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News | Cameraman in Iran's UN Entourage Defects; Rial Dives Deeper

by DAN GEIST

02 Oct 2012 01:28Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

HassanGolKhanban.jpgDefection of the Day

IRIB cameraman seeks U.S. asylum

Hassan Gol Khanban, a cameraman with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting who was part of Iran's 140-person entourage that came to New York for last week's U.N. General Assembly session, has defected, according to his American lawyer. Attorney Paul O'Dwyer said that his client would seek asylum in the United States.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and most of his retinue arrived in New York on Saturday, September 22, and departed this past Thursday. O'Dwyer announced Sunday night that Khanban had managed to stay behind. The Jaras website reports that the cameraman claimed to be doing some last-minute shopping in order to slip away from the delegation an hour before it was scheduled to depart its hotel in midtown Manhattan for the airport.

On Monday, in remarks reported by the Daily News, O'Dwyer said that Khanban, whom he described as Ahmadinejad's "longtime cameraman," was hiding in an "undisclosed location." In O'Dwyer's account,

The regime wanted him to do things that he didn't want to do. He was concerned that he would be perceived as not being a full supporter of the regime and that he would be targeted and punished as a result... We know fairly well when the Iranian regime is going to punish you, that means anything from being tortured or killed to having you family disappeared. He does have a family, but they have left Iran also. We're hoping to get them here.

While there has been no official comment on the defection as yet from Iran's U.N. consulate, O'Dwyer, characterizing the Iranian government as "ruthless," said, "They're obviously not happy about this."

Audio of the Day

FarsOnionScreenCap.jpg

Tehran Bureau Editor-in-Chief Kelly Golnoush Niknejad talks with The World about the Fars News Agency's mistaking an Onion parody for actual news. The conversation addresses broader issues in contemporary Iranian culture -- media consumption, humor, and the crucial role of satire.

Currency Freefall of the Day

Rial loses reported 15% of value in single day

According to the currency-tracking website Mazanex, the rial was trading at 34,200 per U.S. dollar on the Iranian open market at the end of Monday. That represents a loss of more than 15 percent in value from Sunday's rate of 29,720. The BBC reports that at one point Monday the rial fell as low as 35,000 to the dollar, an overnight drop of almost 18 percent. In the view of analyst Sebastian Usher, "The Iranian rial is in freefall." Usher notes that Monday's "collapse was so precipitous that Iranian currency websites blanked out the rate."

Monday's reported exchange rate is almost 40 percent off the open-market rate of 24,600 a week ago. (Since January, the Central Bank of Iran has maintained a fixed official rate of 12,260 rials to the dollar.) Just two years ago, on the first Monday in October, the rial traded at 10,900 per dollar on the open market. In early October 2011, the market rate was approximately 13,000 rials per dollar. For more on the impact of the declining value of Iranian currency, see The Drama of Iran's Erratic Rial.

Chart of the Day

RialChart10112.jpg

The Iranian rial's loss of value over the past ten weeks. The figures on the left represent how many rials it takes to purchase a U.S. dollar on the open market. Across the bottom are dates according to the Persian calendar: 1 Mordad 1391 (July 22, 2012) to 10 Mehr 1391 (October 1, 2012).

Quote of the Day

"Gmail's blocking was not intentional, and we never wanted to or plan to block Gmail and other Google services."

-- An unnamed Iranian official discusses the restoration of access to Google's webmail service, contradicting the declarations last week from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology that the cutoff was a deliberate response to popular outrage over the "Innocence of Muslims" video. By last report, Google's search engine remains inaccessible in Iran.

Photos of the Day

Carpet1.jpgCarpet2.jpgCarpet3.jpg

A Persian carpet measuring 25,800 square feet (2,400 square meters), reportedly the third largest in the world, unfurled at the Tehran International Fairground.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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