Hengameh Shahidi, a political prisoner who was arrested in early March, is seen in this undated handout photo said to be taken in Tehran, Iran. Hengameh Shahidi's family/Handout via REUTERS
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Hengameh Shahidi knew the security agents were coming for her. An Iranian journalist and activist, she had been tipped off by contacts close to the government and prepared letters for her family to post on social media in case of her arrest, which happened on March 9 . When Iranians vote for a president in May, the election will not only decide whether pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani can remain in power, but it will also test his ability to protect his own supporters from a hard-line state.Rouhani, 68, was elected in a landslide in 2013 on a promise to reduce Iran's international isolation and increase freedoms for its people. But Rouhani's ability to deliver on his promises is limited in a country where the power of the elected government is constrained by unelected hard-line authorities.In a letter to Rouhani in mid-March, reported by the Iranian Students' News Agency, four reformist lawmakers demanded the president explain who was behind the wave of arrests.Last week, Rouhani asked the interior minister at a Cabinet meeting to look into the "suspicious arrests of a number of media activists," according to ISNA.In her letter written before her arrest, Shahidi compared the crackdown to the disputed 2009 presidential election which kept hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in office for a second term.
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