Freedom of the Press? Not Under Rouhani.


Imagine a group of people. They look just like you. They have families, lives, interests, hobbies, everything you know from your own life. The only thing that is different in their lives than those of yours is the job they chose to do: They elected to be journalists in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So now they’re in jail, and no one knows when they will be set free again.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Upon his election, Hassan Rouhani was perceived as being a great hope in that aspect. In fact, as early as his first speech in office, Rouhani said “The government that takes its legitimacy from its people does not fear the free media; we will seek help from their constructive criticism.”

Well, apparently that’s over with; Washington post’s Tehran’s correspondent Jason Rezaian (along with his wife Yeganeh Salehi), has been arrested in July. Since then, there have been numerous calls for his release, but the president has remained silent, and has done nothing to aid in that cause, nor has his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Rezaian’s story is a sign of the perils of trying to become a reporter in today’s Iran: “The two have been held for more than eight weeks without explanation or charges. They have not been permitted to meet with their lawyer”, says Douglas Jehl, the Washington post’s foreign editor.

Rezaian is the face of an alarmingly growing epidemic in Iran, reports the committee to protect journalists, in an article that states that journalists have been arrested by the dozen in the country.

This raises the question about the connections between the Iranian president and those kidnaps, but Mr. Zarif’s recent admission, about not even knowing all of the charges that Rezaian was tagged with, brings to mind the question of control in Iran – and it seems that no one in the government really knows what’s going on inside those Journalists’ prisons cell.


No change after over a year

nothing has changed

Rouhani was elected on a ticket for change – a change which was desperately needed by the Iranians after decades of the regime thumbing its nose at the world and believing it could get away with anything.

Rouhani promised to stand for the rights of the people and spoke about basic freedoms which had the voters running to the ballots. Those same voters are probably sorely disapointed today because the state of human rights in Iran has barely changed, and if it has changed at all,it is for the worse.

Rouhani may have changed the rhetoric of the regime and has convinced part of the world leadership that the change is not only rhetoric thin but the reports are far from moderate.

If you are not sure and have 3:27 minutes, you should watch this video which highlights the significant gaps between the rhetoric and reality of Rouhani.

Or if you would rather read, take some time off to read this article which shows that there is “massive repression” under Rouhani’s rule. With an unexpected surge in the number of executions, it’s not a surprise that the UN has condemned Iran with another scathing report, as it did in the pre-Rouhani days for the dismal state of human rights in Iran.

And how does Rouhani answer to these accusations? He either keeps quiet about it if he can and if he is trapped into answering a direct question, such as regarding the 91 lashes to be given to the “Happy in Iran” video dancers, he manages time and time again to dodge the question – “I’m not certain what this thing you’re referring to was, how many people danced.”

It’s time for Rouhani to decide: is he to fulfill his election promises or not? If he is, great. If he isn’t the P5+1 negotiators should decide if this is the man we want to make peace with.

Gender Segregation in Iran Lands British Iranian Woman in Jail

ghoncheh ghavami

Goncheh Gavami, a 25 year old British Iranian woman is rotting away in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since June 2014. Why? Because she went along with some other women activists to a gender segregated stadium to see a volley ball game between Iran and Italy. Gavami was in Tehran campaigning for women’s rights after being convinced that Rouhani’s presidency signaled change. The irony? The stadium is called “Azadi” which means “freedom” in Persian.

Help free Gavami by sponsoring the “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” petition or by liking/sharing the “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” fan page.


Previous posts on gender segregation:



Growing Gender Segregation In Iran

segregation 2 Following our last post of gender segregation in the Tehran municipality, it seems that gender segregation is on the rise in Iran. Systematic segregation between men and women is growing in many government organizations. Lately, gender segregation seems to be on the rise in cultural events as well: Police closed down the concerts of Iranian superstar Mohsen Yeganeh forcing him to hold separate concerts for men and for women. Even the Iranian minister of culture, Ali Jannati, seemed apalled by the police’s decision and has advised the police (unsuccessfully to date) to change its decision.

Rouhani, Iran media arrests and the nuclear deal


During the course of these extremely important events – sometimes the small things tend to slip away from the public eye. But small things are important to people, and they affect their everyday life much more than some talks that go on in Vienna, or a conflict between two countries on the other side of the middle east.

And what matters are the small things. They might not seem related sometimes, but a closer look can give us some interesting insights.

Journalists? to jail!

In a recent article by Faraz Sanei, The Iran researcher of Human Rights Watch, a simple question was presented: Is the Short Honeymoon of Media Freedom Over?

This is an important question. It comes after the arrest of Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian.  In an article from July 24th in the Post, foreign editor Douglas Jehl said the newspaper has received “credible reports” that Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were detained in Tehran. It is unclear who detained them or why.

