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Jason Rezaian

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Jason Rezaian
Jason Rezaian in 2016
Born (1976-03-15) March 15, 1976 (age 48)
CitizenshipUnited States, Iran
EducationThe New School
EmployerThe Washington Post
SpouseYeganeh Salehi
  • Taghi Rezaian (father)
  • Mary Rezaian (mother)
WebsiteWashington Post Bio
Jason Rezaian and his wife watch a lecture on press freedom by John Kerry after Rezaian's release

Jason Rezaian (Persian: جیسون رضائیان; born on March 16, 1976) is an Iranian-American journalist who served as Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post. He was convicted of espionage in a closed-door trial in Iran in 2015.

On July 22, 2014, Iranian authorities arrested Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and took the couple into custody, accusing them of espionage. While Salehi – also a journalist – was released on October 6, Rezaian remained in custody at Evin Prison, a detention center in Tehran known for housing political prisoners and intellectuals.[1] After nine months, it was made public on April 20, 2015, that Iranian authorities had indicted him on four charges, including espionage and "propaganda against the establishment".[2] His trial began on May 26, 2015.[3] His conviction was announced on October 11, 2015. On November 22, 2015, Iranian officials said he had been sentenced to a prison term, the length of which was not disclosed.[4][5] On January 16, 2016, it was announced that he had been released.[6][7]


Rezaian was born March 15, 1976,[8] and raised in Marin County, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Wheaton Central High School in Wheaton, Illinois, in his freshman and sophomore years from 1990 to 1992, before transferring to Marin Academy in San Rafael, California, where he got his high school diploma. He holds both American and Iranian citizenship. His late father, Taghi, immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1959; and belonged to a Shia family who were caretakers of the Shia shrine in Mashhad, Iran.[9] His mother, Mary (née Breme), of Evangelical Christian heritage originally from Chicago, moved from the U.S. to Turkey following her husband's death.[10][11] Rezaian also has one brother.[12]

External videos
video icon After Words interview with Rezaian on Prisoner, February 23, 2019, C-SPAN

Rezaian had been based in Iran as a journalist since 2009. Before becoming the Post's Tehran correspondent in 2012, he wrote for other publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Monocle.[13] His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, is an Iranian citizen who is a correspondent for The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates.[14] After Salehi was arrested, her press credentials were revoked.[15]

Rezaian was the 2016 recipient of the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.[16]

Rezaian wrote a book, Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison, published in January 2019, detailing his experience in captivity in Iran.[17] He released a podcast, 544 days, in 2021.[18]

Arrest and detention[edit]

On the night of July 22, 2014, Iranian government security forces raided Rezaian's Tehran residence and arrested him and his wife. The agents reportedly confiscated laptops, books, and notes. In a separate raid that night, security forces also arrested a female photojournalist and her husband, both American citizens.[19] The Washington Post first reported news of the arrests on July 24.[14] On July 25, Tehran Justice Department head Gholam-Hossein Esmaili confirmed the arrests. Esmaili said, "We are now in the investigation phase. I think we will be able to provide more information after technical investigation and questioning." He did not say why they had been arrested. He added, "The security forces have the whole country under surveillance and control the activities of enemies. They will not permit our country to become a land where our enemies and their agents carry out their activities."[20]

The photojournalist and her husband were released within weeks,[21] while Rezaian's wife, Salehi, was released on bail on October 6.[22] Iranian authorities did not disclose Rezaian's whereabouts or welfare, nor did they reveal the circumstances surrounding the couple's arrest and subsequent detention.[23] Officials from the Iranian judiciary and Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance have reportedly told journalists that the case is "security"-related and investigating it "is dangerous".[24]

On December 7, the U.S. State Department announced Rezaian had been charged by an Iranian court with unspecified offenses. According to State, he was denied bail, he has not been allowed to speak with his attorney, and the Iranian government has repeatedly denied requests by Secretary John Kerry for consular services via the Swiss Embassy, the U.S. protecting power in Iran. In a statement, Kerry reiterated calls to release Rezaian, as well as Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Robert Levinson – three other Americans also detained in Iran as of that date.[25]

On January 15, 2015, an Iranian prosecutor told state media that Rezaian would stand trial in Iran in a Revolutionary Court on unspecified charges.[21] A few weeks later on February 1, his family announced the case would be heard by Judge Abolghassem Salavati, a controversial figure in the Iranian court system known for handing down harsh sentences (including extensive prison terms, lashings, and death) to political prisoners and those regarded as a threat to national security.[26] On March 1, after more than seven months in detainment, Rezaian was granted permission to hire a court-approved attorney.[27]

On April 20, 2015, The Washington Post reported that Iranian authorities were charging Rezaian with espionage and three other serious crimes, including "collaborating with hostile governments" and "propaganda against the establishment." The statement, issued from Tehran by his attorney Leilah Ahsan, was provided to the Post by the family of the imprisoned reporter.[2]


