PHOTO: Cartoonist Hadi Heidari and his image of solidarity with victims of the Islamic State’s attacks in Paris
A leading cartoonist. Hadi Heidari, has been detained in the latest crackdown by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Heidari was arrested at work at the daily newspaper Shahrvand on Monday, reportedly by the intelligence division of the Guards. One of his latest cartoons expressed sorrowful solidarity with the people of France over Islamic State’s attacks that killed 129 people last Friday.
Arrests Are Part of Regime In-Fighting
The Guards have seized journalists, businessmen, and activists in recent weeks, amid their political clashes with the Rouhani Government. Among those held are two US citizens, Iranian-American oil executive Siamak Namazi and Lebanese-American businessman Nazar Zaka.
Earlier this month, the Guards commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Iran was facing a foreign-supported “fourth sedition” and warned that Government officials were being too accommodating of the West and “liberalism”.
President Rouhani responded last week with a challenge to the detentions, accusing hardline media of acting like “secret police”: “You learn from some publications who will be arrested tomorrow, what is going to be closed down tomorrow, which individual’s reputation should be damaged.”
Last Friday’s Tehran Prayer leader hit back, “Someone who is in charge of the administration, and is the highest authority in the country after the Supreme Leader, must not deal with issues angrily, and should not speak bitingly.”
The Supreme Leader has set the rhetorical tone for the battle with a series of speeches since the July 14 nuclear deal, accusing the US of trying to use the agreement to infiltrate and undermine the Islamic Republic.
His liaison with the Guards, General Yadollah Javani, challenged Rouhani:
The Revolutionary Guards is the guardian of national interests.
The national interest has three main dimensions: security, economy and values. Should any of these fields face a serious threat, the Guards must counter the threat.
A Parliamentary deputy to President Rouhani, Majid Ansari, refused to back down:
Unfortunately, public funds from the pockets of the people are used to [finance] tens and hundreds of media [outlets] which work against the people day and night, and are working to do away with the honor and respectability of the pillars of the revolution, and social and human capital.
It would not have been surprising if the Monafeqin [the “terrorist” Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization] and media related to Israel were doing this since such a thing is their work, but sometimes, it is the revolutionary institutions who, in the name of religion and being revolutionary, commit the worst sins. Under such circumstances, we can’t expect a solution to the problems.
Cartoonist Also Imprisoned in 2009, Questioned in 2012
Heidari was detained for a few weeks amid mass protests over the disputed 2009 Presidential election, after he participated in a religious ceremony calling for the release of political prisoners.
He was also summoned for questioning in 2012 over a cartoon that showed Iranian soldiers wearing blindfolds as they entered the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. The cartoonist was accused of insulting Iranian veterans, and the Shargh newspaper was closed over the publication of the drawing.
Heidari, 38, has worked for 20 years in reformist publications such as Etemad, Bahar, Pool, Norooz, Neshat, Asr-e Azadegan, and Eghbal.
Senior Presidential Advisor: “Recession Likely to Deepen”
Presidential advisor Masoud Nili has warned about continued problems for Iran’s economy, “The recession is likely to deepen.”
Nili, the senior advisor for economic affairs, explained, “Oil revenue has drastically reduced … one must expect drastic monetary changes…and increased government debt, too, is a source of concern.”
He dampened expectations of recovery, “We must, at the very least, wait three years before we can reach 5.4% growth.”
The Iranian economy has been crippled by mismanagement, corruption, and sanctions for years. With the Government facing a large budget deficit for 2016/17, the situation has been complicated by hardline objections to implementation of the nuclear deal, upon which the removal of US and European Union sanctions rests.