Mass communication graduate student receives first Academic Freedom Award

Abel Pacheco

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Esha Momeni, a mass communications graduate student who was held in confinement in Iran last fall for 25 days while working on research for the women’s movement, received the first Academic Freedom Award Tuesday night almost seven months after she was apprehended.

The award ceremony was put on to recognize Northridge’s chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national society honoring scholarship in journalism and mass communication. As well as outstanding students and scholarship recipients.

CSUN’s Department of Journalism faculty selected Momeni as the recipient and gave out numerous awards honoring students in their academic excellence.

Momeni was arrested on Oct. 15, 2008 for conducting video interviews of members of the Campaign for Equality for her thesis project. She was charged with acting against national security and has been forced to stay in Iran since her release from the Evin prison after her family posted bail.

Momeni’s fianc’eacute;, Hassan Hussain accepted the award in her behalf.

‘The award, I mean I’m honored just because I’m proud of her and everything she has done, at the same time I am saddened because I wish that she could have been here to be with her fellow classmates,’ Hussain said, ‘she herself is honored and grateful, but at the same time, hopes that she could continue to shed light on other people who are being arrested in Iran.’

Hussain said Momeni hopes others that are arrested in Iran can receive help. ‘She doesn’t want them and their situation to be ignored.’

The award is the first to be presented honoring Momeni’s commitment to academic research.

As far as Momeni’s current struggle in Iran, Hussain said nothing has been resolved and they are taking measures to continue on. ‘Actually we are in legal-limbo as far as her case is concerned.’

Hussain said two groups are proposed to go to Iran. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has offered to help and as well as Jesse Jackson.

He said both groups haven’t been confirmed, but they have offered to help mediate.
Three mass communications graduate students, all classmates of Momeni, were also honored. John Kaquioag received the Dean’s Award for Academic Achievement and Service from the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication. Anasa Sinegal, Kara Lawton and Daquioag all received the Department of Journalism’s Joann DeSantis Advocacy Award.

Their work and experience in the graduate program was changed because of Momeni’s experience.

‘(Momeni’s imprisonment) was devastating, but it was also liberating for some of our students. It shook us out of our routines and into a new world of international human rights and activism and it made many of us start thinking outside of the box,’ Wall said as she presented the awards to the students.

Sinegal and Lawton helped organize a vigil last fall on campus for Momeni.
Wall said Sinegal and Lawton’s co-authored masters thesis is unlike anything she has ever seen in the department before.

‘We were just a few graduate students living ordinary lives doing ordinary things before Esha’s imprisonment compelled us to change our behavior. We were given the opportunity to be part of something amazing,’ read a portion of their thesis.