November 16, 2018

Woman In Iconic Iran Protests Photo Has Been Identified

Screenshot from Twitter

The woman who symbolized the Iran protests in an iconic photo has been identified and reportedly been arrested twice.

Her name is Vida Mohaved, the 31-year-old mother of a 20-month-old child. During the Iran protests at the end of December, she threw off her hijab on Enghelab Street and waved it around on a stick:

According to a Facebook post from human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mohaved was arrested once after she waved around the hijab, was subsequently released and then arrested again. Her whereabouts since have been unknown.

Iran has since stated they would no longer enforce their laws requiring women to hijabs in public; typically women who fail to wear one are subjected to the equivalent of a $12 maximum fine or face two months in prison, according to AFP.

However, Sotoudeh told AFP that before women who have broken that get a chance at a trial, the police take them to a location where they are “harshly beaten up.”

“The illegal punishment they have had to bear has always been much more than what is foreseen in the law,” said Sotoudeh.

Now that Mohaved has been identified, social media has come out in support of her with hashtags of “#Where_Is_She” and “#FreeVida”:

Amesty International released a statement calling on the Iranian government to release Mohaved:

Mohaved’s act of defiance has been a source of inspiration worldwide, even going as far as resulting in the White Wednesday protests where Iranian women remove their hijabs in protest of the regime.

“Her gesture was seen as a symbol of resistance,” activist Masih Alinejad told Al-Monitor. “Her protest caught the imagination of Iranian women and men, feminists and non-feminists.”

American Jews should stand with Iran’s Protestors

Nearly two and half years ago a large segment of Ashkenazi Jewish leaders and activists in Los Angeles, New York and across the country came out in strong support of the Obama administration’s Iran Deal based on the belief that the deal would “help improve the lives of the people of Iran” who were suffering economically and help “bring about reform in Iran for average Iranians”. As a result of the deal, billions of dollars in free money and sanctions relief were given to the Iranian regime by the U.S. and Europe. Many of these Jews not only vocally supported the Iran Deal, but also labeled many of us other Jews in the country who opposed the deal, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi alike, as “warmongers” and against finding a “peaceful diplomatic solution” to the crisis with Iran.

Yet within the last two weeks with the thousands of Iranians peacefully protesting in nearly two dozen Iranian cities against their repressive Islamic regime, we have seen that the 2015 Iran Deal clearly did nothing to help the people of Iran economically nor provide them with any improvement in their daily lives. The corrupt ayatollahs in Iran who made the deal have instead spent the billions for their own personal benefit or to fund their foreign wars fought by terrorist groups. The clerics in Iran have moreover killed, beaten and imprisoned these innocent peaceful protestors who only want better economic opportunities, a free society and a democratic representative government that is answerable to them. Therefore with the current events unfolding in Iran today, the same Jews in America who supported the Iran Deal, today have a responsibility to now stand in solidarity with the people of Iran seeking regime change on their own terms in Iran.

As an Iranian American Jew I will be the first to admit that I was vehemently against the 2015 Iran Deal and whole-hardheartedly support the protestors in Iran today because my family along with thousands of other Iranian Jews experienced the anti-Semitism and pure evil of this Islamic regime in Iran which forced us to flee that country nearly four decades ago. Yet I call on the American Jewish community who has long been strong proponents of social justice causes, equality and freedom movements to support the people of Iran that today are fighting to rid themselves of an oppressive regime. During the Cold War was it not American Jewry who were among the most vocal against the tyranny of the former Soviet Union toward Jews and opponents of the Soviet Communist regime?  Were American Jews not among those who stood with Polish Solidarity union activists during their protest against the Communist Polish regime? Were American Jews not among the many that stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and his freedom movement against the apartheid system in South Africa? Did Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and other American Jewish activists not march arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Right Movement? And even today, many American Jewish congregations have even taken on the cause of “Tikkun Olam” or healing the world through their volunteerism in their own neighborhoods and to parts of Africa. Therefore it is imperative that this long and proud tradition of support for real social justice movements must continue and be carried forward by American Jews for the plight of average Iranian citizens seeking greater freedoms in their country and better economic opportunities despite the repression they have faced from their oppressive radical Islamic regime. We cannot and we must not remain silent and on the side lines while innocent men, women and even children are beaten and slaughtered in the streets of Iranian cities just for protesting against a corrupt government that has done nothing to improve their lives but instead spent their country’s wealth on funding terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

Supporting the protestors in the streets of Iran who want regime change in their country, is not merely to the ultimate benefit of America and Israel’s security, but more importantly it is the right and moral thing to do. After all do we as Jews not read the Torah every year in the book of Deuteronomy in Parashat Shoftim which states “justice, justice shall you pursue”? As a people who for millennia have faced unspeakable violence, hatred, injustice, pogroms and even genocide, we have always spoken out in every part of the world in support of those who were downtrodden and oppressed.

