Text of the opening speech at the Hope Concert for the People of Iran
(The entire text is also available in فارسی / Farsi)
My name is Roxana Saberi, and I composed much of this piece in prison in Iran. I didn’t have a piano there, but in solitary confinement, I practiced by tapping my fingers on the wall of my cell.
I’m not a professional musician like the many talented artists you will hear tonight, but I wanted to share this piece with you, and to dedicate it to the hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Iran who are being punished for peacefully exercising their basic human rights.
These prisoners include journalists and bloggers, human rights advocates, student activists, and attorneys.
They also include two women who were my cellmates, members of Iran’s minority Baha’i faith who are serving 20-year sentences for practicing their religion.
These prisoners cannot hear our concert tonight, but there’s a great possibility that they will hear about it because news about events like this can travel through cement walls and steel doors.
I’d like to ask you to please close your eyes for a moment. Imagine you are in a prison cell, alone, accused of a crime you didn’t commit. No one knows where you are and you’re denied access to an attorney. And no matter how much you might dream that the raindrops on the roof are the footsteps of your saviors coming to rescue you, there is no escape.
Now imagine that you learn people outside prison not only know where you are, but they are also calling for your release. They are signing petitions, spreading the word on Facebook, and praying for you. Even little children are praying for you!
These people are focusing not only on your plight but also on the reasons behind your imprisonment: They are highlighting issues greater than yourself: freedoms we’re all entitled to.
And you realize: You are not alone! You don’t have to stand up to injustice by yourself anymore! You feel empowered. You feel hope.
Please open your eyes.
I felt this way in 2009, when I was in Tehran’s Evin Prison, facing a fabricated charge of espionage. When I learned – through my interrogator and later, my parents — that friends and strangers around the world were calling for my release, I realized something crucial: When we don’t have a voice, we need others to speak out for us, and when we do have a voice, we have the responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless.
While we each have just one voice, together, our voices can make a difference.
Tonight we want to use our voices to make a difference—through music. Music can unite people across cultures, countries, and continents …
This evening’s artists speak different languages, but we don’t need to understand each other’s words to grasp each other’s plights … and to show solidarity with Iranians striving for human rights, freedom, and dignity. These Iranians are not only prisoners of conscience but also many who are outside prison. They want to write openly in their newspapers, surf the Web freely, to rally peacefully in the streets, to exercise their basic rights without fear and with hope that they can play a role in creating a better future for their country.
The proceeds from tonight’s concert will be donated to two non-profit organizations: the Children of Persia, which helps needy children in Iran, and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
We are broadcasting this concert live into Iran on the radio, TV, and the Internet.
The Iranian authorities will likely try to block people from watching and listening, but we have faith that many Iranians will still find ways to tune in.
And now I want to say a few words in Farsi for people in Iran:
:به عزیزانمان در ایران