May 5, 2011

When I moved to Seattle to live with Herbie, the first order of business was meeting his large group of friends.  They were all rather intimidating – loud, loyal, and joined at the hip – many of them successful journalists.

One of those writers was Dorothy Parvaz.

You may have heard of her – she’s currently missing in Syria.  Well, not missing, I guess – they’ve admitted they have her in detention.  But nobody has been able to talk to her, nobody knows whether to believe Syria’s definition of “safe,” and nobody knows when she will be released.

Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine your friend, your daughter just – poof! – gone missing in a country rocked by violence on the other side of the world?  I can’t even fathom what her family and her fiancee are feeling right now.

Mostly, they’re working their asses off to get her the hell outta there.  Although I’m sure there’s a part of her that would prefer to just be released, thank you very much, and go about her intended business, reporting on what’s really happening in Syria.

Even after knowing Dorothy a few years, I never did entirely stop feeling intimidated.  She’s crazy-smart (like, Harvard fellowship-smart), wickedly funny (emphasis on the wicked), and so thoughtful and insightful that sometimes, listening to her, my jaw actually dropped.  She was always the one perched on the couch with a glass of wine, silently smirking at our silliness, waiting for just the right moment to drop the perfect zinger.

She’s the kind of woman who comes across as hard-as-nails at first.  But you can’t be so gifted at writing and reporting without vast stores of compassion.  I got a lovely sample of that compassion recently when she sent me a message after Judy died.  Of all the messages of condolence I received, hers has stayed with me the most because it actually made me feel better – and that’s a damn hard thing to do after the death of a friend. 

Dorothy’s the kind of person you want writing and reporting the news.  She’s the kind of person driven to go to Japan to report on the devastation of the tsunami, and then to Syria in the middle of a violent uprising, because her cause is a noble one – tell the story.  Get it out there.

And now her friends are getting her story out there.  I hope by the time I post this, she’s already on a plane home.  But just in case, please help.  What if it was your friend, your sister, your fiancee?  All you have to do it send a (courteous) email to the Syrian embassy, asking for Dorothy Parvaz’s release.  Send an email to

Thank you very much.


6 Responses to “Dorothy”

  1. Lori Vander Maten Says:

    Done. Here’s what I wrote if anyone needs a jump-start, and thanks for making us aware of this. Love you!

    Dear Sirs –

    I am writing to ask you to do everything in your power to secure the release of Dorothy Parvaz, an American journalist who is being detained in Syria. It will certainly reflect positively upon the Syrian government, which is currently being painted as leaders that do not protect or value human rights, to show their good will and respect for human rights by releasing Ms. Parvaz to her family immediately. This simple act could result in improving Syria’s reputation in the international community.

    Thank you for your consideration and efforts to secure her release.

    Lori Vander Maten

  2. Beth H Says:

    Wonderful post, K! Your description of D is right on the money. I was intimidated by her at first, too (and by Mel!). : ) D is an amazing woman who is incredibly strong & brave; I know she is going to pull through this. And she will be really annoyed that so many photos of her are now circulating on the interwebs. : )

  3. Rosalind Says:

    Hey, I just tried to send the e-mail and it wouldn’t go through saying the e-mail was not valid. Can you confirm the e-mail for me? Also, thanks Lori for sharing your letter,it was a helpful jumping off point. It’s hard to know what to say.

  4. mamarose Says:

    That’s weird, I haven’t had any problems with it. You can also send an email to or use the #FreeDorothy hashtag on Twitter.

    That is a perfect letter, Lori, thank you so much.

  5. paperlessworld Says:

    Prayer. How will the Syrian government respond to letters for mercy? In a such a secular world, the stages of political life, as written about by Kubler-Ross. The stages of life in a place like Syria where you could not believe in how power was used, at least in my lifetime. In reading, Every Man In This Village Is a Liar, Megan K. Stack compares the interpretation of the Akedah story from the tradition of Judaism to the story of Ibriham sacrificing Ishmael – read at the end of Ramadan on Eid al-Adha – as God ordered Ibriham/Abraham to slaughter each of his sons. In these stories all based upon fertility. in the tradition of nomads, about fathers killing sons. When Ibriham informs Ishmael it is time to die, Ishmael accepts the news with stoicism. In almost the identical story, Isaac is unaware he is to die.

    Obsolete. The movement in the story. How do you treat your own people? As a nation? When torture was a way of life in the Middle East. As newspapers or prayer become obsolete, in the age of the internet, the Middle East still consisted of three groups of people: the torturers, the tortured, and those who stayed out o the way.

    What are a people left to believe, whether in comparative religions or comparative governments? Ms. Stack writes about how torture has been a way of life in cancerous place like Syria. And Ms. Stack writes about the broken expectations of something better, when the news of Abu Ghraib was made known. And the people in the Middle East were not believing in the rhetoric of noble wars – wars where more Americans died avenging bin Laden than on September 11th.

    I am still considering sending a letter to a couple Syrian ambassadors, to such a stoic world of accepted torture, where more and more see the misuse of power by governments like in Syria. To tell him I was praying that both Dorothy and any wife be allowed to leave there soon. Because I have a friend with a stepson caught in similar circumstances.

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