On October 3, Reuters reported that Russian journalist Yulia Yuzik was arrested in a Tehran hotel by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iran and Russia have a close economic relationship as a result of both countries experiencing heavy sanctions from the United States. The two nations have also become more militarily codependent, as they are both Syria’s primary allies in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Due to the close relationship between Russia and Iran, it is highly unusual for a Russian journalist to be detained by the Middle Eastern country. Additionally, Russian and Iranian sources offered conflicting reports as to the reason for her arrest.
Russian state news agency TASS reported on October 4, “according to preliminary information, [Yuzik] is accused of cooperating with Israel’s intelligence.” However, three days later, Iranian state spokesman Ali Rabiei declared that the arrest had nothing to do with “counterespionage,” but was “due to visa issues.”
Yuzik spent several years in Iran as a freelance journalist and returned to the country on a personal trip on September 29. She has written for The Moscow Times, Foreign Policy, Time magazine and other publications, and is also the author of two books.
Journalist Yulia Yuzik’s sister protesting in front of the Iranian embassy in Moscow a week after Yulia was detained in Tehran. pic.twitter.com/HvT32Mb1rW
— Jake Rudnitsky (@Rudnit) October 9, 2019
According to Yuzik’s ex-husband Boris Voitsekhovsky, her passport was confiscated by the IRGC upon arrival to Imam Khomeini International Airport about a week ago.
Voitsekhovsky told Reuters that on October 3, Yuzik told her mother that she was arrested after Iranian security officers broke into her hotel room on suspicion of being connected to Israeli intelligence.
However, on October 7, Reuters reported that an Iranian government spokesman contradicted Voitsekhovsky’s claim, stating, “Her case was a matter of visa violation and it was not related to espionage … Yuzik’s case is under quick review by Iranian authorities.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org (@NarimanGharib) October 10, 2019
On October 9, Yulia Yuzik was released after immense pressure from the Russian government and the Russian Union of Journalists. The next day, Yuzik posted on Facebook that she was home and safe, and thanked Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian Embassy in Iran.
Fortunately, Yulia Yuzik was released. However, arrests of journalists and infringement of press freedoms are far too common in Iran. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Iran has imprisoned more than 300 journalists since 1992. Others have been murdered in government custody.
CPJ also stated, “Iran’s government jails journalists, blocks websites, and maintains a climate of fear with harassment and surveillance, including of journalists’ families.”