Rezaian's trial began on May 26, 2015 at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. The proceedings were not open to the public. According to his brother, Ali Rezaian, the Iranian government rested its accusations on two pieces of evidence: an American visa application for Jason's wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and a form letter sent to Barack Obama's 2008 White House transition team offering assistance in improving Iran-U.S. relations.[3] On October 12, The Washington Post said that Rezaian had been convicted.[28] On November 22, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said Rezaian had been "sentenced" to "prison", but did not provide further details.[29]



Six weeks before their arrests, Rezaian and Salehi were filmed for the CNN docuseries Parts Unknown, where they had discussed Iranian culture and their heritage with host Anthony Bourdain. In writing for The Washington Post, Bourdain expressed shock over the couple's detention, stating: "These are good people, much loved and admired all over the world. I am, unfortunately, growing used to seeing bad things happening to good people. But this I can’t get used to, or ever understand. This wonderful couple is a danger to no one. They are nobody’s enemy. They are without blame or malice."[30]

A column in Vatan-e-Emrooz, a Persian newspaper, has accused Rezaian of directing and distributing "Happy Iranians", a tribute video of the Pharrell Williams song "Happy", which was controversial in Iran and led to arrests of the participants. The column also alleged that Rezaian and his wife were American spies and might be acting as a liaison for the U.S.-based National Iranian American Council lobbying group. According to Agence France-Presse, such allegations were unsubstantiated.[31] In writing for The New Yorker, journalist Laura Secor asserted the "recognizably trumped-up charges" were "both patently absurd and entirely run-of-the-mill for Iran."[32]

Some sources believe the timing of the arrest and subsequent announcements of Rezaian's legal status were calculated to influence Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, in nuclear proliferation talks with the United States. The New York Times noted that Rezaizan "may be serving as a pawn" in an internal Iranian struggle between reformers like Rouhani and hard-liners.[33][34][35]

In July 2015, journalist Major Garrett made headlines when he asked President Obama during a press conference why he was "content" with the Iran Nuclear Deal that left four Americans trapped in Iran, referring to Rezaian and three others (Amir Mirza Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Robert Levinson). Obama admonished Garrett by responding, "I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am 'content' as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better. Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that creates. Suddenly, Iran realizes, 'You know what? Maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.'"[36]

Reporters Without Borders stated that, "Rezaian is the victim of a power struggle between different government factions. He is being used by a regime which, since 1979, has often exchanged foreign detainees (or those with dual nationality) for Iranian agents held in other countries." RWB also revealed that it found the evidence cited in the written indictment consisted solely of Rezaian's personal and professional emails, from which phrases had been taken out of context.[37]

Campaigns for his release[edit]

There were several international campaigns for his release. His case was a centerpiece of the Press Uncuffed campaign by Dana Priest and her students at the Philip Merrill School of Journalism at the University of Maryland in collaboration with the Committee to Protect Journalists.[38][39] Rezaian's wife and mother wore Press Uncuffed bracelets during a visit to the prison where Rezaian was being held.[39] Ali Rezaian, Jason's brother, led a Change.org petition that more than 530,000 people from around the world signed; he and a group of supporters hand delivered it to the Iranian consulate on December 3, 2015.[40]

International Government[edit]

  •  Iran: On August 6, 2014, Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Ghashghavi said the arrests were a "domestic issue and not a matter for the United States". He stated, "We do not accept dual nationalities. If a person enters Iran with an Iranian passport, that person is considered an Iranian citizen."[31]
  •  UN: On September 19, 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had directly appealed to Iranian officials to release Rezaian and his wife.[41]
  •  United States: On July 28, 2014, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "We call on the Iranian government to immediately release Mr. Rezaian and the other three individuals."[42]

United States Senate[edit]

On May 11, 2015, the United States Senate called for the release of Rezaian in a 90-0 vote.[43] There were ten senators who did not vote.[44]

(This measure has not been amended since it was introduced. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

States that it is U.S. policy that: (1) the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran should immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, and cooperate with the U.S. government to locate and return Robert Levinson; and (2) the U.S. government should undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their release.[45]


