Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi were taken from their home in western Tehran on the evening of July 22, 2014. News accounts in the U.S. at the time of his detainment emphasized that Jason, a dual national born and raised in Marin, California, was arrested as an Iranian, and that as a matter of practice the Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize dual citizenship of any kind, much less that of Americans living in Iran.
The refusal to recognize Jason as an American, of course, meant that Iran had to accept him as one of its own. He was an Iranian in the eyes of the government that imprisoned him—and finally released him on Saturday—but Jason was impossible to contain within a single label. Long before he became the American correspondent for The Washington Post, Jason lived and worked in Tehran as an Iranian, a blogger and writer, a founding member of a small and tight-knit community of young expatriates I was a part of for a few years. We were a merry band of Iranian-American scholars, freelance journalists, and occasional tourists committed to bringing the story of the “real Iran” back to the United States.
While most of us counted ourselves itinerant adventurers, always with plans of going back home to the States, Jason was different. It was clear to his friends that he did not want to go back, that Jason viewed his Iranian citizenship, granted through his late father, as both a privilege and a responsibility. The ability to travel without restriction between the United States and Iran seemingly obliged him to serve both homes, to act as a bridge between these two estranged countries, constituent parts of his identity. To do this properly, to see his project through to the end, he would have to remain in Iran.