Features

Women + Stadium + Satirist + Jail + Journalist + Kidnapping

October 16, 2019
Maziar Bahari
2 min read
Authorities have targeted satirists for many years, most recently Pouria Alami and Keyomars Marzban
Authorities have targeted satirists for many years, most recently Pouria Alami and Keyomars Marzban
Women were allowed into stadiums on October 10 — and Iranians went on to social media to spread the news
Women were allowed into stadiums on October 10 — and Iranians went on to social media to spread the news
Revolutionary Guards arrested Ruhollah Zam, the founder of the Amad News Telegram channel
Revolutionary Guards arrested Ruhollah Zam, the founder of the Amad News Telegram channel

News of the arrest of Ruhollah Zam, the founder of the Amad News Telegram channel, and the suggestion that Iranian officials kidnapped him, could signal a new, terrifying stage in Iran’s crackdown on journalists. “Don’t think you are safe just because you are based abroad. We can find you,” authorities seem to be saying to Iranian journalists abroad. They have used their regular tactic of forcing Zam to confess to crimes he didn’t commit, airing it on Iranian TV.

The courts also recently upheld sentences handed down to two satirists. Keyomars Marzban, who faces charges of collaborating with the United States and blasphemy, has been given a 23-year prison sentence, and told he will have to serve at least 11 years. And Shargh journalist Pouria Alami faces charges of “propaganda against the regime” in connection with a previous arrest.

Although Iranians celebrated the fact that women were allowed into stadiums last week, most of them are well aware that Iranian sport is full of corrupt officials doing shady deals. Top of the list is Mohammad Reza Davarzani, currently deputy sports minister. He’s going for the job of running one of the most lucrative sporting bodies in Iran, the volleyball federation. In fact, he’s done the job before, and a recent investigation has revealed an extensive list of financial irregularities and corrupt practices under his leadership. Dazvarani plans to change the federation’s charter, and build on his past achievements, which include enforcing Iran’s ban on athletes competing against Israelis, securing huge building contracts for the Revolutionary Guards, and targeting leading female athletes who don’t adhere to his policies. The future for Iranian sport looks bleak.

For some reason, Iran’s leaders still find reasons to be cheery. Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted about the economic opportunities for Iran once it joins the Eurasian Economic Union, and the government is pushing for a Hormuz "Peace Endeavour,” a somewhat empty call for Middle Eastern unity. Has Rouhani forgotten that Iran doesn’t have great relations with most of these countries? Certainly people could be forgiven for forgetting that Ayatollah Khamenei once issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, something Zarif was also at pains to remind the world about recently. But it’s hard to imagine the public (whether Iranian or international) will see any of these statements and platitudes as anything more than distractions at best, and shameful disinformation at worst.

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