John Kerry and Jason Rezaian

On January 16, 2016, it was announced that Rezaian had been released from Iran along with three other United States prisoners in exchange of the release of seven Iranian prisoners and the drop of charges against fourteen other Iranians.[7][46] On the same day of his release, America released $1.7 billion in frozen Iranian accounts.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Detention taking 'devastating toll' on Post reporter locked up in Iran". The Washington Post. December 10, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Post reporter jailed in Iran faces 4 charges including espionage". The Washington Post. April 20, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Thomas Erdbrink (May 26, 2015). "Jason Rezaian of Washington Post Goes on Trial in Iran". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  4. ^ "Jason Rezaian convicted in secret Iran espionage trial, Washington Post says". The Guardian. October 12, 2015.
  5. ^ "Iran jails Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian". The Guardian. November 22, 2015.
  6. ^ "Jason Rezaian and 3 Other US Inmates Freed by Iran". Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Michael Pearson. "Iran free four U.S. prisoners, including Jason Rezaian, in swap". Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  8. ^ Milbank, Dana. "Imprisonment of Post reporter Jason Rezaian is a tragedy for Iran, too". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ Eshraghi, Ali Reza; Memarian, Omid (April 19, 2011). "The Persian Mohican is Gone - I'm Iranian by birth and American by choice, and I'm proud of both". Iranian.com.
  10. ^ "Journalist detained in Iran has deep ties to Bay Area". San Francisco Chronicle. August 7, 2014.
  11. ^ "Iran should free my son". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ Rezaian, Jason (February 6, 2017). "How Iranian Americans can weather Trump's assault on their heritage". The Washington Post. He watched the Beatles' British invasion on "The Ed Sullivan Show," cried with other Americans when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, started his own business — importing Persian rugs — married a girl from the evangelical Christian heartland of Illinois, and fathered two very American sons
  13. ^ "Monocle". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Post reporter, other journalists appear to have been detained in Iran". The Washington Post. July 24, 2014.
  15. ^ "The National's reporter to appear in Iran court on May 26". The National. 19 May 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Washington Post journalist jailed in Iran awarded McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage - Grady College". Grady College. 2016-02-25. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  17. ^ "'Their job is to scare me': Jason Rezaian describes first terrifying hours inside Iranian prison". Grady College. 2018-01-18. Retrieved 2018-01-21.
  18. ^ "Jason Rezaian Discuss his new podcast 544 Days | The Takeaway". WNYC Studios. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
  19. ^ "Raid Leaves Arrested Washington Post Journalist's Home 'Looking Like a Scene from Hell'". International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. July 25, 2014.
  20. ^ "Iran confirms arrest of Washington Post correspondent". AFP. July 25, 2014. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014.
  21. ^ a b "Jason Rezaian: Iran to try Washington Post reporter". BBC News. 15 January 2015.
  22. ^ Erdbrink, Thomas (6 October 2014). "Iran Frees Wife of Detained Washington Post Journalist". The New York Times.
  23. ^ "U.S. has no information on jailed Post reporter". The Washington Post. August 5, 2014.
  24. ^ "Official Silence Continues on Washington Post Reporter's Detention". International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. August 12, 2014.
  25. ^ "Charges in Iran Against U.S. Citizen Jason Rezaian". U.S. Department of State. December 7, 2014.
  26. ^ "Hard-line judge in Iran is assigned case of jailed Post reporter Jason Rezaian". The Washington Post. February 1, 2015.
  27. ^ "Iran allows lawyer for Post reporter, but not his choice". The Washington Post. March 1, 2015.
  28. ^ Erdbrink, Thomas (12 October 2015). "Amid Report of Jason Rezaian's Conviction, Iran Hints at Prisoner Exchange". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  29. ^ "US reporter Jason Rezaian 'sentenced' in Iran over spying". BBC. November 22, 2015.
  30. ^ Anthony Bourdain (August 5, 2014). "These people I interviewed in Iran clearly loved the country. So why did it put them in jail?". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  31. ^ a b "Iran says journalist arrests not a matter for US". AFP. August 6, 2014. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014.
  32. ^ Laura Secor (August 15, 2014). "Why Is Iran Detaining Jason Rezaian?". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  33. ^ New York Times editorial board (January 16, 2015). "To End an Unjust Imprisonment". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  34. ^ Haleh Esfandiari (August 14, 2014). "Jailing a Journalist to Shame Rouhani". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  35. ^ Rick Gladstone and Michael R. Gordon (January 14, 2015). "Iran Charges, and Will Try, Jason Rezaian, Washington Post Reporter". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  36. ^ Kludt, Tom (Jul 16, 2015). "Obama scolds reporter for Iran question: 'You should know better'". CNN. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  37. ^ "Call for Immediate Release of Washington Post Journalist Now on Trial". Archived from the original on 5 August 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  38. ^ "#FreeThePress: Jason Rezaian - PressUncuffed". www.cpj.org.
  39. ^ a b "Press Uncuffed Campaign Celebrates Release of Washington Post Reporter Jason Rezaian". umd.edu. 19 February 2016. Archived from the original on 3 December 2020. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  40. ^ Grove, Lloyd (3 December 2015). "Half a Million People Tell Iran: 'Free Jason Rezaian'". The Daily Beast – via www.thedailybeast.com.
  41. ^ "Ban to Iran: Free the Journalists, Political Prisoners". AFP. September 19, 2014.
  42. ^ "State Department urges Iran to release Washington Post correspondent". The Washington Post. July 28, 2014.
  43. ^ "All Bill Information (Except Text) for S.Con.Res.16 - A concurrent resolution stating the policy of the United States regarding the release of United States citizens in Iran". Congress.gov. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  44. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress - 1st Session". United States Senate. Senate.gov. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  45. ^ James, Risch (20 May 2015). "S.Con.Res.16 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): A concurrent resolution stating the policy of the United States regarding the release of United States citizens in Iran". www.congress.gov.
  46. ^ "Jason Rezaian and three other US prisoners leave Iran". BBC News. 17 January 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  47. ^ "Why has Iran imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?". The Economist. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.

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