The international community has learned the hard way in recent weeks that the Middle East is not the best place to be a Western journalist. The English-language press has been anxiously following the news out of Syria and Iraq, where the kidnapping of reporters – and human rights workers – by Islamic State has become the norm.
And in Iran? While the journalists jailed there (why, again?) may be afforded more of a legal process than they would be by jihadis, things aren’t exactly stellar there, either. Remember Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent who was jailed in Iran along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, over two months ago? Well, there’s good news and bad news: Salehi has been freed on bail (after being arrested, like her husband, on murky charges), but Rezaian, who was forced to confess under duress several weeks ago, remains imprisoned – who knows for how long. Meanwhile, British-Iranian law graduate Ghoncheh Ghavami, arrested for watching a volleyball match, has been on hunger strike for days.
The developments in the Rezaian and Ghavami cases have been widely reported recently, among many other articles and op-eds on Iran’s human rights situation – some prompted by the new and highly critical report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, others by the World Day Against the Death Penalty, which fell on October 10 and more or less coincided with Iran’s 1000th execution.
Iran, naturally, doesn’t like this type of attention – it even apparently encourages relatives of Iranians arrested for political crimes to avoid “making a fuss to the media” with the false promise of a quicker release. Other than “encouragement” of this kind, Iran’s PR tactics in defense of its rights record consist mostly of slinging mud back at the West for its “dark human rights record.” Ouch, Iran! If you don’t want a fuss, why don’t you try just not arresting anyone on murky charges, let alone journalists?