Today our support of the peace-loving people of Iran would be no different and essential at this juncture in time. We already have seen leaders and individuals throughout Israel voicing support for average Iranians protesting for better lives on the streets of Iran. Likewise L.A.’s Simon Wiesenthal Center recently became among the first national Jewish organizations to also voice support for the Iranian protestors. And even if the Iranian ayatollahs and military apparatus ruling Iran may claim our support for the average Iranian protesters is a part of some “great American or Zionist conspiracy” to bring down their regime, we must stand steadfast with those Iranians seeking a democratic representative government in their country. How much longer can we stand idle and not speak up while the regime in Iran not only slaughters and imprisons its own citizens, but whose leaders constantly deny the Holocaust and call for a second annihilation against our brethren living in Israel?

More importantly for Jews and non-Jews who love peace and abhor war, standing in solidarity with the people of Iran protesting today is a moral and just thing to support because it avoids unnecessary conflict between nations when the people of Iran will eventually overthrow their country’s oppressive leaders. We as American Jews, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, conservative and liberal, secular and religious, have a duty to speak with one voice for freedom and in support of those innocents in Iran who want to liberate their own country from a repressive regime. We as American Jews must today recall the gift of freedom the ancient Persian king, Cyrus the Great granted us from the bondage of Babylonian captivity and in turn stand with his descendants in Iran who today are seeking the world’s support to free themselves from their own yoke of radical Islamic bondage and oppression.

WEBCAST: Iranian American activists speak out against Iran’s brutal regime

On January 7th nearly 6,000 Iranian Americans in the Southern California area poured in the streets of Westwood Village to voice their support for Iran’s protestors. Amidst this special rally, I had the unique opportunity to chat with three of the Iranian activists on hand about their feelings regarding the recent calls for regime change in Iran and why L.A. area Iranian Americans are standing with their protesting compatriots in Iran.  The following are just brief clips of the rally I captured while reporting on this important local story…

 

 

My interview with Iranian Jewish activist Frank Nikbakht who discusses the status of religious minorities living in Iran during the recent outbreak of protests in that country…

 

Roozbeh Farahanipour is the founder of the Iranian opposition group “Marze Por Gohar” who in 1999 began a peaceful student protest movement in Iran against the Iranian regime. His voice and those of his movement were quickly shut down when he was arrested, imprisoned and nearly tortured to death. Miraculously he was aided in his escape from Iran, came to the U.S. and continued his group’s efforts to bring about regime change in Iran. The following are just brief conversations I had with Farahanipour in both English and Farsi about the latest rally in L.A. against the Iranian regime…

 

 

My interview with Iranian American activist Roxanne Ganji on why Iranian Americans came out in mass at the L.A. rally against the Iranian regime…

Standing Up for Freedom

FILE PHOTO: People rally in support of Iranian anti-government protests in Los Angeles, California, U.S. January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Monica Almeida/File Photo

For the tens of thousands of Iranian protesters who have taken to the streets across Iran to demand freedom, it’s déjà vu all over again. The last time Iran’s maltreated populace tried to break free from Islamofascism during the Green Movement in 2009, the mullah regime orchestrated a brutal crackdown with the tactical consent of the impotent West.

Almost a decade after that fateful, bloody summer, the Iranian people are still being held hostage by the same clerical regime. That’s right, President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate in name only, who proudly carries on the torch of Khomeinism.

Something has changed, however, in that a new man has entered the White House, giving protesters a fighting chance to stand tall in the face of absolute tyranny.

President Donald Trump has come down on the right side of history. Breaking with his predecessor’s appeasement policy toward Iran, Trump has firmly thrown his weight behind the people’s noble quest for freedom.

Meanwhile, the reactions of other Western governments have been at best scandalously muted, and at worst shockingly indifferent or even morally ambiguous.

The U.K.’s foreign minister, Boris Johnson, said his government “regret[s] the loss of life that has occurred,” which sounded more like condolences to a tragic accident than a clear message to a regime mowing down its own citizens. His German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, drew an equivalence between the oppressed and their oppressors when he called on “all sides” to show restraint.

Europe’s moral myopia makes America’s leadership all the more critical. We can lead the way by burying, once and for all, the destructive myth brought to life by the Obama administration, that the mullah regime is a legitimate partner. By kicking the nuclear accord back to Congress, the president has taken a critical first step.

“Hungry” is a word protesters chant over and over again to describe the Iran of today. They are hungry because they are suffering from poverty, and they are hungry for freedom. Supporters of the nuclear deal predicted that the billions of dollars released to Iran from sanctions relief would inject new life into the ailing Iranian economy and usher in an era of political reforms.

But instead of bringing food to the table, the mullahs have exported chaos and destruction to the region — funding the killing fields of Syria, supporting the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, and building precision-weapons factories in Lebanon.

