Free from Iran, this American hits his favorite Boston burger joint

The World
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Matthew Trevithick, 30, of Massachusetts in 2013. He was detained in Iran in December.

Matthew Trevithick, 30, of Massachusetts in 2013. He was detained in Iran in December.

Robin Wright/AP

A champion rower. An insatiable learner. A Boston University grad with a recent fascination with Iran.

That's how friends describe Matthew Trevithick, freed from Iran over the weekend and back in Boston on Sunday.

“I’ve been in touch with his family," says journalist and author Robin Wright, "and they sent me a picture of Matt last night when he was out for dinner with them at his favorite burger joint in Boston.”

Wright, who has covered Iran for years, oversaw Trevithick when he was her research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, just after his graduation from college.

After that, she says, he worked for two years at the American University in Suleimaniyah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, and he then went on to work in Afghanistan at the American University of Kabul. Both are institutions that were startups in the aftermath of war trying to, as Wright puts it, "provide a new channel of very professional education for students in both countries."

A champion rower, Trevithick built rowing teams for the young in both Iraq and in Afghanistan, Wright says.

Trevithick got interested in Iran more recently.

"He’d actually been on vacation in Iran once, and found it intriguing," says Wright. "And because he’d learned some Farsi while he was in Afghanistan, decided he wanted to gain a language proficiency and so he enrolled in an intensive four-month language class in Tehran of an institution affiliated with Tehran University. And he was just completing that course when he was detained.”

That was at the begnning of December. He was freed Saturday in a separate deal from that in which several Iranian Americans were released over the weekend, including Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran. 

Wright has a full story on the prisoner deal with Iran in the New Yorker.

In Iran, meanwhile, people are celebrating the news of the lifting of US and European economic sanctions.

Roya Saadat, a Tehran resident, said she is ecstatic about the news. For her, the most important outcome of the nuclear negotiations is that Iran and the West avoided going to war.

“Now we feel more secure,” she says, “at least no Western country is going to attack us.”

Saadat says she was a small kid when the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq broke out in the 1980s. Although she didn’t live in the areas most affected by the war, she says it was a very difficult time for her.

“I had really really bad days and when I remember those days, I don’t want to go back to that time,” she explains.

Saadat adds that watching what’s happening in Syria today breaks her heart. “I don’t want that to happen to my country, to my people,” she says.

Saadat lives with her parents and says her father suffers from high blood pressure and epilepsy.

When the economic sanctions came into effect, she says, she found it very hard to find her father’s medication. “I remember once I was so angry that I said that Mr. Obama targeted the poor people in Iran, not the government,” she recalls.

Today, Saadat is relieved to see the economic sanctions being lifted. It’s a sentiment, she says, many Iranians share.

“We are really happy. We would like to interact with the world and we would like to see more of other people coming to our country,” she says.