Watchdog Blog

Barry Sussman: Iason Athanasiadis is Released in Tehran

Posted at 11:33 am, July 5th, 2009
Barry Sussman Mug

Iason Athanasiadis, the journalist and photographer arrested in Tehran June 17th, has been released, it was reported today. He was said to have been the only non-Iranian among more than 40 journalists detained in the days of protest following the June 12th Iranian elections.

Wire accounts quoted an Iranian official as saying Athanasiadis had been arrested for activities “in connection with the recent street riots,” and that “his press card has been canceled.” He had been picked up more than two weeks earlier at a Tehran airport while awaiting a plane to leave the country.

Athanasiadis was a 2007-2008 Nieman Fellow at Harvard. Before then he had traveled widely in the Middle East and South Asia and had lived for several years in Iran. A gifted photographer, he has in his portfolio hundreds of photos describing both richness and strife in Iranian life and the beauty of the country and its people. Some of them may be viewed here, along with photos of his from elsewhere in the region.

Before his arrest, Athanasiadis had been covering the protests of the Iranian election for the Washington Times. This is from a piece dated June 16th:

Young men with gelled-back hair and knockoff sunglasses and cell phones walked alongside septuagenarian retirees wearing the Iranian proletariat’s trademark cloth trousers and baggy shirts.

Girls sporting green revolutionary chic head scarves and bandannas marched alongside matrons swathed in all-encompassing chadors from which just a single unpowdered nose peeked.

“We want a national referendum, freedom of expression and freedom,” said Zahra Hosseini, a 62-year-old homemaker wrapped in a chador who trudged along the route by herself. “There’s no going back.”

Observers said that the demonstration was the largest spontaneous public event in the history of the Islamic republic. Every Feb. 11, the anniversary of the fall of the Shah’s government, thousands of people crowd Freedom Square, but many are bused in by the regime, provided with government-made placards and led by government officials in shouting anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans.

On Monday, nothing was staged.

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