Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking for clues

When a regime is not transparent, observers and students have to look for clues about what is going on. Thomas Erdbrink, veteran reporter for The New York Times looks for clues about Iranian politics in the arrest of journalists.

A U.S. Journalist’s Arrest Points to a Power Struggle in the Leadership of Iran
[O]n July 22, plainclothes men waving an arrest warrant signed by Iran’s judiciary forced their way into Mr. Rezaian’s apartment, taking him and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a journalist for a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, to an unknown location…

Their arrest and that of another colleague, a photographer who is a dual American-Iranian citizen like Mr. Rezaian… point to a deep-seated division between Iran’s president and the largely unelected state institutions that hold the real power in this nation.

“This is an embarrassment for the president,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, a journalist close to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani.

Iran often presents a united front to outsiders, but since the Islamic
Revolution in 1979, it has been sharply divided among different groups competing for influence. Mr. Rouhani was elected in 2013 after promising more domestic freedoms and better relations with the outside world — including with the nation’s archenemy, the United States — but he has found limited room to maneuver, checked by an alliance of hard-line clerics and commanders that has steadfastly opposed his agenda.

While Mr. Rouhani has suggested reining in the morality police, who often arrest women not covering their hair completely, his opponents have organized demonstrations demanding a crackdown on those not properly veiled. As he has called for greater personal rights, the city of Tehran, controlled by a former Revolutionary Guards commander, has started segregating men and women in municipal offices.

On the international front, Mr. Rouhani’s calls for normalizing relations with Western countries have been countered by weekly shouts of “death to America” during Friday Prayer…

Iran’s judiciary has recently been overseeing a series of arrests of local activists, journalists and Facebook users around the country, often executed by the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guards.

But for all the suspicion of foreign reporters, they are usually not the targets of such clampdowns. In Iran, accredited correspondents are free to work in the capital, though they need permission to work elsewhere in the country…

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