PostGlobe staff

Social media helped foster uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt. Can Twitter also #FreeDorothy?

Twitter and Facebook famously helped foster popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Can social media also #FreeDorothy?

Two weeks have passed since former Seattle P-I journalist Dorothy Parvaz arrived by plane in Syria on assignment for current employer Al Jazeera and hasn’t been heard from since.

Hoping to propel her freedom, fans have newly started a Twitter account offering updates (@FreeDorothy). The Free Dorothy Facebook account nears 13,000 fans. Unity Journalists bring attention to her plight using the TV screens in New York City’s Time Square (see photo below).

 “We miss her, we haven’t heard from her since April 29, we have no idea where she’s being held and who has her, and we want her home,” Dorothy’s fiancé Todd Barker said in a press release. 

 “She’s a journalist who was just trying to do her job.”

The Syrian government said Parvaz on May 1 was deported to Iran, as the native Iranian had tried to gain entry to Syria via an “expired” Iranian passport. The Seattle Times reported that an expired passport probably led to her detention. But Iran hasn’t confirmed that. And there are questions about whether her passport actually is expired. The expiration date appears to state “06/02/2011” (see photo here), which Americans traditionally read as June 2nd in everyday life, though internationally it reads as Feb. 6.

“Essentially, we’ve only seen the Syrian statement saying she was deported to Iran,” State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner said by email to the Maynard Institute (see its full report here). “We’re seeking to confirm her whereabouts thru Swiss protecting power and with Syrian authorities.” Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran. That’s because Iran and the U.S. haven’t had diplomatic relations since the 1970s. Parvaz holds citizenship in three countries — the U.S., Iran and Canada — so Canadians also are pressing for her release.

Alain Cacchione, spokesman for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, also told the Maynard Institute via email, “We are very concerned about this individual and are pressing for information about her whereabouts. Canadian officials are engaging Iranian and Syrian authorities at high levels to obtain additional information…”

 Friends and loved ones remain anxious.

 “We continue to hope she is being treated with dignity and respect, especially considering that she is a citizen of Iran,” states the press release from the Parvaz family. “Most of all, her family and loved ones need to know she is safe.  We believe that Syria maliciously sent Dorothy to Iran and, in so doing, violated international law.” The Neiman Foundation, of which Parvaz was a fellow, yesterday urged Iran to release her.

 Supporters hope social media will help speed Parvaz’s release: 

  •  Journalist Sanjay Bhatt is spearheading an effort encouraging people to switch out their Facebook profile photos for one day — today — to a poster created by former P-I artist Wendy Wahman. The poster is below.
  • A new Twitter account provides updates on Parvaz (here). For two weeks, fans have sent good wishes and pleas using the hashtag #FreeDorothy.
  • Supporters continue to join the Free Dorothy Facebook page. There, brother Dan Parvaz on Thursday likened the situation to the kid game “Chutes and Ladders.” “The mental image for me is that Dorothy landed in the wrong square in this grotesque game and had no choice but to slide all the way down to Iran. The question is how to lift her up and out, but we can only rely on capricious dice.”

 Go to and politely press for Dorothy’s release. Request the same of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (; 202-647-6575).  “Like” the Free Dorothy Facebook account; you may become the 13,000th fan. Urge her release via Twitter using the hashtag #FreeDorothy. Here’s a tweet by former P-I colleague Rebekah Denn: “A big (and please RT) to , because we are learning there is strength in numbers, and we need her home.

D. Parvaz still detained — but in Iran. Syria deported her to country where she was born

Friends and family of former P-I journalist D. Parvaz are reeling from stunning news: Parvaz is being detained — but in Iran. She was deported by Syria to her home country of Iran. Loved ones still haven’t heard from her since she arrived in Syria on assignment for Al Jazeera nearly two weeks ago. 

According to an article in Al Jazeera, her current employer:

“We have now received information that she is being held in Tehran,” an Al Jazeera spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We are calling for information from the Iranian authorities, access to Dorothy, and for her immediate release. We have had no contact with Dorothy since she left Doha on April 29 and we are deeply concerned for her welfare.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Syrian embassy in Washington DC said Parvaz had attempted to enter Syria illegally on an expired Iranian visa and subsequently been extradited to Iran.

