WASHINGTON — Marzieh Hashemi, an American citizen and journalist who has been living and working in Iran, has been detained without charge or justification by U.S. government authorities since Sunday, when she arrived at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis to visit her sick brother. However, her family was not notified until 48 hours after her detention.
Hashemi — an African-American born in New Orleans, who later converted to Islam and currently works as a journalist for the Iranian English-language news network PressTV — has since been transferred to a detention facility in Washington at the request of the FBI, according to reports from PressTV and the Associated Press. U.S. officials have yet to provide any justification for Hashemi’s detention.
Once Hashemi was allowed to speak to her family in the United States, she detailed a slew of abuses she had suffered during her detention, which were clear violations of her religious rights. For instance, Hashemi told her family that her hijab, or head covering, had been ripped off by prison guards and that she had been forced to pose for her mugshot with her hair exposed.
Furthermore, Hashemi was also only offered pork for food, even though the meat is forbidden under Islamic law. She was subsequently denied any other halal or vegetarian food after turning the pork down. Her daughter told PressTV that Hashemi has been living off of crackers since she was first detained on Sunday. Hashemi’s daughter also stated that her mother stated that she had been “shackled” and was being treated like a criminal, in spite of the fact that no charges have been filed against her.
My friend, an American journalist working for Press TV in Tehran, has been arrested amid reports of mistreatment including her hijab being ripped off and mug shot taken with her hair exposed; being given a short sleeve t-shirt to wear that denies her hijab 1/ #FreeMarziehHashemi pic.twitter.com/chrkFF4WxY
— Nargess Moballeghi (@JournoNargess) January 16, 2019
While the FBI had refused to comment on Hashemi’s arrest at the time of this article’s publication, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi vocally condemned Hashemi’s arrest, calling it “a blatant violation of human rights [that] shows the U.S. government does not adhere to any of the principles that it uses as pretexts to attack its critics.”
Qassemi continued, stating that “the abrupt arrest of a Muslim [U.S.] national and journalist and the U.S. government agents’ humiliating and inhumane behavior in abusing this lady, who is a practicing Muslim, are a clear example of behavior that an apartheid regime adopts against its non-white citizens.”
A long history of anti-Iran rhetoric
Hashemi’s arrest took place just as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was conducting his multi-nation “Anti-Iran tour” throughout the Middle East in a bid to “get Arab countries to work together to roll back Iranian influence in the region and take on the militias Iran is backing.” Pompeo’s tour comes in furtherance of the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy, which has seen it not only withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal (JPCOA), despite Iran’s compliance, but also impose draconian sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Furthermore, past and recent revelations have shown that top Trump officials, such as National Security Advisor John Bolton and Pompeo himself, have been working overtime to enact regime change in Iran, either by covert means or a “shock and awe” bombing campaign that could spark a much wider war.
This background has led some to suspect that Hashemi’s arrest was aimed at placing additional pressure on Iran’s government and the Iranian English-language network PressTV, which is affiliated with Iran’s state-funded broadcaster IRIB, as part of the Trump administration’s wider policy of aggression towards Iran. If this is the case, Hashemi’s status as a U.S. citizen shows that the Trump administration has no qualms about trampling the constitutional rights of American citizens if it furthers a foreign-policy objective.
Beyond the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy, there seem to be other hints that Hashemi’s detention is politically motivated. For instance, prominent U.S. news outlets have reported on the detention using headlines like “Iran Claims US is Holding Iranian State TV News Anchor Marzieh Hashemi” or “Iran’s State TV Channel Says Anchorwoman Held in US.” Such headlines downplay the arrest and imply that Hashemi’s detention is merely an unconfirmed claim being made by Iran’s government or its affiliates, despite the fact that the journalist’s arrest has been confirmed by her family.
These reports also deflect government responsibility for Hashemi’s unlawful detention and poor treatment by citing the fact that Iran is currently holding an estimated four American citizens on espionage charges. However, they fail to note that Hashemi’s detention without specific charges is a violation of her rights as an American citizen and is only “legal” by virtue of the controversial “indefinite detention” clause of the National Defense Authorization Act. As the American Civil Liberties Union has noted, this clause allows the president to order or approve the indefinite detention of anyone — U.S. citizen or not — if they are deemed “dangerous” by the executive branch.
The government’s failure to comment on Hashemi’s detention makes it difficult to analyze specifically what her arrest means. However, her detainment should serve as a chilling wake-up call for journalists, Muslim Americans, and all U.S. citizens.
Top Photo | Marzieh Hashemi | Aghiltohidian Wikimedia Commons
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.