A new era started in Iran under President Hassan Rouhani. He ran in June 2013 with the slogan “Hope and Prudence,” promising to reduce the security atmosphere which had been escalated in Iran after the 2009 protests. 2009 was also the last time I visited my homeland. As a foreign-based Iranian journalist, I have been scared of going back in the last five years. In September 2013, when President Rouhani traveled to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, he held a meeting with members of the Iranian diaspora in the United States. At that event he told us that that was our right to to visit our homeland and that his administration would work to make this happen. Then a wave of visits started. This included journalists and activists who had been afraid of returning for years. However, not everyone in power agrees with the new Iranian president. The hardliners, who control the judiciary and certain intelligence entities, are not happy about the return of critics. A few activists and journalists who had returned to Iran in recent months were arrested in the past few weeks. Hossein Nouraninejad, reformist activist, and Serajeddin Mirdamadi, reformist journalist, were the latest to be arrested. A message from the hardliners to the moderate government which essentially means: stop inviting expats. After the journalist Serajeddin Mirdamadi was arrested, I tweeted that Iranians living abroad had a right to return home without fear of being arrested. That tweet was retweeted by many, but there was one retweet which I had not expected: the president’s. It was so strange that it immediately seemed like a mistake. Here I am, an Iranian journalist living in the U.S. who has been afraid of returning to Iran for years and is voicing it out loud. A retweet does not necessarily mean an endorsement, but it definitely is an acknowledgement — recognition of an existing fear and a right that must be restored. That tweet was a wish, and it is still there. The retweet was an initial step in the right direction, but it is not enough. There are still more steps to be taken for that fear to go away so people like me can visit home.
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