Jason Rezaian

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Activists of the Exile-Iranian Society in Berlin demonstrate on Jan. 19 in solidarity with anti-government protesters in Iran. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

In Iran, the Islamic Republic has a long and well-documented policy of using violence as a tool of political repression. Nationwide protests against the regime, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman being held in police custody, was met with severe crackdowns and widespread arrests, followed by what would charitably be called show trials. Indeed, even to call them that is to grant them a veneer of legitimacy that they do not deserve.

These macabre rituals, culminating in inevitable yet arbitrary executions, are the product of a state killing apparatus charged with keeping the regime in place.…  Seguir leyendo »

Author and activist Hamed Esmaeilion speaks at a rally organized by the Women Life Freedom Collective in solidarity with women and protesters in Iran on Oct. 22 in Berlin. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

When I first met Iranian author and activist Hamed Esmaeilion, one morning this past October in California, I was already well aware of his story.

On Jan. 8, 2020, Esmaeilion’s wife, Parisa, and only child, 9-year-old Reera, were killed when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after it took off from Tehran’s international airport. The mother and daughter were returning to Canada after visiting family in Iran over the winter holidays. Esmaeilion, a dentist and writer whose novels critical of the Islamic republic were growing increasingly popular inside and outside Iran, had stayed behind in Toronto, knowing that if he traveled with his family, he would probably run into trouble with Iranian authorities.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks in Tehran on Tuesday. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

“Abolish” is a big word. If you’re using it, you had better be sure you’re using it right.

That’s why I’ve been reluctant to repeat, retweet or even comment on the news this week that Iran “abolished” — according to an embarrassing number of headlines — its infamous morality police.

The initial reports were based on the comments of Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, who alluded to the shuttering of the notorious police force in a response to a question at a news conference. On Monday, another government official closer to the specific committee that oversees hijab enforcement apparently confirmed the closure.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image of Mahsa Amini at a Los Angeles vigil after her death in custody of Iran's "morality police" in September. (Reuters/Bing Guan)

Women might be at the forefront of the uprising overwhelming Iran, but they certainly aren’t alone.

Since the death last month of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s “morality police”, who had detained her for allegedly wearing an improper head covering, the world has watched Iranian women march, shout and shear their hair in protest of unfair, violent treatment. But while the imposed hijab makes women the most visibly suppressed group in the Islamic Republic, ethnic minorities including Kurds, Baluchis, Azeris and Arabs have also long struggled for equality.

These minority groups have joined this wave of protest, too, continuing their own long-standing quest for rights within the Islamic republic’s social hierarchy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s war on Ukraine is forcing all European countries to reconsider their strategic and military relationships. For Kosovo, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression confirms the belief that it needs a more robust partnership with the United States and its allies.

Last month, on the day that Sweden and Finland simultaneously submitted their requests to join NATO, Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti was in Washington to make his case for increased cooperation.

For a country of fewer than 2 million inhabitants that declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With 48 Serbian military installations staring across Kosovo’s borders, according to Kurti, it’s little wonder that he sees the fate of his country as a defining front in the ideological confrontation of our times.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters set fires as they block the roads during a demonstration against a gasoline price hike in Tehran in 2019. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

As anyone who follows Iranian affairs will tell you, one way to measure the seriousness of the uprisings against the Islamic republic is to consider anti-regime slogans — and how personal the protesters are willing to get with them. The fact that demonstrators on streets across Iran are currently calling for the death of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Ebrahim Raisi, and for the downfall of the Iranian regime, should leave no doubt about the depth of the protesters’ rage and despair.

The protests began last week over the regime’s increasing inability to provide the basic goods and services it has subsidized for decades, after prices of bread, eggs and cooking oil skyrocketed as much as 300 percent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators protest outside the Stockholm District Court in Sweden on Nov. 23, 2021, during the war-crimes trial of Hamid Nouri. (Duygu Getiren/AFP/Getty Images)

A court in Sweden is preparing to issue a verdict in the war crimes trial of Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian official who is implicated in the mass execution of dissidents. Seemingly in response, Iran’s judiciary announced last week that it intended to carry out the execution of a Swedish citizen sentenced to death on unfounded charges.