As much as we may like it to, the Iranian regime is not going to fall tomorrow. What is playing out on the streets of Iran is only the beginning of a long, painful process.

Iran’s clerical tyrants have survived mass demonstrations before. If the Iranians are to stand a chance in their fight against their oppressors, America must take concrete steps to hit the regime where it hurts. Some steps we can take alone; others we must take in partnership with our allies.

The U.S. and its allies must cut off the financial bloodlines the regime uses to fund its atrocities: The Central Bank of Iran, and the personal business empire of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

What is playing out on the streets of Iran is only the beginning of a long, painful process.

We must also work with social media giants WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter and other platforms to prevent the regime from using their codes to identify and persecute activists with prolonged prison sentences or even death. It’s also important to work around the regime’s cyber-ban that cuts off Iranians from the outside world.

It is crucial to isolate Iran on the international diplomatic stage. European governments must no longer roll out the red carpet for the architects of the clerical regime in hope of lucrative business deals. And universities and media companies must no longer give Iranian officials a free pass as long as journalists, academics and activists remain in jail without due process.

In short, if Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, it must act as a normal country.

One cannot help but wonder how Iran would look today if the West, spearheaded by the Obama administration, had not been so accommodating to the Iranian regime in the summer of 2009. We need freedom-loving people everywhere to stand with the Iranian people and correct the mistakes of the past.


Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel-American think tank in Washington, D.C.

Iran Protests: This Is Not 2009

Iran is experiencing the most significant wave of protests since the riots that erupted in 2009 following the presidential election. The demonstrations began as a protest against the ongoing economic crisis, particularly the high cost of living, the collapse of pension funds, and the unemployment crisis. The public criticism was compounded by the proposed budget that President Hasan Rouhani recently submitted to the parliament (Majlis), which includes price increases, higher taxes, and a substantial reduction in the number of individuals entitled to government cash subsidies.

The protest broke out on Dec. 28 in the city of Mashhad and spread quickly throughout the country, assuming a political anti-establishment character. The protesters are no longer limiting themselves to the demand for an improvement in the economic situation and are challenging the very existence of rule by clerics. The protests have included calls against the regime, and most prominently against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose pictures have been defaced and destroyed by some of the demonstrators. Pinpoint attacks also have occurred against government institutions and security forces vehicles. In the course of the demonstrations, calls were voiced against Iranian activity outside the country, as well as the ongoing support for the Syrian regime and terrorist organizations, which has exacted a heavy financial toll and has come at the expense of attention to domestic hardships.

The first five days of demonstrations indicated a number of significant differences between the current protest movement and the disturbances of the summer of 2009. First, unlike the events of 2009, which were led by leaders of the reform movement under Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the current protests have no recognized leadership, although demonstrations in different cities may have been organized by local activists. Moreover, the protesters are not associated with either of the two major political camps in the country — the reformist camp, which supports Rouhani, or the conservative camp — and demonstrations have included calls against the reformists, who, protesters maintain, are willing to accept the political rules of the game dictated by the regime.

The protest movement poses a significant challenge to both major political movements in Iran.

The absence of a united leadership is likely to help the protest movement during the current stage of the protests, as it makes it difficult for the regime to arrest leaders in an effort to quell the protests. At the same time, this lack of a united leadership may make it difficult for the protest movement to formulate clear aims and demands.

Second, the riots of 2009 erupted against a background of claims by the reformist opposition of election fraud and assumed a distinctly political character. After the disturbances were quelled, voices within the reformist camp maintained that the protest leadership’s disregard for the economic issue, which was the top public priority in Iran, was one of the factors that resulted in the movement’s failure. The current protests, in contrast, combine a demand for improvement in the economic situation with a demand for greater political and social freedoms.

Third, the scope of the current protests differs from that of the protests of 2009. On the one hand, the overall number of protests appears to be lower than in 2009, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets. On the other hand, the current protests have a broader geographical distribution and are not limited to Tehran, and occur in parallel in a large number of cities throughout the country. The current socio-economic distribution of the demonstrators is also more diverse. In 2009, members of the urban middle class played a central role in the Green Movement demonstrations. The current protests, in comparison, are characterized by broader representation of Iranian society, including students, members of the middle class, workers, ethnolinguistic minorities, and others.

The heterogeneity could prove to be an advantage for the protesters, as it facilitates, for the first time, a coming together of different social forces. Nonetheless, it may also make it difficult to formulate common goals and may result in a vagueness surrounding the aims of the movement, which range from demands for regime change, to civil reform, to economic improvement. At this stage, it is unclear whether the calls by some demonstrators to topple the regime are representative of most of the protesters, not to mention the general public.

