The face of courage: Iranian Leila Esfandiari for K2

Posted: Jun 14, 2010 04:23 pm EDT

Following the Presidential Election last summer, protesters (mostly young) swarmed major city streets in Iran and sent tweets to western media about their opposition; at least 30 people were killed and thousands were arrested - including Iranian K2 climber Kazem Faridian (Frydyan) who was held in Evin prison for close to 50 days.

Kazem summited K2 in 2007, and Nanga Parbat in 2008 in the first Iranian expedition led by a woman and also the first to have a corporate sponsor.

The woman - Leila Esfandiari - has now returned to Pakistan to attempt K2 and ExWeb's Pakistan correspondent Karrar Haidri caught up with her this past weekend during her briefing session at the Pakistan Alpine Club.

Money being an issue for Leila, who dreams to climb all the 14, 8000ers, has had her stuck to climb Iran's tallest mountain, Mount Damavand, 22 times she told Karrar. Lacking sponsors, Leila said that this time she sold her house to finance her dream of climbing K2.

Leila said that the death of fellow Iranian mountaineer Saman on Nanga Parbat, but more importantly the arrest of Kazem have given her a hard time.

Since the protests last summer, the country is held in a terror of fear US Wall Street Journal stated this Saturday; there's reportedly even a ban on laughing or telling jokes at a Medical School. Worse, mass arrests (including of any woman who shows a bit of hair under her veil) and executions are enforced by Hezbollah thugs brought in from Lebanon and Syria.

Leila told Karrar, "our climbing federation is not cooperating with us and we are climbing our own."

"I want to climb all the 8000er peaks of the world," Leila repeated to Karrar. "I will join any expedition If I have any sponsor outside Iran."

The 2010 K2 expedition is outfitted by ATP.

Kazem Faridian summited K2 in 2007, and Nanga Parbat 2008 in the first Iranian expedition led by a woman and also the first to have a corporate sponsor.

Kazem Faridian was arrested on 25 June 2009 in Tehran and was held up in Evin prison for almost 50 days. Kazem's relatives and friends got in touch with ExWeb. Fortunately Kazem was released one week later.

Kazem Faridian was held in Iran's most notorious jail, Evin prison, section 7, friends and Iranian news agencies reported. According to Iranian sources close to ExplorersWeb Kazem didn't do anything during the protests but was held for the only reason that he is a nationally famous mountaineer.

In fear of reprisal, the local mountain clubs did not publish anything about the situation which upset Kazem's relatives and friends, seriously worried about the 45 days of silence since his arrest.

"As a member of the mountaineering family, it is the duty of Iranian and international climbers and their organizations to call for his freedom, using all their power and facilities and pressure the shoulders of everyone to help reunite Kazem Frydyan with his family," stated the email appeal for Kazem to ExplorersWeb.

Tehran's Evin prison is its most notorious jail. According to the Guardian, political prisoners were said to be under severe pressure to sign confessions admitting involvement in a foreign-backed plot to topple the regime.

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K2 takes double the courage for Iranian Leila.
Image by Karrar Haidri courtesy ExplorersWeb, SOURCE
ExWeb's Pakistan correspondent Karrar Haidri caught up with Leila this past weekend during her briefing session at the Pakistan Alpine Club.
Image by Karrar Haidri courtesy ExplorersWeb, SOURCE
Leila (middle) at ACP in Islamabad flanked by Karrar (to her right) and Essar Karim on her left.
Image by Karrar Haidri courtesy ExplorersWeb, SOURCE
ATP's Essar Karim and Leila Esfandiari.
Image by Karrar Haidri courtesy Karrar Haidri - ExplorersWeb, SOURCE

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