Prisoners of Persia

Photo essay: Remembering those behind bars in Iran -- in Persia, Iowa

by Jahanshah Javid
I wanted to do something in honor of prisoners of conscience in Iran. Thousands have been locked up simply because they have a different view and dare to express it. They are not criminals. They are Iran's best and bravest. I asked Nazy Kaviani, who follows human rights matters, to send the names of 150 current Iranian prisoners on stickers along with ribbons. I displayed them in Persia, Iowa. It's a special town for obvious reasons. I have visited twice before, and have become something of celebrity there for putting this tiny town on the Internet map (see 1996 story from first visit, "Persia, Iowa", second visit in 2001 "Found it").

* Photo essays in this series: Part 1: "Land of the Free"; Part 2: "Liberty Street"; Part 3: "Wild Wild West"; Part 4: "Cowboys & Iranians"; Part 5: "Prisoners of Persia" Part 6: "Taking Jesus by the Horns" Part 7: "Love of Liberty".


Recently by Jahanshah JavidCommentsDate
Hooman Samani: The Kissinger
Aug 31, 2012
Eric Bakhtiari: San Francisco 49er
Aug 26, 2012
You can help
Aug 23, 2012
more from Jahanshah Javid
Esfand Aashena

Pancakes to help Persia pay for new firetruck

by Esfand Aashena on



by yolanda on

It is sad that there is no sighting of UN rapporteur, Ahmad Shaheed!

Where is the UN rapporteur?


There is a Taft in California and a Taft in Yazd! Hey, they are the future candidates for sister cities!


"Free Hossein Derakhshan" website has 5,800 members on facebook! 



by Piyalechi on

It's been hard to keep 'em in these days,

Them bitter sobs of sorrow...

For all the sorry mess in our own lives,

And all the pain of our brethren, much so...

So many of us, so many times, told him:

Hoder, you shit-head, please don't go!

He went and got stuck anyway,

And now I see picture 67 and go: Oh, no!

Look at what has become of the blog-father,

A Persian name on a ribbon, Pink not even Yellow!...

Hangin' off a trash can, full of empty beer cans.

Grinnin' wide and saying, "You fucked up, bro!..."



by yolanda on

Wow, there is a Kerman in CA. That is cool! Later, Kerman, CA and Kerman, Iran can become sister cities!

I read yesterday that Cupertino, CA and Copertino, Italy are sister cities!

I also read that there are 3 Mashhads, one in Iran, 2nd one in Afghanistan, the 3rd one in Israel, uh, oh!

Thank you, Haydarino, for sharing!


Kerman, CA

by Haydarino on


Aftab Road @ NY Military Academy

by Haydarino on



by yolanda on

Thank you, Vildemose, for the Peru video clip, very entertaining!

There are 11 Peru's in US:

Peru, Illinois
Peru, Indiana
Peru, Kansas
Peru, Maine
Peru, Massachusetts
Peru, Nebraska
Peru, New York
Peru, Pennsylvania
Peru, Vermont
Peru, West Virginia
Peru, Wisconsin

but, there is only one Persia in US according to my knowledge!

Bahram G

Dear JJ

by Bahram G on

I am a bit late joining in. No matter. I want to thank you for lighting a torch that we all need to carry. We have to raise our voices on behalf of all those innocent long-suffering prisoners of conscience who are victims of the conscience-less thug mullahs and their hired mercenaries.

As for finding fault with some of the things you said, that's really missing the wonderful constructive things you said. I for one expect perfection from other people only after I become perfect myself. I like to celebrate and applaud the good that others contribute and try not to focus on things that they might overlook unintentionally or not be aware of.

So, I praise you and thank you for raising your voice. I am adding mine to yours and to those precious compatriots who have joined you on behalf of our voiceless brothers and sisters languishing in the Mullahs dungeons of death.

Bahram G


JJ: This is what we can do

by vildemose on

JJ: This is what we can do to bring public attention to Iran and the plight of its people. Mixing fun with politics and a bit of marketing and organizing. We can send a delegation to Persia, educate them about Iran and the culture. This will at least catch the attention of the local news media/tv station and so forth.

 "How to be Peruvian in Peru, Nebraska":


What do you think???

Cy of Persia

JJ what was your impression?

by Cy of Persia on

I can't help wondering what would happen out there in Persia located smack in the middle of the corn fields of dreams, if Persians from the original Persia moved there in similar numbers as we have in California, New York or Washington DC.  Would Iowa Persians get along with the original Persians?  Do those Iowans know anything about Persian history? OR is Persia just another name like Johnsonville or jacksonburg for them?  Just another name painted on their water tower at the edge of town.



by yolanda on

Persia, Iowa got me interested in how many American cities are named after foreign countries or foreign cities? OMG! The findings are shocking! Here is the partial list of US cities named after foreign countries:

Palestine, Texas (Yeah! We have Palestinian cityhood)

China, Texas

Peru, New York

Mexico, Indiana

Turkey, Texas

Poland, Ohio

Germany, Georgia

Cuba, Alabama

Syria, Virginia

Sudan, Texas

Holland, Michigan

Greece, New York

Norway, Michiagn

Persia, Iowa


Many US cities are named after foreign cities:

Bagdad, Arizona

Paris, Texas

St. Petersburg, Florida

London, Arkansas

Ontario, California

Milan, Ohio

Geneva, Ohio

Berlin, Ohio

Damascus, Maryland


I have a feeling that very few people in Iran know about Persia, Iowa. If one day, US and Iran normalize foreign relation, Persia, Iowa may find a sister city in Iran!