This moment could mark either a horrific escalation in the Iranian regime’s hostage diplomacy strategy — one that puts the life of any innocent foreign national that travels to Iran at grave risk. Or it could provide the clarity that the free world needs to finally come together to disrupt the serial crime of state hostage-taking.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elections in Europe this past weekend provided an important stress test for the strength of democratic institutions and ideals. The resounding reelection of Emmanuel Macron as president of France over perennial far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is rightfully garnering headlines around the world. But the election result in Slovenia is actually the best thing that’s happened for liberal democracy in a long time.

In a surprising turn of events, three-term Prime Minister Janez Jansa, leader of the right-wing populist Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), lost to the environmentally-focused Freedom Movement party, which campaigned on moving to green energy, rule of law and an open society.…  Seguir leyendo »

Maria Ressa, one of the winners of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, in Manila on Oct. 9. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

When the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held in Oslo on Dec. 10, one of its recipients may not be allowed to attend.

Despite facing possible restrictions that could prevent her from traveling to Norway, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa was upbeat when I spoke to her and her lawyer, Amal Clooney, last week about the Nobel, Ressa’s ongoing legal troubles against manufactured complaints, and the future of press freedom at a time when new technologies are making it easier to alter reality and target individuals.

But Ressa’s optimism, which she maintains despite the efforts of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime, should not be mistaken for naivete.…  Seguir leyendo »

People protest in Khartoum, Sudan, on Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

As an unpopular military coup engulfed Sudan in recent days, I was reminded of a different vision for that country: the democratic one where a multitude of voices can express themselves freely without fear of repercussion.

From afar, that seemed to be the path the country was on after a popular uprising brought down the dictatorship of former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019. We in the free world should be doing everything in our power to help the Sudanese people get back on that path.

“In a new Sudan, never again we will jail journalists,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said in his closing remarks at the United Nations in September 2019.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks near a mural with the Cuban flag in Havana on Jan. 12. (Yamil Lage/AFP, Getty Images)

Since mid-July, whenever Cuban journalist Camila Acosta looks out her window, there are five people watching over her home in Havana: two policemen, two women dressed in everyday clothes and one man — always a man — also in plain clothes; she’s certain he is from Cuba’s state security agency.

Acosta was arrested while covering anti-regime protests that erupted in the Cuban capital in July. It was the biggest show of defiance in decades against the communist era that began in 1959.

Like hundreds of others, Acosta was detained. Officially, she says she is facing charges of “public disturbance” and “inciting crime.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A guard looks at surveillance screens at Evin Prison in Tehran. (The Justice Of Ali/AP)

The release of security camera footage from inside Iran’s notorious Evin Prison provides proof of what many already know to be true: that Iranian authorities routinely abuse prisoners and keep them in inhumane conditions. Among the scenes captured in the leaked videos are an inmate being beaten by multiple guards, another attempting to commit suicide and dozens of inmates being housed in a single room with bunk beds stacked three high. Those cramped quarters are certainly a contributing factor to the high spread of covid-19 inside Evin.

It’s difficult to predict what impact this leak might have, if any, especially since it’s still unclear who was behind it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ebrahim Raisi arrives at an election campaign rally in Eslamshahr, Iran, on June 6. (AFP/Getty Images) (-/AFP/Getty Images)

After an election that was widely, if inaccurately, discounted as meaningless even when it was underway, Ebrahim Raisi will be Iran’s next president. A cleric who was predicted to win, he was declared the winner by Iran’s Interior Ministry on Saturday, in large part because the scales were so obviously tipped in his favor that millions of ordinary Iranians decided to skip the exercise. He could be the most repressive figure to date to hold the office.

Raisi is no friend of progress, nor of the rights of the Iranian people. His most noteworthy career act was his role as a young jurist who sat on a commission that sent thousands of dissidents to their deaths without due process in 1988.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers stand guard outside the Grand Hotel in Vienna on Tuesday as Iran nuclear talks resumed there this week. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

President Biden and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both have clear reasons for wanting to return to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal as quickly as possible. But the one that should matter most to the world — the fact that it was working — is currently moot.