The Iranian regime has thus far refrained from using all the means at its disposal to put down the protests. The authorities have reinforced their security forces in the major cities in recent days, employed riot dispersal measures, and have arrested hundreds of demonstrators. Occasional use also was made of live ammunition, which resulted in more than 20 deaths. The authorities also have disrupted the country’s internet and cellular networks, which demonstrators use to relay instructions, publicize dates and times of demonstrations in city centers, and disseminate videos documenting the protests. In an unusual measure, the Iranian Minister of Communications blocked Telegram, the most popular messaging application in Iran, with tens of millions of users. According to the authorities, the app has been used for purposes of incitement, armed uprising, and relay of instructions regarding the use of Molotov cocktails against the police.

The regime appears hesitant to pursue more severe measures, particularly greater use of live ammunition, out of a desire to avoid escalating the situation and doing additional damage to its own legitimacy, as occurred in 2009. This also may stem from an assessment that the demonstrations do not yet pose a serious threat to the stability of the regime. In addition to the measures to quell the protests, the authorities, headed by Rouhani, are attempting to appease the public. In his first statement regarding the protests, the president said that the citizens of Iran have the right to protest and that their lives deserve to be improved. However, he also warned that his government would have no tolerance for damage to public property, the disruption of order, and chaos in society.

He attacked U.S. President Donald Trump, who expressed support for the demonstrators, maintaining that the man who just a few months ago referred to Iran as “a nation of terrorists” had no right to express his sympathy for the Iranians. In a Jan. 1 meeting with the heads of Iran’s parliamentary committees, Rouhani stated that the demonstrations could provide an “opportunity” to address the problems of citizens. He also expressed an understanding of the demands of the demonstrators who, he noted, had not taken to the streets only for economic reasons but rather out of a desire to expand their freedoms.

The protest movement poses a significant challenge to both major political movements in Iran. It is difficult for the reformists and supporters of Rouhani to oppose the protests unequivocally for fear of increasing the alienation of the general population. At the same time, the reformist camp fears that escalation may not only threaten the stability of the regime, of which Rouhani is a part, but also may weaken the status of the president and his primary responsibility for the controversial economic policy. While the conservative camp may have been interested in weakening the political status of the president and may have been behind the demonstrations during the initial stage of the protests, the actions of the protesters have began to oppose the very rule of the clerics, and conservatives can no longer risk undermining regime stability.

The regime appears hesitant to pursue more severe measures, particularly greater use of live ammunition, out of a desire to avoid escalating the situation.

Thus far, the protest movement does not pose an immediate threat to the stability of the Iranian regime. The scope of the demonstrations remains relatively limited, and the regime retains other methods to quell the unrest. Still, the demonstrations could expand and escalate, especially if the number of protesters killed rises. The geographical distribution of the protests also challenges the regime and could make it difficult for it to contain multiple centers of protest that are so widely distributed. A turning point could occur in the event that the regime decides to use significant force, and some of the security forces refuse to take part in efforts to quash the disturbances.

The outbreak of the protest movement once again highlights the intensity of the despair and frustration of the Iranian population and the increasing gap between the population in general and the young generation in particular on the one hand, and the institutions of the revolution on the other. Even if the Iranian authorities succeed in containing the current protests, this will not constitute a long-term solution for the regime’s failure, on the eve of the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, to formulate a relevant response to the Iranian public’s demands regarding the economy and civil freedoms. Despite some improvement in the economic situation since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the fruits of the agreement are not currently enjoyed by Iran’s citizens, particularly due to structural problems within the Iranian economy and Western companies’ ongoing reservations regarding renewing their business with Iran. The great expectations that Iranian citizens had pinned on the agreement and the lifting of sanctions have yet to be actualized, and instead have been replaced by a sense of disappointment and despair.

Responding effectively to the demands of the Iranian public requires deviating from the revolutionary dogma, encouraging foreign investment in the economy, and implementing far-reaching structural reforms within the Iranian economy that would facilitate more significant growth engines. Rouhani is well aware of the need to adapt the ideology to the current realities, to achieve economic improvement through foreign investment and structural reforms, and to carry out limited changes in certain areas, such as less Islamic enforcement and expanded civil liberties. The Iranian president may take advantage of the protests to demand more significant backing from supreme leader Khamenei for pursuit of his goals, particularly in the economic realm.

Rouhani remains limited, however, by the fact that most political centers of power, the Revolutionary Guards, and the law enforcement apparatuses are under the control of Khamenei and the conservative establishment.

If the Iranian leadership does not take advantage of the current protests to advance practical solutions that meet the demands of the public and continues to disregard the deep social and demographic processes underway in Iran, the protests are likely to intensify further, to the point of posing a genuine threat to the survival of the regime.


Raz Zimmt is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University and the Forum for Regional Thinking.

ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Symbol of Defiance

Photographer Unknown

This iconic photo is from the protests in Iran. The image of a woman holding up a white jihab was turned into digital art, and then became a social media meme. There are unconfirmed reports that the woman has been arrested and detained by the Islamic regime. The spot where she was standing in Tehran is now being laid with flowers.

