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Dancing is Not a Crime and Other Stories

July 13, 2018
Weekly Roundup
3 min read
Dancing is Not a Crime and Other Stories

Iran’s longest-serving political prisoner, Abbas Amir-Entezam, died this week at the age of 85. The interim government’s spokesperson following the 1979 revolution, Amir-Entezam fell foul of the Islamic Republic regime shortly after the US embassy hostage crisis began. He faced decades of humiliation and torture, but always insisted he was innocent of the spy charges against him. He never retracted his statements against the Islamic Republic, which he viewed as tyrannical and hypocritical. I met him a couple of times in Iran, but unfortunately, never managed to interview him on camera. Amir-Entezam was gracious and humble. His fellow inmates, even those who disagreed with him politically, say that he was always respectful and forgiving. Two years ago, he visited Ayatollah Gilani (aka the hanging judge), the man who sentenced him to life in prison, when he was in the hospital. 

Amir-Entezam always wondered why the Islamic government just never learns from its own history. “I’m amazed that they don’t even recognize that it’s in their own interest to learn from the horrible things they’ve done,” Amir-Entezaem told me once. The government was at it again this week. Last Sunday, news emerged that three young women had been arrested and forced to confess for posting videos of themselves dancing on Instagram. You would think that after forty years, the government must’ve realized that controlling the population is impossible. Many Iranians responded to the news of the arrested dancers by making, posting and sharing videos of their own. 

Knowledge and education seem to be enemy number one in Iran. For Iran’s Baha’i community, this has meant a ban on their religious practice and their pursuit of higher education. My friend and a Baha’i refugee in the US, Holakou Rahmanian, recently completed his PhD at UC Santa Cruz. Holakou told my colleague Natasha Schmidt about his experiences trying to attend university in Iran, the joy of being able to study without fear in the US, and the power of diversity. Yes, Holakou could’ve made Iran great, and is one of thousands of refugees who have made America great.

Iran’s 1979 Revolution mobilized people in the hashiehs, the areas on the margins of Iran’s cities and towns. Many of the people who protested across Iran earlier this year were from the hashiehs and their shanty towns. And I think the next civic movement in Iran will involve millions of people who live in those areas. Iran’s ministry of housing says today one in four Iranian lives in unfavorable housing, and with climate change and environmental mismanagement taking an increasingly powerful toll on society, the situation looks set to continue. Our new series on the hashiehs looks at the people and provinces most badly affected, and ask what steps the government has taken to improve the issue. 

This week we also looked at the rush to buy iPhone X and other high-end smartphones. There have been lines out the doors of technology stores as people try to buy the phones in the hopes of selling them on. At the same time, some importers and merchants are exploiting the gap between the official currency rate and the open market rate. It’s further evidence that the government’s attempts to get a handle on Iran’s economy are misguided at best and disastrous at worst. And there seem to be no signs that officials are addressing corruption, which is so badly needed, particularly as the countdown to re-imposed sanctions is on. 



The Death of Iran's Longest-Serving Prisoner

July 12, 2018
Aida Ghajar
12 min read
The Death of Iran's Longest-Serving Prisoner