Iason Athanasiadis was detained in Tehran on June 17 while returning from reporting on the fallout of Iran’s elections. He was working on a grant from the Pulitzer Center and reporting for the Washington Times and GlobalPost; he was also working on a longer piece for VQR. The last e-mail VQR received from him, on June 15, was typically brief—given the circumstances of his reporting. “I’m well,” he wrote. “Very intense here.” We were worried about Iason, but he lived in Iran for three years—from 2004 to 2007—and, for anyone who has met him, his love for the country is clear. (The first time we met in a café near the Library of Congress, Iason patiently showed his photographs of Iran to my chatty six-year-old son. How could I not be won over instantly?) Before preparing to leave Iran, Iason filed one last report for GlobalPost. His love for the country’s people is clear: “After three years of living in Iran and learning Persian, this was a tough story for me to cover,” he wrote. “Not only because of the difficulties thrown in the path of all foreign journalists by the circumstances, but also for the sadness with which I watched a country I have deep affection for disintegrate and turn to strife.”
Today we’ve received the hopeful news that Iason may be nearing release. This from the AP:
The head of a small right-wing party says he has received assurances that the Iranian government will soon release a Greek journalist arrested last month in Tehran. LAOS party head Giorgos Karadzaferis says Iran’s ambassador in Athens told a party official Thursday that Iason Athanasiadis, who was reporting for The Washington Times, would be freed “in the next few hours.”
Everyone at VQR lauds this decision. Iason Athanasiadis is a friend of the Iranian people and a remarkable reporter, who has done a great deal to aid cultural understanding between Iran and the English-speaking world. We eagerly await word of his safe return.