‘For We Are Glorious’

Screenshot from Twitter.

An iconic photo has emerged from the protests in Iran. A young woman — fearless, determined, resolute — holds a long stick. At the end of the long stick is a white hijab. The image is so powerful it was morphed into digital art, which then became a social media meme. But it is a meme with no words, no hashtag.

Because a cry from the heart needs no hashtag.

Sadly, as I write this five days into the protests, most people probably haven’t seen the image. It hasn’t been splashed on all the front pages of the world. Indeed, at least in the beginning, much of the media ignored or downplayed the largest protests in Iran since 2009. There has been a deafening silence from leftist groups that purport to be about human rights and feminism.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. The god of leftism, President Barack Obama, set the stage when he took the side of the tyrannical dictatorship during the 2009 protests, and then, as part of the Iran deal, gave the terror-happy regime billions of dollars in cash.

The Iranians have no interest in victimhood and are throwing off the hijab with abandon.

Eight years later, faced with the agonizing cries of a people desperate for freedom and human dignity, the left is failing again. Many are trying to protect Obama’s legacy; most will do anything not to be on the same side as President Trump, who has thrown his support squarely behind the protesters.

Perhaps the larger issue is this: Iran puts in high relief the difference between real liberalism, in which principles transcend politics; and leftists, who live in fear of helping their ideological enemies and offending the victims du jour.

Linda Sarsour and her fellow travelers have sanctified this antiliberalism through endless manipulation and propaganda. In one surreal moment, she was able to convince women on the left that wearing the hijab was a symbol of “empowerment.”

But here’s the funny thing about this Persian Spring: the Iranians have no interest in victimhood and are throwing off the hijab with abandon. Day after day, the brave Persians are showing the world what real liberalism looks like.

Mesmerized by the protests, I keep thinking of a song from the new movie “The Greatest Showman.” The movie itself is an homage to non-conformity and non-victimization, but one song in particular, “This is Me,” describes the sentiment that first inspired feminism and liberalism:

We are bursting through the barricades/And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)/Yeah, that’s what we’ve become/Won’t let them break me down to dust/I know that there’s a place for us/For we are glorious.

In the film, set in the late 19th century, the song is an anthem to human dignity, respect, tolerance and a classless society where anyone can achieve greatness.

In 2018, it can be seen as an anthem to freedom, justice, individualism and the classical liberalism now reborn with the Iranian protesters.

While Sarsour has convinced the left to make victims the new dictators — she recently announced that Palestinians have a right to become terrorists — the Iranian people are done with dictatorship, terrorism (notably, the protesters shouted: “Death to Hezbollah”) and fundamentalism.

Sure, some women may choose to wear a hijab, just like women in other religions choose to dress modestly. But since 1979 Iranian women were not given this choice. They were forced to wear the hijab, as well as to accommodate the craziness of the mullahs in every aspect of their lives, or they were lashed and imprisoned. Meanwhile, Islamic clerics regularly hang gay men, even teens.

The world has watched a vibrant country be destroyed by Islamic fundamentalism, and now, the world watches a people rising up to say,  “Enough.”

Were the protesters inspired by the U.S. standing up to Islamic dictators over Jerusalem? Perhaps indirectly. Freedom has a way of sending out waves of positive energy, as we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We can mark the start of 2018 optimistic that a ray of courage has emerged from an ancient people who have, overall, a positive relationship with another ancient people — the Jews. And we can hope and pray that the evil mullahs will be gone before Purim.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author.

Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims?

For the crime of shaking hands with her lawyer, cartoonist Atena Farghadani was forced to undergo a “virginity and pregnancy test” prior to her 2015 trial in Iran on a charge of “illegitimate sexual relations.”

Commenting on her case, Said Boumedouha, deputy director at Amnesty International, said, “The Iranian judicial authorities have truly reached an outrageous low, seeking to exploit the stigma attached to sexual and gender-based violence in order to intimidate, punish or harass her.”

Seeing the waves of protests that have broken out in recent days throughout Iran, I thought of all the other Persian women who must be praying to be liberated from such insidious oppression.

Why are they not part of the #MeToo movement?

Well, for one thing, because in Iran, women pay a price for speaking up. Farghadani herself, in addition to her “illegitimate sexual relations” trial, was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in an Iranian jail because she drew cartoons that “insulted” members of Parliament.

As I wrote back in July 2015, “Farghadani is not alone. There are thousands like her languishing in Iranian prisons because they had the nerve to oppose an evil and oppressive regime. How oppressive? According to Human Rights Watch, ‘In 2014 Iran had the second highest number of executions in the world after China, and executed the largest number of juvenile offenders. The country remains one of the biggest jailers in the world of journalists, bloggers, and social media activists. ’ ”

Since then, after the 2015 nuclear deal that empowered Iran with billions in sanctions relief, the oppression has only gotten worse.