Iran’s internal dynamics are shifting rapidly, and that must be taken into consideration as the Biden administration attempts to revive the agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. As someone who has believed, and continues to believe, in the value of diplomatic engagement to resolve the complex geopolitical issues with Iran, in this instance, I think it’s time to slow down.…  Seguir leyendo »

A still from "Writing With Fire" by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Gosh, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. (Black Ticket Films)

A new documentary film following the courageous journalists behind India’s only all-female-run news organization provides an essential portrait of the fight for press freedom — and illustrates the lengths to which some reporters are willing to go to expose difficult truths in the face of incredible obstacles.

“Writing With Fire”, by wife-and-husband team Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, tells the story of one of the world’s most improbable newsrooms, Khabar Lahariya, an all-online news operation in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. “The reporters are all Dalit, Muslim or from other marginalized communities. It’s important that the reporting voice is of marginalized rural women, that’s the objective of the work”, Thomas tells me.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh smiles at her house in Tehran in 2013. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

This past weekend, Iran’s most prominent human rights defender, Nasrin Sotoudeh, entered the hospital because of heart and respiratory problems resulting from a nearly six-week-long hunger strike. Sotoudeh is a veteran of this extreme form of protest, but this time the circumstances are much more dire for her and other political prisoners in the country.

On Aug. 12, the 57-year-old lawyer stopped eating to protest the scandalous mistreatment of prisoners of conscience currently detained in Iran. The refusal of Iranian authorities to take any meaningful precautions to protect the health of political prisoners during the novel coronavirus pandemic dramatizes the depths of the government’s contempt for civil society and basic human rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, left, with a supporter after his release on bail from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare on Sept. 2. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2017, Robert Mugabe, the autocrat who held power in Zimbabwe since he helped it gain independence in 1980, was toppled in a coup orchestrated by his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Millions of Zimbabweans hoped for a more prosperous and free future.

“When they finally removed Mugabe from power, people were ecstatic and they gave Emmerson the benefit of the doubt,” Angela Quintal, Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me. “They were prepared to believe that he could change. Among those were people like Hopewell Chin’ono.”

Chin’ono is a journalist who recently spent several weeks in jail.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Some regimes oppress people so much that, one day, they are toppled for reasons that never occurred to them,” journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee writes in his devastating memoir, “Life in Prison,” in which he chronicles the years he spent as a political prisoner in Iran, from 2009 to 2014. Those words hold an important lesson for Iran today.

The arrest and long-term detention of prisoners of conscience is a tradition that goes back centuries in Iran — as it does everywhere. Now, mass arrests are experiencing a tragic revival, putting at risk thousands of people guilty of no other crime than protesting the Islamic Republic’s abuses of power.…  Seguir leyendo »

La misma crisis de salud global que está fomentando el resurgimiento de gobiernos autoritarios por todo el mundo, cobró la vida de tres periodistas encarcelados el mes pasado.

Mohamed Monir en Egipto, David Romero en Honduras y Azimjon Askarov en Kirguistán vinieron de diferentes lugares del mundo. Sin embargo, cada uno pasó su vida expresando su desacuerdo y crítica en lugares donde hacer eso significó un gran riesgo personal.

Sus muertes evitables reafirman el hecho de que no existe otro evento o tendencia política en memoria reciente que haya sido más destructivo para la libertad de prensa que la pandemia del COVID-19.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rappler chief executive and executive editor Maria Ressa during a news conference in Manila on Monday. (Aaron Favila/AP)

On Monday, a court in Manila convicted Filipino American journalist Maria Ressa of something called “cyber libel.” Her case will have severe ramifications for press freedom not only in South Asia but around the world.

“Today a court in the Philippines became complicit in a sinister action to silence a journalist for exposing corruption and abuse,” Amal Clooney, Ressa’s London-based lawyer, said in a statement with co-counsel Caoilfhionn Gallagher. “This conviction is an affront to the rule of law, a stark warning to the press, and a blow to democracy in the Philippines.”

Clooney also called on the U.S. government to “take action to protect their citizen and the values of their Constitution.”…  Seguir leyendo »