Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, Experiences Rare Unscripted Moment
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been busy since his arrival in New York for the United Nations General Assembly with interviews and speeches. He will address the General Assembly on Thursday morning. So far, he has been repeating his country’s talking points on nuclear negotiations with the six world powers, the war in Syria and the West’s newfound anxiety over the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Jaish, which Iran also considers a terrorist organization.
But Mr. Rouhani and his entourage encountered an unscripted moment on Wednesday near the end of a speech at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan, when two people in the audience suddenly held aloft photographs of political prisoners in Iran. Political dissent is an issue that has nagged at Mr. Rouhani since he was elected last year, partly because he had pledged to ease the restrictive practices of his predecessor.
One photograph showed the leaders of Iran’s dissident Green movement, who have been under house arrest for years. Another photograph showed a British-Iranian woman who had supported Mr. Rouhani’s election and moved to Tehran from London in hope that the country would be more tolerant. The woman, Ghoncheh Ghavani, 25, a lawyer, was arrested after trying to attend a men’s volleyball match in June, and she has been incarcerated since. Women are forbidden from attending such sporting events in Iran.
“She is in solitary!” one of the protesters, a friend of Ms. Ghavani who later identified himself as Ali Abdi, an Iranian-born student at Yale, yelled in Farsi and English as Mr. Rouhani and his aides exited the room. “All of us are very worried!”
Mr. Abdi told reporters who had come to hear Mr. Rouhani that “many of us who voted for him expected him to be more serious.”
Ms. Ghavani’s brother, Iman, said in an interview published Tuesday in The Guardian that he had just been informed that Ms. Ghavani had been formally charged with “propaganda against the regime.”
Do you have a question about Iran’s president and the country’s diplomatic relations? You can submit questions for New York Times reporters below.