Arseh Sevom–Trust, but verify: that is the message of the recent nuclear agreement with Iran. The completed agreement sent hopes of better times soaring in Iran where a whole generation has felt itself sacrificed to hardline policies and the results of sanctions. If trust can be built in the wake of these negotiations, there is an opportunity for the international community to engage Iran on its human rights record. That is the next step.
Arseh Sevom – It’s been more than 100 days since Hassan Rouhani took office. Despite slow progress on human rights, many exiled activists are planning to return. Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear negotiations are about to restart, and Iran’s top negotiator is working to get his country’s message out via social media. Over 25 NGOs and civil rights organizations wrote a letter asking UN representatives to vote to hold Iran accountable for continuing human rights violations. The message: human rights are not negotiable.
Arseh Sevom — Can you excuse us for hoping for change even though we know that political prisoners and prisoners of conscience face malicious neglect and execution to this day? Like many in Iran, we were hoping for a quick positive outcome to the nuclear negotiations. Like others, we are enjoying the fashion spread in Fashionable, Sexy, Haute and Naughty Magazine. We enjoy hearing more of Iran’s political figures call for the filtering of social networking to end and look forward to the day that the most interesting news out of Iran is what a friend ate for lunch.
Arseh Sevom- This week’s review is unfortunately focused on the treatment of political prisoners in Iran. Events of the past months demand this. The season marking the anniversary of the taking of the American Embassy seems to endanger Iran’s homegrown activists more than it hurts the US with the chanting of “Death to America.” At a time when Iranians are hoping for change, and especially at this time, it’s necessary to put pressure on Iran’s government to improve the conditions for all of its prisoners and urgently for its political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
Arseh Sevom — Nuclear negotiations are eclipsing other news in Iran. There are hopes that an agreement can be reached and that at least some of the sanctions will be relaxed. Attention to foreign relations seems to have left the Rouhani administration with little time to address domestic issues. This has led to a number of unfulfilled promises and a slow pace of change domestically. The application of economic sanctions continues to overreach their mandate, with internet freedom suffering. Wishes did not come true when it comes to the release from house arrest of Green Movement leaders. And theater goers in Tehran eagerly anticipate the opening of The Hills Are Alive, based on The Sound of Music.
Pay no attention to the executions behind the curtainArseh Sevom — In this week’s overview, we learn that the short term political aims of sanctions have long term effects on the most vulnerable. Improved relations may actually lead to some ease in US sanctions. This would most likely only sanctions that are the result of executive orders. Sanctions signed into law by the US congress are unlikely to be changed. Over 100 tons of illegal drugs were seized in Tehran. We are not talking about recreational drugs here, many of them were difficult to find treatments. In a carnival-like atmosphere, the Iranian military destroyed equipment for over 800 satellite connections with tanks and bulldozers. Despite the kinder, gentler face Iran is showing the world, executions continue at a record rate and Internet freedom is at an all-time low. Will the Iranian government start thawing relations with its own population next?
Arseh Sevom — As we were getting ready to post this week’s review, we heard the good news that Nassrin Sotoudeh and eight other political prisoners had been released from prison. Author Pejman Majidzadeh’s nose must really be filled with the smell of change now. In this week’s review, he introduces the JUST ACCESS campaign against the unintended effects of economin sanctions. The US Treasury department has issued two new general licenses for humanitarian aid and amateur athletic events. We read of a letter exchange between Obama and Rouhani. Iran’s beleagured House of Cinema has now been reopened. The case of the house-imprisoned Green Movement leaders is finally going to court. The Supreme Leader hints at better relations between the US and Iran. Iranians wonder what happened to two billion dollars in oil revenues.
Arseh Sevom–While the war in Syria may become an international war soon, Iran and America have been engaged in some pre-diplomatic word games. Will Ta’amol, the Persian word for mutual action, enter the language the way that the Russian word Glasnost (openness) has? A European Court ruling has challenged the inclusion of seven Iranian companies on the sanctions list. Rouhani is looking at tourism (Glasnost?) as a way of growing Iran’s feeble economy, and a Singaporean photographer may prove to be the new industry’s unofficial spokesperson. Workers in Iran suffer the combined effects of bad policy and economic sanctions. Finally, Iran’s foreign minister tweets Rosh Hashana wishes.
Arseh Sevom — Budget shortfalls have wreaked havoc on the state of Iran’s healthcare, which is facing more than one billion euros of debt. Since sanctions were loosened on personal electronics, Iranians can now buy iPhones and Androids. Social Media is not just for opposition anymore as Iran’s politicians find their way on to Facebook and Twitter. Membership in the World Trade Association (WTO) is still a distant dream for Iran as is freedom for the leaders of Iran’s Green Movement. Somehow, however, Iran has found a way to fulfill the dream of a base on Antarctica.
So many people were touched by the story of the three Iranian climbers who successfully opened a new way to the summit of Broad Peak, yet were lost on the way down. Social networks buzzed with news, prayers, and remembrances of the climbers. Trees on Tehran’s longest street were cut without permission. Stumps were left where once mighty trees stood. A member of the Darvish minority set himself on fire in front of Iran’s parliament. Iran’s mobile phone operator took the rare step of apologizing for insulting the country’s Sunni minority. Finally, we ask if Rouhani’s government can fulfill its promise of *hope and wisdom.*
In the most “engineered” of election campaigns since the inception of the Islamic Republic, candidates are surprised to find themselves censored. The Revolutionary Guards reorganizes to face the challenge posed by elections, warning that Ahmadinejad supporters could be the source of unrest in the upcoming elections. “Vision” meetings are held to “guide” voters to the correct candidate. Prisoners of conscience are called back to prison from furlough. This is how an “ultra-democracy” handles election campaigning.
Arseh Sevom — With only a few weeks until the elections, it’s no surprise that our review focuses on recent developments. The disqualifications of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie were big news, if not entirely surprising. The electoral field is now dominated by hardliners loyal to Supreme [...]