On May 1, Parvaz was “escorted by the Iranian consul to Caspian Airlines flight 7905 heading to Tehran,” the statement said.

Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Al Jazeera on May 2 that he had no knowledge of Parvaz’s whereabouts and urged Syria to look into the case.

Parvaz was born in Iran and left as a child, though returned in 2006 for a gripping series of articles that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She is a citizen of Iran, Canada and US. 

Iran has not had diplomatic relations with the United States since 1979, when revolutionaries captured the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 14 months in support of efforts to overthrow the U.S.-friendly government.

The U.S. resumed diplomatic relations with Syria earlier this year. 

Parvaz’s arrival in Tehran coincided with the planned trial of two American hikers arrested near the Iran-Iraq border and charged with spying. However, Agence France Press reported from
that the trial was delayed. 

Incidentally, here’s how Parvaz began her fine P-I series on Iran:

My friends and colleagues keep asking me if I’m scared.

They look worried when they tell me I should be careful.

“Aren’t you afraid they’ll do something to you?”

By “they,” my friends mean the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is where I’m going, having been away for more than two decades.

The concern is that I’m an Iranian citizen who is working as a journalist in the U.S.

“They might think you’re a spy. What if they arrest you?”



UPDATE 11:40 AM: The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for Iran to surrender Dorothy…


Iran must release Dorothy Parvaz

New York, May 11, 2011Al-Jazeera reported today that Syria has deported Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist working for the channel’s English-language service, to Iran.  The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for her immediate release.

“Syria’s apparent deportation of Dorothy Parvaz to Iran when she is also a citizen of the U.S. and Canada, is an irresponsible choice,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “Given Iran’s abysmal press freedom record, we are concerned about Parvaz’s well-being. Iranian authorities must immediately release Parvaz, who has committed no crime.”

Parvaz arrived in Syria on April 29 and has not been heard from since. Parvaz, a U.S., Canadian, and Iranian national, was held incommunicado by an unidentified security service. On May 4, Damascus acknowledged that she was in custody, although regional media reports indicate that she was sent to Iran on May 1.  Iran, together with China, is the world’s top jailer of journalists in 2010, according to CPJ research.


UPDATE 4:10 PM: Here’s a statement from the Syrians from their embassy office in Washington, D.C….

May 10, 2011

Statement regarding Dorothy Parvaz

   On April 29th, Feiruz (Dorothy) Parvaz attempted to illegally enter Syria through Damascus Airport on an expired Iranian passport, with ‘tourism’ as her declared reason for travel. After further questioning at the airport and searching her luggage, airport authorities discovered a large sum of undeclared Syrian currency in cash, along with transmitting equipment. Upon this revelation, Ms. Parvaz admitted to providing false information to the Syrian authorities regarding her status in Syria.

   Seeing that Ms. Parvaz’s Iranian passport was expired, the Syrian authorities contacted the Iranian embassy in Damascus in order to receive a laissez passer for her to travel, and was in turn extradited in accordance with international law to the passport‐issuing country. Indeed, in less than 48 hours of her arrival, and on May 1st, Ms. Parvaz was escorted by the Iranian Consul to Caspian Airlines flight 7905 heading to Tehran.

   It is very regretful that a journalist working for a world‐renowned news agency such as Aljazeera International would attempt to enter a country on two illegal accounts: an expired passport, and by providing false information on official documents regarding her travel reason. It is even more troubling if her employer was aware of, and condoned, this illegal activity, accepting to send her into such harm’s way.



Al Jazeera: Pakistan leaks bin Laden death scene photos (VIDEO)

Al Jazeera reports that Pakistan has leaked photos of the death scene of Osama bin Laden, as seen in the video below. Gruesome, the photos seem to show victims other than bin Laden.

Al Jazeera: Pakistan leaks bin Laden death scene photos (VIDEO)

Al Jazeera reports that Pakistan has leaked photos of the death scene of Osama bin Laden, as shown in the video below.