According to Amnesty International, “Iran continued to execute children in 2016,” including hanging 17-year-old Hassan Afshar because of homosexual activity. At least 49 inmates on death row were convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

In March 2016, the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee noted that in Iran “flogging was still a lawful punishment for boys and girls convicted of certain crimes” and that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) children had been subjected to electric shocks to ‘cure’ them.”

The committee also reported that “the age of marriage for girls is 13” and that “sexual intercourse with girls as young as nine lunar years was not criminalized.”

That is what evil does — it grabs more power so that it can stay in power, even if that means jailing women, hanging gays and conniving the West into releasing billions, all in the name of God.

How is all of that for motivation to run on the streets and storm the barricades of theocratic despots who treat women and children worse than slaves?

Yes, those are the same despots who suckered the West into empowering their evil regime in return for an agreement that, at best, delays a nuclear Iran by a decade.

And they’re the same despots who have been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East while remaining, according to the latest U.S. State Department report, “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

“Who knows? Iran may change,” President Barack Obama said to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times in April 2015, around the time that Atena Farghadani was being sentenced to jail for her cartoons.

Of course, at the time, Obama was eager to conclude his legacy nuclear deal, which may also explain why he stayed so quiet when protests erupted on Iranian streets in 2009. Instead of betting on the Iranian people, Obama spent his two terms in office betting on the mullahs who were oppressing those very people.

Obama was as passionate about his deal with the mullahs as he was silent about those who were hanged for being gay or women who were jailed for speaking up.

In his zeal to promote his deal, he kept making hopeful comments that all those billions in sanctions relief would help the Iranian economy and trickle down to ordinary citizens. As he told Friedman, he hoped the deal would “harness the incredible talents and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Iranian people” and empower the nonviolent forces inside Iran who’d want to “excel in science and technology and job creation and developing our people.”

Two years later, the only thing that’s trickled down to Iranian citizens is more oppression and misery. But why should that surprise us? Obama bet on evil, and evil bit him right back.

The Iranian evil includes blatant corruption. For decades, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accumulated assets of about $95 billion through an organization, Setad, that was created to help the poor but has morphed into a business juggernaut.

As detailed in a Reuters investigation:

“Khamenei’s grip on Iran’s politics and its military forces has been apparent for years. The investigation into Setad shows that there is a third dimension to his power: economic might. … Setad gives him the financial means to operate independently of parliament and the national budget.”

That is what evil does — it grabs more power so that it can stay in power, even if that means jailing women, hanging gays and conniving the West into releasing billions, all in the name of God.

It’s an unfortunate timing that this week is our annual Mensch issue, where we focus on human decency and goodness. Maybe the contrast between mensches and oppressors will spur people to launch a #ThemToo campaign, this one on behalf of desperate victims risking their lives right now on Iranian streets.

Silence from Europe to Protests in Iran is Shameful!

For the last six days massive protests have taken place throughout dozens of cities in Iran against the repressive radical Islamic regime in Iran, we have heard very little to nothing from the leaders of the major European countries or the European Union’s representatives in support of the protestors. There has been silence from Europe’s leaders instead of speaking out in support of average Iranians seeking freedom, human rights and a democratic government for their country. The silence from Europe’s leaders is almost deafening and speaking volumes that the European Union countries are siding with the ayatollahs that are cracking down on the peaceful protestors after more than 20 have been killed, hundreds injured and hundreds more arrested! However when one looks at the numerous economic advantages and billions of dollars in trade the European nations enjoy with the current regime of the ayatollahs in Iran, it is indeed no surprise they would not wish to bite the hand that feeds them.

(EU’s representative Mogherini joyfully smiling with Iran’s foreign minister Zarif during her 2017 trade trip to Iran)

Ever since the late 1980s until today the vast majority of European countries have enjoyed robust trade and economic ties with Iran under the ayatollah’s rule. Europe has also benefited from buying cheaper Iranian oil than from the Arab countries. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, the U.S. sanctioned Iran and refused to either sell any goods to the regime nor buy its commodities. This is where the Europeans gladly stepped in to sell their commercial aircraft, machinery, appliances, electronics and other commodities to the Iranian market. The European Union has repeatedly looked the other way when Iran has had one of the world’s worse human rights records and the second highest execution rates in the world behind China. In recent years the European Union begrudgingly accepted to place sanctions on Iran only when it was exposed the regime had a covert nuclear weapons program. Yet in 2015 European countries and the former Obama administration rushed to put together up a ridiculous “Iran Nuclear Deal” which paved the path for the Iranian regime to eventually get nuclear weapons in only a decade. Why would the Europeans come to such an insane agreement you ask? The answer is very simple…money! The Europeans wanted the billions of dollars from the Iranian regime’s state-owned or semi-state owned businesses to continue buy their goods and services. They would prefer to enjoy economic growth from a tyrannical dictatorial regime than to stop such a regime from potentially gaining weapons of mass destruction.