Regarding the arrests of journalists in Iran, Rezaian’s arrest is not the first. According to Reporters Without Borders, there are currently 65 journalists and social media writers in prison.

Rouhani’s lack of power

Media freedom is important, so we, the people outside of Iran, can have a better understanding of its everyday life. But these arrests, especially in a politically complex country such as the Islamic republic, Are a clear sign that the regime wants everyday life in Iran to stay hidden.

After all it was Hassan Rouhani who advocated, before and after his election, that he is going to put a focus on human rights in Iran, media freedom being a key to the overall issue of human rights. But now it appears that the president is less powerful than we thought (or even he thought). In fact, those media arrests are seen by some as a ploy to weaken Rouhani.

This connects us to our opening words: The west looks at Rouhani as the figurehead behind Iran’s “true” intentions. Rouhani might even believe with all his heart that a nuclear deal must be struck. But if he loses power at home, and he does not have control in “smaller” issues, then it might be smarter not to hold our breath for the next four months over a suitable resolution of Iran’s nuclear plan.

Iranian Child Brides = Socialized Slavery

child brides 2Within 9 months, roughly 31,000 girls under 15 were married in Iran. That’s about 36% of the new marriages. What’s worse is that the marriages of girls under 10 (!) is growing as well.

It’s time to put a stop to what seems to be a legal from of slavery in which small children find themselves at the will of their husbands and their families before they have even  found their own identities.

Iran’s answer to fears of sexual harassment? Fire the women!

women municipality


It’s acts like these that make Iran so hard to understand: Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and presidential candidate in the last presidential election, fired the women in his municipality because he felt that women who had male bosses were put in compromising positions which might lead to losing their dignity. They were fired “for their own comfort and well-being”.

That’s how Iran deals with sexual harassment: Instead of finding ways to limit incidents, to create an infrastructure that would intimidate and punish harassers, “simply” punish the women and their families who already live in harsh economic times.

Mr. Ghalibaf, how much more comfortable do these women feel now that they have less money to feed their families? How did firing them increase their level of well-being? The only people that you helped are the men who will get the jobs of the women who were fired and yourself for not having to deal with sexual harassment in your municipality in a fairer way.

Tehran Regime Mirrored in Football and Hijabs



Unless you are on holiday on another planet, you know that the World Cup is being played out in Brazil: 32 national football teams converged in Brazil, followed by billions of fans from all over the globe.

Football? Prisoners – Yes. Women – No

The World Cup is truly a world-uniting experience: Just to put things in proportion, nearly half of the planet’s population, 3.2 billion people, watched the last World Cup final. No matter what is the local time, work status, school status – people are watching it at home or in bars, restaurants and coffee shops – even prisoners in Guantanamo jail watch it.

Everyone is watching except for women in Iran.  Why? Because people like Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami believes that “if women attend games (both in stadiums and screenings) there could be no guarantees that hijab or chastity would be properly observed or respected.”

World Cup games cannot be screened in cinemas, restaurants and coffee shops to audiences that include women. Some Iranian women have openly defied these laws by viewing the games at restaurants and coffee shops which have led to police crackdowns resulting in forcing the establishments to not screen the games.

Yes, it’s “only” a game and no one is physically hurt. But it is another symbol of repression by the regime in Tehran just as separate rest rooms and restaurants were for African Americans in the US and in any other country that practices or practiced racism. And in this case, it’s even more symbolic since Iran’s national team was actually playing in the world cup!

Iranian authorities have cracked down on fans, going so far as to arrest people who appear in a video intended to support the footballers. Why? Once again, the fear of seeing women hijab-free.


The Hijab as a weapon

The issue of Hijabs and women’s clothing is creating quite a stir in Tehran over the past few months: hardliners are exasperated by grass-roots movements such as “my stealthy freedom“, a facebook fan page showing pictures of hijab-free women and the “Happy in Tehran“, a lip-sync video of Pharrell’s hit including hijab-free women. The hijab is the main focal point of the discussion on women’s clothing but just last week, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was summoned to parliament to answer questions about why more measures have not been taken to prevent women from wearing leggings in public.

The BBC reported that “There was a loud reaction from MPs as photos of what was dubbed “transgressive legwear” were shown on large screens during the parliamentary session”. It’s as if the Iranian parliament has nothing better to do than to discuss whether leggings are really pants or not.

In this context, it is easy to understand that the hijab is really a weapon used by the regime to repress women in Iran since the beginning of the Islamic revolution. So, why the fuss now? The answer can be found in President Rouhani’s efforts to question the essence of some religious and social laws including the hijab itself as is evident in his latest tweet in which he stated that “poverty is a greater threat to chastity than violating the hijab norms“. Hardliners in Tehran obviously don’t appreciate Rouhani’s open-mindedness and are fighting back. We can only hope that one day the hijab will become a symbol of achieved freedom by remaining in a drawer at home.