Monday, February 16, 2004

And so, after much nail-biting and repeated calls to the embassy, it seems that my Iranian visa has finally been issued, although I won't believe it until I see the stamp in my passport when I go into the office in the morning.

I plan to leave for Tehran on Tuesday and hope to blog as usual while I'm there.

It seems I'm one of the lucky ones. A number of BBC journalists, including some high profile ones, look unlikely to be allowed in.

It'll be an emotional assignment for me. One of the main reasons I want to go to cover the Iranian elections was so I can visit Kaveh's grave and meet his family. Also, it'll be the first time I've worked with Tehran Correspondent Jim Muir since that fateful day in Kifri almost one year ago.

The story itself, however, looks like being something of a damp squib. The right wing Council of Guardians has disqualified more than 2,000 reformist candidates from standing in the election. Even so, disillusionment with the reformists has meant the public's response has been muted.

The belief is that the election will be lacklustre, bordering on farcical, with the expected turnout being put as low as 15% by some commentators. If that turns out to be the case, it'll be bad news for reform-minded Iranians; conservatives may dominate the new parliament and president Muhammad Khatami will be further weakened.

You can follow some of the BBC's Iranian election coverage, including the latest analysis by Jim, here. No western journalist knows Iran better than he.

Talking of which, Jim's documentary on the death in an Iranian prison last year of the photojournalist Zahra Kazemi aired in Britain this evening -- and a compelling and measured piece of work it was too, using Kazemi's life as a prism through which to look at 30 years of Iranian history. Try and catch it if it pops up as a repeat.


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