Just within the last year alone we have seen countless foreign ministers and business leaders from the European countries travel to Iran to secure billion dollar contracts for everything from industrial factories, to renovation of Iran’s oil infrastructure, to new commercial aircrafts and other goods. Many of the Iranian companies signing the deals with the European companies have been either state-owned, semi-state owned or privately owned by the ruling ayatollahs in Iran or members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In essence, the clerics as well as the military elite in Iran that are in charge and who have oppressed the Iranian populations, have solely benefited from the business they have done with Europe. Perhaps most shameful has been the European Union’s Federica Mogherini, the representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU who within the last two years has traveled to Iran many times smiling for the cameras and giving her “official seal of approval” through handshakes with the Iranian regime’s officials. What is even more ridiculous has been Mogherini even wearing the traditional Islamic headscarf during her visits to Iran so as to “not offend” the ayatollahs she has come to do business with! Shamefully Mogherini and Europe’s other leaders have not blinked an eye or even raised the issue of basic freedoms being denied average people in Iran or the regime’s crack down on journalists and voices of opposition in the country. They have shamefully collaborated with the regime’s clerics purely for their own economic advantage. And so today as innocent protestors in Iran are suffering crackdowns by the Iranian regime, the European Union again remains silent about the plight and struggle of the protestors for true regime change.

(EU’s representative Mogherini meeting with Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani in Iran during her 2017 visit).

What is perhaps most shameful about the European support for the current Iranian regime is the fact that Europe has endured in the 20th century both the horrific oppression of Nazism and Communism. The Europeans know very well the horror of living in a totalitarian state where they have no voice, no freedom, no economic advancement to improve their lives and have also lived in constant fear that the state’s secret police could arrest them at any moment for any reason without due process of law. The Europeans have experienced living under tyrants and being beaten, arrested and even executed for raising any voices of opposition to those ruling them with an iron fist. Therefore it is truly shameful that the European leaders and people of Europe, who had similar experiences to Iranians today, have failed to publicly and vocally condemn the Iranian clerical tyrants who are having innocent people arrested, beaten and killed in Iran!

Likewise what is hypocritical about the European Union’s lack of support for protestors in Iran today is the fact that they have the audacity to criticize and lecture Israel day in and day out about supposed “human rights” violations against the Palestinians. Yet we do not hear a peep out of these same European leaders when it comes to the Iranian regime’s past human rights violations against the people of Iran nor the regime’s crackdown on the protestors in the streets of Iran today! Again they say nothing to the Iranian ayatollahs because CASH is king and as long as they can do business with the ayatollahs and the IRGC in Iran, Europe will always remain loyal to the hand that feeds them instead of standing up for what is right for humanity. In the end, history has shown time and time again that no dictatorial regime can survive forever and must eventual crumble for many reasons… this same fate is slowly but surely coming true for the Islamic Republic of Iran! When the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran eventually collapses, history will not be kind to the people of Europe nor their leaders who sat on the sidelines quietly instead of supporting the innocent people of Iran protesting in the streets for a democratic government and real freedom.

Nikki Haley: We Will Be Calling for an Emergency Session Over Iran Protests

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, voiced her support for the protesters in Iran on Tuesday and added that the United States will be calling for a United Nations emergency session on the matter.

Speaking at a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Haley praised the protesters for standing up to the “oppression of their own government.”

“It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government, especially when their government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth,” said Haley, “so we applaud the tremendous courage of the Iranian people.”

Haley pointed out that the Iranian regime has blocked off social media in an attempt to silence their protests, so Haley shared some of the messages from the protesters, which included:

·      “Political prisoners must be freed!”

·      “Let go of Syria, think of us!”

·      “We will die, but we’ll take Iran back!”

Haley called the Iranian regime’s spin that the protests were manufactured by Iran’s enemies “complete nonsense.”

“The demonstrations are completely spontaneous,” said Haley. “They are virtually in every city in Iran. This is the precise picture of a long-oppressed people rising up against their dictators.”

Haley called for the U.N. to “speak out” against the Iranian regime for murdering and jailing numerous protesters.

“In the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session, both here in New York and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva,” said Haley. “We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause.”

Haley’s full speech can be seen below:

The protests in Iran against the mullahs in Tehran have been going for several days and have permeated throughout the country. Around 20 protesters have been murdered by the Iranian regime and over 450 have been arrested. The regime is also shutting down schools in response to the protests.

