials, which were revoked in 2006, and was accused of everything from keeping wine in her home to being a spy.
"I'm very grateful for that, but some of these women are not even known to the outside world. There's not the same kind of international support for them," she said. "What they're trying to do is stand up, for example, for freedom of speech or belief and religion -- for basic human rights."
"I have to say that they were some of the strongest and most admirable people that I have ever met," she said, "not only in Iran, but in my whole life."
While other women to leave Evin have spoken of beatings and torture, Saberi said she was never physically abused, though she spent hours upon hours each day being interrogated.
"I felt that God had abandoned me," Saberi said. "I felt that maybe I did something wrong in my life and I deserved this punishment. I was very afraid, and so I gave in to their pressures during those first two weeks."
Saberi, who was raised in North Dakota and once competed in the Miss America pageant, said she was put in a chair facing the wall and blindfolded before being bombarded with questions from men seeking a confession that she was, in fact, a spy. It was, she said, "severe" psychological pressure.
She eventually caved to the accusations after being promised it would win her freedom.
"Since they were making these threats to me -- that I would have to remain in jail if I did not make this confession -- and because nobody knew where I was, I confessed to being a U.S. spy," she said. "I thought I had to do this to be free, but my conscience got the better of me."
What she did next, Saberi said, may have contributed to her eight-year sentence.
"I felt that the God that I had felt before had abandoned me was still with me, but he wasn't pleased with me and so I recanted my confession, knowing full well that it would mean I wouldn't be free," she said. "And indeed the prosecutor was quite angry with me and he sent my case to trial."
And yet when she heard her sentence -- that she'd have to spend the next eight years at Evin -- Saberi said it was somewhat of a relief.
"I thanked God because I knew that if I had been sentenced to only one or two years in prison, that there wouldn't be as much of an international outcry," she said. "Eight years, to me, seemed ridiculous and it also proved to me that if I had not recanted my confession, I would have gone free."
Despite the anguish that followed, Saberi said she's glad she stuck by her decision.