Even with the supposedly “moderate” Rouhani in power and the nuclear deal well underway, more and more cells in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison are occupied by Iranian dual citizens. One of the more highly-publicized cases was the “outrageous” incarceration of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was released earlier this year.
But there are others who are languishing in Evin right now, of various nationalities: for example, British-Iranian charity worker and mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, recently thrown into Evin and separated from her two-year-old daughter. Or Canadian-Iranian academic Homa Hoodfar, who has been held incommunicado in Evin since her sudden arrest on June 6.
The Canadian press, as well as some other English-language media outlets (such as Newsweek), mobilized on behalf of Hoodfar in June, calling for her immediate release and pondering why she had been incarcerated in the first place – at the age of 65, while suffering from a neurological disorder, and after numerous previous visits to Iran.
Some speculations – fueled by reports that Hoodfar stands accused of “fomenting a feminist revolution in Iran” – suggested her research, which focuses on women in Muslim countries, might have been the catalyst for her arrest. But another Canadian-Iranian who spent some time in Evin, Marina Nemat, described Hoodfar’s work as “sort of positive toward the Islamic Republic.”
The Globe and Mail had another hypothesis to explain the “farce” of Hoodfar’s arrest: that Iran was holding her hostage as a “pawn,” in hopes of “exchanging her” for a former Iranian bank chief who fled to Canada in 2011. Rather than play Iran’s game, read the paper’s editorial, recommended that Canada – which removed its sanctions on Iran back in February – should use “whatever levers it has available” to secure Hoodfar’s release.
In other English-language media outlets, meanwhile, the arrests of Hoodfar and others were painted as a “tactic” to “frustrate” the “moderate” Rouhani. Thus, the Iranian president – under whom arrests, executions and corporeal punishments have surged, among other indications that there isn’t much substance behind the moderate-hardliner divide – was described by Thomas Erdbrink over at The New York Times as making “efforts to bring wealthy and knowledgeable expatriates back to Iran.” Evidently, in covering the crackdown on dual citizens, some media outlets are playing by Iran’s rules rather than heeding the Globe and Mail’s anguished recommendation.