Al-Jazeera: Syrian official denies protest casualties and claims ignorance about Parvaz

For family and friends hoping for a speedy release of detained journalist D. Parvaz — who vanished in Syria one week ago today — the confrontational Al-Jazeera interview in the video below must come off as bizarre. A Syrian information minister, Reem Haddad, says “it would be a good thing” if the outside world visited Syria to see what’s going on. Then, moments later, when asked about Parvaz, the Syrian spokesperson says she has no information about her, even though the government confirmed in the past that the reporter is being detained.

“The only thing I have read about it is on the Internet,” Haddad said. “I have not heard anything official coming from Syria.”

Back and forth, they verbally box. Why are you holding Dorothy? Where is she? The information minister: “I have no idea. Again, you are speaking to the wrong person.” The two talk over each other, the interviewer repeating questions, the spokesperson claiming ignorance.

Finally, interviewer: I am asking you, where is she being held? Why isn’t she being released?

“I tell you again and again… I am not working for the police. I have no idea whether Dorothy Parvaz is in Syria, I have no idea whether she is being held in Syria.”

The interview ends inconclusively.

Hat tip to Mark Trahant of Mark Trahant Reports (and one of Parvaz’s former bosses at the Seattle P-I) for pointing out this video via Facebook.



‘We need to know that she is safe,’ says fiance of missing D. Parvaz (VIDEO)

Al Jazeera released this video statement by Todd Barker, the fiance of D. Parvaz, the Al Jazeera (and former P-I) journalist who disappeared upon arriving by plane in Damascus on Friday. She hasn’t been heard from since. It’s been six anxious days for family and friends. The government reportedly has confirmed she is in its custody.




My friend and colleague missing in Syria

‘We need to know that she is safe,’ says fiance of missing D. Parvaz (VIDEO) State Department takes D. Parvaz’s case Friends, officials increase pressure to locate D. Parvaz

Winda Benedetti: When your friend is missing, all you can do is tweet

D. Parvaz missing in Syria. Public urged to call embassy to demand: #FreeDorothy

A letter to Syria: It’s World Press Freedom Day. Please #FreeDorothy


A letter to Syria: It’s World Press Freedom Day. Please #freeDorothy

Worried friends and family of missing Al Jazeera journalist D. Parvaz continue to urge the public to call and send e-mails to the Syrian embassy ( to press it to take action. The former Seattle P-I journalist arrived in Damascus by plane for an assignment on Friday, but hasn’t been heard from since.

As Joe Copeland of put it, it appears Parvaz has become one of a growing number of journalists who have gone missing in Syria as the government attempts to restrict coverage of the unrest.

People are rallying to help, including her former colleagues of the P-I. Parvaz fans are sending e-mails and calling the embassy at 202-232-6313 ext. 139. More than 2,600 people now follow updates on Facebook via the Free Dorothy Parvaz Facebook page. There also is a Twitter hashtag: #FreeDorothy. Wrote one fan on Facebook:

Please Dorothy,
Listen to your heart and your instincts. Go with it. Pray. Talk to God. Just breathe. Stay as calm as you can. I hope someone will find it in their heart to help you get out of your current situation. Whatever it is. Find your way home to your family.

Wrote former P-I colleague Claudia Rowe:

So many people praying for you, Dorothy. Truly, you are a citizen of the world. Hang on, hang tough and come home.

Articles and blog posts surpassing 200 in number have appeared online, including all of the following: The London Daily Mirror, Vancouver Sun, Boston Globe, Washington Post,,,, MSNBC, The New York Times, Montreal,,, The Nation, The Atlantic, The Stranger’s Slog. A photo gallery of Parvaz is at

In honor of World Press Freedom Day, the Asian American Journalists Association sent a letter to Syria urging for Parvaz’s return to her family.

Below is its letter urging: Free Dorothy.

Ambassador Imad Moustapha

Embassy of Syria

2215 Wyoming Ave N.W.

Washington D.C. 20008 USA


                                                                                                May 3, 2011

Dear Sir:

            We have learned that one of our friends and colleagues, Dorothy Parvaz, has been missing in Syria since Friday afternoon. Al Jazeera reports that it sent her there to cover news and lost contact with the 39-year-old after she arrived in Damascus on a Qatar Airways flight.

            By now, the Syrian government is well aware that Dorothy’s family, friends and colleagues are concerned for her safety. We are alarmed by the government’s silence on her status, especially at a time when so many journalists in the Middle East are being killed or attacked.

