Mohammad-Taghi Karroubi, son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who is under house arrest, said the prisoner releases would strengthen Rouhani’s position at the UN and give him more credibility. He did not think his father or fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, also under house arrest, would be released immediately, but thought the steps taken by the government so far paved the way for their freedom.
He heralds improved diplomatic relations with the west by an exchange of letters with US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron early last month. Both Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khameini and Rouhani subsequently strike a newly conciliatory tone, seeming to signal Iran’s readiness for a fresh chapter in diplomacy.
Rouhani appoints a new Cabinet consisting of pro-reform moderates and pragmatists, naming the veteran US-educated diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif as Iran’s minister of foreign affairs. Several key officials belonging to former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s era are dismissed from posts in major ministries.
On Sept. 12, Iran’s independent House of Cinema — the main film guild, shut down under Ahmadinejad — is reopened. Students previously banned from universities because of political activity are allowed to continue their education. Formerly tight restrictions on the media are eased, with some journalists reporting on the situation of political prisoners.
Women’s rights advanced
Following the appointment of Marzieh Afkham as Iran’s first female ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson and two women as deputies to the prime minister, 24-year-old Shirin Gerami last week became the first Iranian woman to race in triathlon under the Islamic republic’s flag.
Political prisoners released
On Wednesday last week, leading human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was released from jail, along with a number of other prominent political activists. This follows the easing of the terms of the house arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, allowing them more frequent family visits.