A young, beautiful girl, age 11, is forced to flee her native country for Sweden with her dad, mom and brother, after members of her mother’s family attempt to overthrow the radical regime of Ayatollah Khomeini and are “caught” and executed. Never feeling at home in Sweden, the girl, now a grown woman of age 28, immigrates to the United States and settles in Los Angeles, home of the largest Persian community outside of Tehran, and proudly becomes an American citizen.
First taking any job she can to earn a living on her own, later as a high-fashion representative for the prestigious French company Hermes, the woman moves into television broadcasting with prominent local Persian networks. She becomes a star, not only because of her beauty and articulate, intelligent and warm demeanor, but because she exhibits a passion for bringing freedom to her people in Iran – and her audiences see this. Later, after many years, a job as an international broadcaster opens up at the Persian News Network (PNN) – which broadcasts into Iran and around the world – of Voice of America (VOA) at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is a dream come true, since this now mature, beautiful and talented woman will get to powerfully pursue her dream of freedom for the Persian people – a dream members of her mother’s family died for. Based on her skill and audience appeal, the woman, Elham (“Ellie”) Sataki, is offered the job. She seizes it and leaves her friends in Los Angeles to undertake “her” mission.
But when she gets to Voice of America, Ellie sees that VOA is not what she or the other Persian broadcasters at PNN had thought. The agency, managed by people who have little regard for VOA’s mission to promote the values of the United States and freedom in Iran, treat their professional broadcasters like circus animals. Either they jump, like performing circus dogs, through the hoops they want – which is to kiss the derriere of the Iranian radical Islamic mullahs in Tehran – or they will be destroyed. In fact, the father of the senior managing editor of PNN, Ali Sajjadi, is a mullah, and he is forced to admit as much when on a recent television show. His anti-American, pro-radical Islamic bent infects the programming of the entire network and subverts the mission of VOA.
When Ellie and over 30 PNN employees complain, they are retaliated against by having their work assignments cut or downgraded, being demoted or “put out to pasture,” or, in Ellie’s case, sexually harassed by a cohost on the show “Straight Talk,” a man who is friends with Sajjadi. Then, when Ellie complains about the sexual harassment, the managers, including Sajjadi, use the sexual harassment claims to further retaliate against her to try to drive her out of the network – as Ellie is among the most “pro-freedom” of the broadcasters. The managers, and particularly Sajaddi, now manufacture reasons to get rid of her by falsely claiming that she was not harassed, that her Farsi language ability is suddenly no good, that she only got her job because she is beautiful, and other lies. The managers then refuse to remove Ellie from the hostile workplace environment when she has a complete nervous breakdown and becomes suicidal as a result of the sexual harassment and later retaliation. They also cut off her pay, such that she cannot even pay her doctor’s bills. In contrast, the sexual harasser continues to be paid and even, when the managers start a fraudulent internal investigation to make it appear that Ellie’s situation is being addressed, is put on administrative leave and continues to receive compensation.
The managers and the acting general counsel, that is, the head lawyer of VOA, Paul Kollmer-Dorsey, could care less about Ellie; they not only want to destroy her but also want to send a message to other dissatisfied broadcasters not to ever question their power, or they will be destroyed, too.
It is no wonder the government itself has categorized VOA as the worst agency in government. There is a scandal brewing there now that eclipses anything I have ever seen in my many years of fighting against the incompetence and unethical behavior of government officials. But more importantly, there is a brave woman and her Persian colleagues who are being “crucified” because they believe in the United States and they believe in freedom for their people.
I could not stand by and watch this, so I have taken up Ellie’s cause and those of the other persecuted broadcasters – Americans in the truest sense. In so doing, I have filed three cases for Ellie, lobbied Congress to take action and also gone, in articles like this, to the “court of public opinion.”
Because what is at stake is not only freedom for the Persian people – today the bravest on earth – but the preservation of our own American values. This fight has become my passion, and I will wage it to the end.
Thanks to the naivete and neglect of our government under both past Republican and Democratic administrations, VOA has become compromised, raising the issue of whether the Islamic Iranian regime has cleverly compromised the agency with payoffs and agents. And, since our nation currently lacks a coherent Iran policy, other than the Carteresque policy of appeasement now being implemented by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, what other than VOA – a real VOA, true to its charter – must be restored to promote freedom? (See my previous column “The Persian quest for freedom.”)
I have sought the help of many in and outside of government to save Ellie and VOA. No one thus far, other than her courageous union president, Tim Shamble, a few witnesses and me, has come forward. This is sad and tells a sorry tale about the moral evolution of our nation; are we now too self-absorbed to save a beautiful and talented woman who believes in and has sacrificed herself for our values?
That is the question I now pose to you all. For if Ellie Sataki is unimportant, so too are the ideals that our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us. And, if this is the case, our days as a nation are numbered indeed.
I fear not only for Ellie, but for all of us!
Note: Elham Sataki’s interviews can be found on YouTube.