           The disappearance of a journalist should be troubling to all who long for peace. We rely on journalists as honest brokers of information and perspectives. They keep us aware of what is happening on the ground. They are our wise eyes.

           Dorothy wrote for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, was a member of the Asian American Journalists Association and received fellowships to study at Harvard University and Cambridge University in England.

           Today is World Press Freedom Day. The Syrian government has an opportunity to do the right thing. The Director-General of UNESCO put out a statement worth repeating:

          “Silencing the media or attempting to intimidate them is an unacceptable assault on the right of citizens to be informed. I call on all countries in the world to respect the right to free expression, as laid down in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to freedom of information.”

          On behalf of the 1,500 members of the Asian American Journalists Association, we respectfully call on your government to release Dorothy Parvaz and allow her to return safely to her family and colleagues. If she is not in custody, we respectfully ask that you cooperate with the U.S. State Department’s request to locate her. We will remain vigilant in monitoring your government’s actions and reporting on her status.




Doris Truong

National President, Asian American Journalists Association


Sanjay Bhatt

Seattle chapter president, Asian American Journalists Association



UPDATE May 3: Syria acknowledges that it has detained Dorothy Parvaz. “But now we need to keep up the pressure by demanding that they free Dorothy,” writes Larry Johnson, former P-I foreign desk editor at the Free Dorothy Facebook page. “Please continue to write and call the Syrian Embassies!” Contact: or; 202-232-6313 ext. 139.



My friend and colleague missing in Syria


‘We need to know that she is safe,’ says fiance of missing D. Parvaz (VIDEO) State Department takes D. Parvaz’s case Friends, officials increase pressure to locate D. Parvaz

Winda Benedetti: When your friend is missing, all you can do is tweet

D. Parvaz missing in Syria. Public urged to call embassy to demand: #FreeDorothy


D. Parvaz is missing in Syria. Public urged to call embassy to demand: “Free Dorothy”

D. Parvaz, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer journalist, is missing in Syria. She disappeared Friday after arriving at the Damascus airport, reports her current employer, Al Jazeera. A Facebook campaign now urges: Free Dorothy.

Her former P-I colleagues are rallying. They urge the public to contact the embassy to press for her release. Call  (202) 232-6316 ext. 139 or send an email to or A Twitter campaign uses the hashtag #FreeDorothy. 

“Emails and calls really do make a difference. We need to flood the Syria embassy in D.C. with both,” former P-I foreign desk editor Larry Johnson said.

“We are concerned for Dorothy’s safety and wellbeing,” an Al Jazeera spokesman said. “We are requesting full cooperation from the Syrian authorities to determine how she was processed at the airport and what her current location is. We want her returned to us immediately.”

Also from the Al Jazeera report:

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told Al Jazeera there was “strong evidence” to suggest Parvaz had been detained at Damascus airport.

“Obviously we are worried for the safety of Dorothy, specifically, as we are for numerous other journalists who are in government custody right now,” said Dayem.

He said up to a couple of dozen journalists had been detained in Syria since the current unrest began in mid-March with the number held fluctuating on a daily basis “between a handful and a dozen”. reports:

Joe Copeland, a former P-I editorial writer and columnist who now works at Crosscut, also is a friend of Parvaz’s. “She’s bold and fearless and knows how to handle herself in a tough situation,” he said. “She’s as determined a reporter as anyone I’ve known. She wanted to be on the front lines.”…

Melanie McFarland, another friend who worked with Parvaz at the P-I and briefly at The Seattle Times, said she spoke to her a week ago, and Parvaz told McFarland she had requested to go to Syria. “She’s the bravest person I know,” said McFarland. “This is what she really wanted to do, since the beginning of her career. It’s one of those things, in your blood.”…

“I’m terribly worried,” said Mark Trahant, former editorial-page editor at the P-I who hired Parvaz for the editorial page. “She’s a remarkable journalist, fluent in Arabic and Farsi and knows the culture extremely well.” reports:

Speaking Monday morning, the reporter’s father, Fred Parvaz of North Vancouver, British Columbia, said his daughter had recently returned from covering the earthquake that ravaged Japan when she headed for Syria.

“She’s a very adventurous journalist,” Fred Parvaz told “She really lives the job. …

“She didn’t say anything, because she knew we’d object.”

