Iason Athanasiadis

Iason Athanasiadis studied for an M.A. in Contemporary Iranian Studies at Tehran's School of International Relations and is currently a 2007–2008 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He spent 10 years covering the Middle East for many newspapers including the Asia Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

Recent Articles

Studying the Islamic Republic from the Inside

For just two years, a groundbreaking masters program provided a handful of foreigners with a rare insider's glimpse into Iran. Until it became a victim of Ahmadinejad's neo-isolationism.

TEHRAN -- The heat of a summer noon blankets the Iranian capital, but inside the classroom of the Institute for North American and European Studies an Iranian professor energetically explains to his mixed-sex class the concept of preventive war and how it applies to the Bush administration. "The Bush administration thinks that their opponents are not rational and so traditional methods of deterrence no longer hold," Dr. Reza Saeidabadi instructs the half-dozen students sitting around a conference table. The class is being held on the institute's brand-new campus in Tehran. "Preventive war is based on the concept that war is inevitable and that it is better to fight now while the costs are low rather than later when the costs are high. It is a deliberated decision to go to war." Despite the veneer of theory, the students know that their teacher is talking about how Washington views the Islamic Republic of Iran. The men sit in T-shirts, while the women – swathed in regulation...

The Trouble with Helping Iran's Dissidents

Iranian reform activists have a love/hate relationship with the Western NGOs that often advocate on their behalf.

A demonstrator rallies on behalf of Mostafa Moein, the reformist candidate fielded by the Khatami team in the last Iranian election. Moein, who promised to expand civil and women's rights, was defeated. (Photo by Iason Athanasiadis)
TEHRAN -- Laleh entered her small apartment for the first time after two weeks of tasting prison, interrogation, release, and partial recovery. The women's rights activist bought the third-floor flat, set just off a busy highway in eastern Tehran, a year ago, after deciding that accepting her love-hate relationship with this country was easier than abandoning it altogether. Looking out of her living room window, she listened to the evening call to prayer crackle over the loudspeakers of the mosque facing her house. Laleh had spent six of the past 14 days in the notorious Section 209 of Tehran's Evin Prison, where the Islamic Republic's political prisoners are held. She shared what she described as an electronically bugged, two-by-four meter cell with six other women activists, under the constant and disorienting glare of a fluorescent light. The only times she would leave the crowded cell -- formerly two solitary confinement chambers with the intervening wall knocked down -- was to...