As revealed to us in the sensational NY Times Magazine exposure on Ben Rhodes, an integral part of Iranian-Western diplomacy is the use of media outlets – including op-eds and leading news sites – to address leaders and influence public opinion. Ben Rhodes referred to it as the “echo chamber”. Some are manipulation and some reflect genuine appeals. Since the June 2013 election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the English-language media (as well as outlets in other languages) has published a plethora of opinion pieces by Iranian leaders, as well as editorials addressed to Iranian leaders or the Iranian public. Many of them manipulation.
Now, Nazanin Boniadi – the Iranian-born British-American actress and activist who plays CIA analyst Fara Sherazi in Homeland – has joined the conversation, taking to the media for a genuine appeal to advocate for the release of a British-Iranian mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran without charges after returning there to introduce her 22-month-old daughter to her loved ones. She is one of many. Take for instance the appeal in Facebook on behalf of Baquer who was arrested and held together with his son Siamak.
In a piece published on CNN, Boniadi (who, incidentally, shares a given name with Zaghari-Ratcliffe) lashed out against the “oppressors” of the Iranian regime, who “starve Iran of the vitality and engagement with the world its citizens want and need” by imprisoning in “inhumane conditions” dual Iranian citizens coming to visit the country (such as Jason Rezaian).
Describing her own longing for Iran, “the land of my birth,” Boniadi wrote that in the current political climate, dual citizens take a large risk traveling to Iran, which “wants to keep out dual nationals – and their notions of freedom of speech and freedom of the press” (while Western tourism, on the other hand, is encouraged).
In her op-ed, Boniadi made the commonly made (but mistaken) distinction between Rouhani, who she wrote “welcomes” diaspora Iranians, and the “hardliners” who imprison them and turn Iran into an isolated “prison.” However, she went on to implicate the Iranian regime as a whole, asserting that “If Iran wants to stand among the community of nations as something other than a pariah, these seizures must stop.”
That the Iranian regime sees visiting/returning émigrés and dual citizens as “infiltrators” points to its unwillingness to foster true understanding and rapprochement with the West, consigning those who are familiar with both cultures as a threat and confining them to a prison cell. Thus, as Boniadi wrote, Iran “jealously guards” its “repressive world view” from any outside influence, fearing any interaction with hybridity unless it is in a jail, on the Iranian regime’s own terms.