Thank you, JJ and Nazy, for your hard-work! I am glad that 178 people have posted link of this blog on face-book! I have no idea where the UN special rapporteur, Ahmad Shaheed is. I hope he will surface very soon! I don't want to hear another political prisoner dies broken-hearted!



Jahanshah Javid

Good Idea

by Jahanshah Javid on

Thanks Parham good idea to improve on this type of simple but potentially far-reaching awareness-raising. It can be done outside Iranian diplomatic missions all over the world, at city centers, at major parks, on the back on your car!

Persia, Iowa, is a very small and quiet community. I don't know if they would want to be part of this in a major way. I may be wrong. I'm sure they are sympathetic, but how far they would go to put themselves out there, I don't know...

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

What about my

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on



Now it would have been better...

by Parham on

... if such a thing got a lot more publicity and wasn't confined to the readership to see.

What if one offered the city (/village?) of Persia, Iowa to help sticking the ribbons and try leaving them there; and called national media to see what the city of Persia/Iowa had done in favor of Iranian prisoners of conscience? This way both Persia, Iowa and the prisoners of conscience in Iran would have gotten publicity on a national level and at least a certain goal would have been reached...

And I'm saying that because the Persian Iowans seemed all excited about being featured on the web, so I guess they'd have gotten more excited if ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN/FOX, etc. landed there with all their cameras and all to cover a good action they had set up in solidarity with people on the other side of the planet whose country they named their village/city after.



by hamidbak on

You have rendered me speechless...those who know me, know that I'm never speechless.

Clearly, you are bigger and better man than most, well, let's just say than me.

Iran is proud of her son...well done.


Excellent work which should be applauded

by Nezami. on

This was excellent work and very well done indeed ;)

This should be repeated in all major cities around the world where it can attract considerable media coverage too.

Great initiative and thank you :-)



by Mahvash Shahegh on

Confucius says: if every single person lights a candle, the whole world will be lit.

You did your share, jahanshah, I hope we can do ours as well.


Nazy jaan,

by Monda on

Thank you for assisting our heroes. khasteh nabaashi.


Necessary and Heartwarming Action!

by Monda on

Well Done Jahanshah! Now i wonder if we can pull one in our downtown here or there. For one Day. Who's in? dastaa baalaaa!


God bless you!

by ariane on

Thank you and god bless you!



by Parsa on

Great job, Jahanshah!

Thanks so much for caring and sharing.


Jahanshah jaan

by Mehrban on

This is so so nice and kind and thoughtful of you.  



by IranMarzban on

great job well done


Red Wine


by Red Wine on

Thank you dear Jahanshah . . .

I propose to Mr Javid as the future president of Republic of Iran .

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Nazy jan also for this effort.

by Anahid Hojjati on

Also good suggestion Esfand about the playground. I think even though Persia Iowa was selected for ribbons because of the name, it might be good to do similar actions in other cities across United States too, and other western counties such as England, France, etc.


Afarin, 100 Afarin Jahanshah Javid.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

This is a fine example of how we, the "keyboard revolutionaries", can help our people's struggle for democracy back home, with absolute minimal risk. 

The symbolic choice of the venue adds more to the publicity value.

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Jahanshah Javid

Take action

by Jahanshah Javid on

Something, anything. Please spread the word about the plight of these good, brave prisoners and thousands of others who are behind bars for no reason but thinking differently and expressing their views. They should be home, free. That will not happen if we don't raise HELL!

Esfand Aashena

Nice job. May they all be freed without condition immediately.

by Esfand Aashena on

Perhaps we can have a monument in Persia, IA one day in support of unconditional release of Political Prisoners in Iran and when one day Iran is free, they can rename the monument in memory of Political Prisoners in Iran.

I noticed they're trying to raise money for a playground, maybe we can raise the money and then have a small monument inside and name the playground after the Iranian Political Prisoners.  How much they're trying to raise for the playground? 

Everything is sacred


Persia Inn

by AghaReza on

Fantastic effort. Thank you and درود بر شما  JJ.

On a differrent note, here is a place to stay for your future visit to the UK:






by yolanda on

Thank you, JJ and Nazy, for the great effort. Both of you have done more than the UN special rapporteur, Ahmad Shaheed. Recently Hoda Saber died during hunger strike; Haleh Shahabi died at her dad's funeral; one political prisoner is in coma; 7 political prisoners wrote to the rapporteur crying for help............but there is no response from the rapporteur! Initially I thought this rapporteur is a savior, now I have started to think this guy is probably just a symbolic figure! I have posted the link of this photo essay at a website called "Release political prisoners in Iran".

Great job with your ribbon campaign!

Last nite, I read the story that you accidentally discovered Persia, Iowa in 1996 and Wikipedia quotes your story at its website!

Persia, Iowa should make you their honorable citizen!

It is interesting that Persia has become Iran, but there is a Persia in US! It is very cool!