Todd Barker, who is Parvaz’s fiance, said he spoke to her by telephone the night before she left for Syria. She didn’t express any concerns about traveling there.

“That wasn’t Dororthy. There was no trepidation,” Barker said.

Barker and Parvaz’s family are working through various embassies to find her and secure her release, he said.



Iran wants Syria to probe missing journalist

Joe Copeland at Former Seattle writer apparently held by Syria

Tom Paulson on My friend and colleague missing in Syria

Tired of that old bike? Re-cycle it at city dumps

Give that old bicycle a new life.

Local garbage and recycling company CleanScapes and local non-profit Bike Works have created a collection system for bicycles at Seattle’s North & South Recycling and Disposal Stations.

The program collects 10-50 bikes a week for reuse, repair and recycling. The bicycles and parts are delivered to Bike Works headquarters in Columbia City, where they’re sorted for resale, repair, donation or scrap metal recycling.

The minimal costs associated with implementing this program are recovered through recycling the scrap mental from unfixable bikes. The refurbished bicycles also make cycling accessible and affordable to those who can’t afford new bikes. 

Next time you’re at the transfer station, look for the special CleanScapes “RE-CYCLING” dumpsters.

Help! Just seven more people can help us make our goal…

If about seven people give the equivalent of pizza money, Eric Ruthford will reach the fundraising goal for his indepth look at gangs’ involvement in youth prostitution in Seattle and King County. Or… please take one or two surveys at to donate up to $12 without paying a cent. Apply credit to this story:

Below is a pitch sent out in a broadcast e-mail today; it highlights Eric’s story…


Hello Spot.Us friends
More exciting news – last week, three Spot.Us projects received
Northern California SPJ awards for excellence in journalism.
The kudos belongs to the reporters and organizations below for their fantastic work. But we should all pat ourselves on the back as well – because it was your support that made it possible.
  1. The San Francisco Public Press is honored in the Explanatory Journalism category for a series of pieces, published online and in print, about plans to develop San Francisco’s Treasure Island. Check out the series on Spot.Us.
  2. In the Community Journalism category, judges rewarded’s highly collaborative Ingleside Project, for more than two dozen stories on education, aging, and other important issues in San Francisco’s often overlooked Ingleside neighborhood. See the results at Spot.Us.
  3. Andrew Stelzer, of National Radio Project’s “Making Contact,” shares the award for broadcast Explanatory Journalism for his piece on citizen efforts to hold police accountable. Listen to his report on Spot.Us.

Close-to-funded stories!

There are six pitches on Spot.Us that have $100 or less to go! If you haven’t yet taken one of the two surveys from our sponsor HP Partners, now is the time to get involved. Taking a few minutes can make the difference to fund these projects. Who knows, maybe they’ll garner attention and applause too.
L.A: The Long, Hard Road to Becoming a No-Kill City
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that three to four million pets are euthanized by shelters each year. Los Angeles is currently contributing around 20,000 pets to that number. Amount left to fully funded: $34
The Little Herb in the Big Thicket: A small-town Texas sheriff takes on a quadriplegic medical marijuana smoker. We’re excited about this story with our new editorial partners The Texas Observer. Amount left to fully funded: $53
This class for sale – Selling Milwaukee Public Schools “Confronted with losing funding from No Child Left Behind and parents pulling their children out of failing schools, the Milwaukee Public School District is opting to use public relations tactics to promote their school district. From sponsoring ethnic festivals, taking out print and broadcast ads, doing direct mailings, and enrollment marathons — the questions needing to be asked: how much does all of that cost, what are the benefits and is it working?” Amount left to fully funded: $52
Gang involvement in selling child sex is rising, and hard to stop – with our partners Seattle Post Globe: “By one estimate, 250 children are involved in prostitution in Seattle and King County at any given time, incapable of consent, forced to perform sex acts, controlled by pimps and effectively homeless.” Amount left to fully funded: $156
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Food Trucks: Beloved or Bothersome? – The controversy over food trucks ion Los Angeles has only intensified as new issues such as space and competition increasingly arise. Amount left to fully funded: $42
As always – thanks from the Spot.Us team. You make this work and we work for you!