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New Statesman writer arrested in Iran

Journalist and broadcaster Maziar Bahari detained following the regime's crackdown in Tehran.

Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek reporter who contributed several articles to the New Statesman's special report on Iran last year, has been arrested without charge and detained in Tehran. The 41-year-old journalist and filmmaker was arrested on Sunday morning by security officers at his apartment in the Iranian capital. The officers also seized his laptop and several of his films. Bahari, who has reported from Iran since 1998, has not been heard from since.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said that 23 Iranian journalists and bloggers had been arrested since protests over the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a week ago. It added that reporters remained a "priority target" for the Iranian government.

The arrest of Bahari,who holds dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship, followed the regime's violent crackdown on Saturday which left at least 10 people dead and over 100 injured. Protesters chanted “death to Khamenei”, after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, branded the demonstrations illegal and supported Ahmadinejad's re-election. The daughter of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president, and five of his other relatives were also arrested, although they have since been released.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have protested in the past week over allegations of vote-rigging, in the largest demonstrations since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Bahari has made more than 10 documentary films including The Fall of a Shah, a history of the Islamic revolution; Football, Iranian style and An Iranian Odyssey, on the 1953 CIA coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq.

The Harvard Film Institute said of his work: "Bahari’s films provide a glimpse inside contemporary Iranian culture as they reveal the human element behind the headlines and capture cultural truths through the lens of individual experience. Representing a new generation of young Iranian filmmakers, Bahari’s trenchant looks at social issues in his country have brought both controversy and international acclaim."

Speaking on Sunday night, his mother said: "I just want Maziar to come home, I just want my son back."

Bahari's articles

11 September 2008: Inside Iran

11 September 2008: "The shah's plan was to build bombs"

08 November 2007: "We know where you live"

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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David Cameron's starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the governmen dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up t o£250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it. and reduce the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.