Roxana Saberi gets warm reception in Fargoby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Fargo — Journalist Roxanna Saberi is back home in Fargo about two weeks after she was released from an Iranian prison.
A crowd of about 150 people waited for Saberi to arrive. Many held signs saying "welcome home Roxanna."
Saberi was overcome by emotion as she hugged old friends and worked her way through the crowd to a podium covered with microphones.
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven gave Saberi a bouquet of flowers and a hug.
"We were worried about you," he said. "We were worried about you. Thank goodness you're back."
"I didn't think I was going to get emotional when I came out of the airplane," Saberi said. "It's the first time I've cried in public."
Saberi lived in Iran for six years working as a freelance journalist for news outlets, including National Public Radio.
She was arrested on Jan. 31 and charged with spying for the United States. The U.S denied the charges. She was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. An appeals court later imposed a two-year suspended sentence and released her on May 11.
Saberi last visited Fargo-Moorhead in August. She says she had no idea then what lay ahead.
"And those first few days in Evin prison I was thinking to myself, I wish I had known, I would have never left Fargo."
Saberi says her first few days in prison were very difficult. She cried often and worried about her parents not knowing where she was. But as the days passed she drew strength from other political prisoners.
"At one point in prison I just thought, If I keep crying I'm going to be too weak. In that situation you have to try to stay strong. I didn't learn that from myself, I learned that from the other prisoners. And I know in the coming months there are going to be a lot of things I will have to work through as I think through what happened to me. But I hope that even though there were some tough times I will come out stronger through it all and hopefully give back to others with what I've learned."
Saberi says she believes the international support she received was one reason she was released from prison. She encouraged those who supported her to also help other political prisoners.
Concordia College journalism professor Catherine McMullen praised her former student for teaching some important lessons over the past several months.
"You have reminded us that reporting is essential to understanding other people, other cultures. That it is sometimes risky work and that too often we in America take our precious first amendment for granted. You have shown what it is to be brave, to have heart, to be strong and to follow one's conscience even when doing so brings peril. Thank you for those lessons."
Saberi says she's very happy to be free, and home. But she says she feels a strong responsibility to help others who are unfairly imprisoned.
"If I can make good use of the knowledge and experiences I've had over the past few months to help other people to increase their knowledge of the things I've gone through and other prisoners have gone through, then I would be very glad."
Saberi says she needs to spend some time thinking about what she's experienced before deciding what her future holds.
"I'm not sure yet for the long term, but definitely I want to start working on my book. I have the book I was working on before, maybe I'll incorporate it into the new book because I think it needs some updating."
Saberi left the airport with her parents to return to the Fargo home where she grew up.