One year after Iran’s election of President Hassan Rouhani—the moderate candidate who pledged to resolve Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West and bring a greater measure of social and cultural freedom to Iran—an assessment of his tenure so far yields a mixed picture. He has maintained momentum in the nuclear negotiations with the West, but has made little progress on the domestic front. In fact, in some areas of the country, repression and rights violations have increased.
Rouhani’s associates argue he must gain legitimacy through successful nuclear negotiations before he can attempt domestic reforms, especially in light of the forces in Iran anxious to demonstrate their continued strength. Skeptics say Rouhani’s mandate was always only to ease the county’s economic pain by rolling back sanctions: greater rights and freedoms at home have never been a priority—nor a possibility—for such an entrenched member of the system like Rouhani. Given this context, what are the forces arrayed for and against him, and their respective strengths?
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- Hadi Ghaemi is the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In 2008, together with a group of international human rights activists, he founded the campaign, which has become one of the leading groups reporting and documenting human rights violations in Iran and building international coalitions to defend Iranian human rights advocates. Ghaemi was a professor of physics at City University of New York until 2000. After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, he was a member of the first UN-commissioned human rights fact finding mission to Afghanistan. In 2004, he joined Human Rights Watch as the Iran and United Arab Emirates researcher. Born in Iran, Ghaemi came to the United States in 1983 as a student and received his doctorate in physics from Boston University.