We’re back after a short break! In the time that we’ve been gone, the media was busy highlighting a certain side of Iran – that of glamorous, “rare,” and historic diplomatic breakthroughs and “big trade deals” – the “newly unfettered” and “gregarious” Iran which has been hard at work “getting back to business and engaging again with the world,” since sanctions were lifted on January 16.
In the midst of this euphoric post-sanctions celebration, marking financial and diplomatic engagement with Iran, and even as your “next ski destination”, we found the less flattering and more concerning reports buried deep underneath. Deeply buried one could find warnings that Iran “remains a powerful adversary of America”.
Take, for example, the various reports on Iran’s juvenile executions published this week in the wake of Amnesty International’s latest report on the matter – in which the rights group painted a “deeply distressing” picture of dozens of youths being “condemned to the gallows” after “unfair trials.” While Amnesty International presented the report as exposing Iran’s hypocrisy, not all outlets framed it in the same way. In fact, many news sites reported it matter-of-factly (and on a note seemingly unrelated to the lifting of sanctions) rather than contrasting it with positive coverage of the “reborn” Iran, featuring stories of friendship and cooperation (and even an Iranian rebuttal to Amnesty’s criticism) prominently on their home pages in lieu of shattering the rosy picture of the “new Iran.” In one particularly ironic case, The Atlantic on January 26 described “today in one paragraph” as “President Obama outlined a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders […] And, overseas, the pope met with the president of Iran” – not a word on the highly pertinent Amnesty report published that very day.
There are, of course, exceptions. Just days before the Amnesty report was released, Anne Applebaum warned on Slate that “This Isn’t an Iranian Perestroika,” stressing that “Iran is still the same repressive regime” – neither more open, nor more liberalized, nor more Western, citing the “boasts” of Iran’s chief justice over the “eradication, i.e. mass murder,” of juvenile drug offenders as proof. The Independent, meanwhile, on January 26 voiced the rights groups’ call to use “Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Europe” to “pressure Iran over executions,” as well as their concern that the “worrying surge in hangings in Iran” has “largely gone unnoticed.”