Iranian Journalist Waits For Obama

In the world of Iranian journalism, Masih Alinejad, 33, may be considered a daredevil of sorts.

  • Masih Alinejad covered the Iranian parliament as a journalist until 2005. She has been arrested for her criticism of Iranian politicians and is now in the U.S. seeking an interview with President Obama.
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    Masih Alinejad covered the Iranian parliament as a journalist until 2005. She has been arrested for her criticism of Iranian politicians and is now in the U.S. seeking an interview with President Obama.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad
  • In 2005, Alinejad reported the salaries of several deputies in parliament, revealing they had been lying about taking pay cuts. Soon after, she was banned from covering parliament.
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    In 2005, Alinejad reported the salaries of several deputies in parliament, revealing they had been lying about taking pay cuts. Soon after, she was banned from covering parliament.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad
  • In protest of Alinejad's expulsion, a major Iranian newspaper, Hambastghi (meaning "Solidarity") vowed to stop covering parliament.
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    In protest of Alinejad's expulsion, a major Iranian newspaper, Hambastghi (meaning "Solidarity") vowed to stop covering parliament.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad
  • Journalists in Iran participated in a sit-in in front of parliament after Alinejad was expelled. She was never allowed back in.
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    Journalists in Iran participated in a sit-in in front of parliament after Alinejad was expelled. She was never allowed back in.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad
  • That same year, Alinejad was verbally attacked by a conservative deputy in parliament for not fully covering her hair under her headscarf.
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    That same year, Alinejad was verbally attacked by a conservative deputy in parliament for not fully covering her hair under her headscarf.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad
  • Alinejad has interviewed prominent Iranian politicians including former President Mohammad Khatami in 2008. Around the same time, she requested to interview Barack Obama.
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    Alinejad has interviewed prominent Iranian politicians including former President Mohammad Khatami in 2008. Around the same time, she requested to interview Barack Obama.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad
  • While studying in London in 2008, Masih Alinejad was given a journalist visa to come to the U.S., with the hopes of interviewing President Obama.
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    While studying in London in 2008, Masih Alinejad was given a journalist visa to come to the U.S., with the hopes of interviewing President Obama.
    Courtesy Masih Alinejad

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In 2005, she published the salaries of top Iranian politicians, exposing that many had lied about having taken pay cuts. That same year, she got into a verbal fight with a Muslim cleric in the Iranian Parliament for not having her hair fully covered under her headscarf. A year later, she requested an interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The title of her column: "Talk To Me, Mr. Ahmadinejad, If You Dare To." He declined.

But her best stunt yet may have come last November, right after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency. Iranian journalists are not permitted by their government to interview American officials. In fact, when 11 journalists tried to come to the United States to cover the presidential elections, they were stopped by Iranian officials at the airport and their passports were confiscated.

Alinejad was not deterred. Instead, it fueled her fire. She decided she could take the chance to seek an Obama interview as she was not on Iranian soil.

While spending a year in London studying English, she wrote a letter to then-President-elect Obama requesting an interview. She was granted a journalist visa from the U.S. Embassy in London to come to the United States. But after arriving in Washington, D.C., she says she received a letter denying her request to interview the president, though she has since been told the interview request is still pending.

"In the course of the past three decades, American journalists ... have been able to interview exclusively many of the top political figures of the Islamic Republic," Alinejad said. "Why can't Iranian correspondents walk into the White House and interview the American president?"

Alinejad knows she may never get her interview and that her mere attempt might mean time in prison when she returns to Iran.

But she says, "President Obama is worth taking that risk."

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