Protests in Iran show Iranian regime’s anti-Israel indoctrination failed

For the last three days while the mainstream news media in the U.S. and Europe have largely ignored the massive protests throughout dozens of cities in Iran against the repressive radical Islamic regime in Iran, many of us journalists and activists of Iranian background outside of the country have been closely monitoring video footage posted by our compatriots on social media sites. While foolish pundits and apologists for the Iran regime living in the U.S. as well as former Obama administration officials claim the protests are motivated by economic problems, they have failed to see the bigger picture in the Iranian civil unrest. No doubt the poor economic situation is an aspect for the civil unrest in Iran, but more importantly the vast populations of the country are tired of the repressive nature of the Iranian regime and want regime change. Their own chants during these latest protests speak volumes about their motivations and the failure of the Iranian regime to indoctrinate them with hate for Israel and America.

The protestors in nearly every single Iranian city have been marching and shouting their own slogans; “Death to Khamenei!”, “Death to the dictator!”, “Death to the thief!”, “Death to IRGC!”, “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, We Will Give Our Lives to Iran!”. Other protestors called on the Iranian regime to leave the armed conflict in Syria and to focus on domestic problems when shouting slogans such as: “Leave Syria, think of us!” and for the Iranian supreme leader to “take notice of us and step down from power”. Posters of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei were also burned or torn down by protestors throughout countless cities in Iran as a clear sign that he is their true enemy and not Israel or America.

(Protestors in Iran burning the supreme leader’s poster).

 

After 39 years of spewing anti-Israel slogans to nearly two generations of their population through the educational system, through media outlets, in public events and even through vile Holocaust denial cartoon competitions in Iran, the protests in the country during the past few days have turned on the ayatollahs who have been feeding the Iranian public this message of hate. No doubt there may be many who believe the disturbing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages of the Iranian regime. But it seems as if the younger generation of Iranians who make up majority of the protestors, have rejected the message of hate for the ayatollahs. The protestors have had it with the oppressive nature of the regime that prohibits their free speech, their freedom to express themselves and a chance for having better lives. They are fed up with the ayatollahs spending billions of dollars of the nation’s oil revenues in funding terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas or spending their treasure to prop up the failed regime of Assad in Syria. These protestors are fed up with being ruled by an evil dictatorship headed by Khamenei who has repeatedly failed to address their grievances but instead use Israel and America as a scapegoat for the regime’s failures to improve people’s lives. Well it seems as if the majority of Iranians are now speaking loud and clear that their real enemies are Khamenei, the terrorist group Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Basiji militia forces and the other radical Islamic clerics that have made their lives utterly unbearable in Iran.

Despite the constant bombardment and media manipulation of messages against Israel and America, the ayatollahs and their cohorts have failed miserably in directing the people of Iran and the youth of Iran against both nations. Instead the people of Iran’s anger and hatred has reached a boiling point and now been correctly directed towards the ayatollahs and their demonic regime that have made their lives a living hell for nearly four decades. What gives one hope is that the new generation of Iranians protesting in the streets today is perhaps a tolerant people who only seek better lives for themselves and not the annihilation of any other people.

(Student protestors at the University of Tehran on December 30, 2017 protesting the Iranian regime).

The Iranian ayatollahs’ greatest fear has been the people of Iran one day rising up against them and the regime that has done everything from executing, imprisoning and torturing voices of opposition in the country to censoring all freedom of expression in Iran. In my humble opinion the Ayatollahs’ nightmares are now slowly becoming a reality because the people of Iran protesting in the streets during the last three days have told the world through actions that their true oppressors are those heading the Iranian regime and not Israel nor America. Time will tell how long the protests will continue and if they are fruitful in ultimately removing this evil Islamic regime. What we do know is that this regime has lost whatever limited credibility it had with the majority of Iran’s population and its days of retaining power in Iran are rapidly coming to an end.

(Video footage of protestors in Iran tearing down the Supreme Leader’s poster).

10 Questions You Want Answered About the Recent Iran Protests…

During the last three days I have received countless emails and messages from American non-Iranian friends who are interested in learning about the recent unrest and protestors in Iran. In an effort to educate average Americans who may be rusty on Iran affairs and seek the truth surrounding the protests, I offer the following 10 quick questions and answers. These are my personal views, based on my own knowledge of these events transpiring in Iran and my own journalistic experience in covering the Iranian regime since 2000. Other Iran experts may disagree with assessments below and I respect their views and perspectives as well…

 

Who are the protestors in Iran and what do they want?

The protestors are the average citizens of Iran, young and old who are utterly fed up with their lack of jobs, high cost of food, lack of personal freedoms, rampant corruption of the Iranian regime’s ayatollahs and their cohorts. They are very angry that the regime has spent billions on funding foreign wars and terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen instead of improving their lives at home. They are protesting to have regime change in Iran because life has become totally unbearable in their own country and the ruling clerics have done nothing to help improve their lives. These protestors want a free and democratic society instead of being ruled by the theocratic dictatorship of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They are tearing down posters of him and chanting for his death and the death of other clerics that have been ruling Iran with an iron fist for 39 years. The protestors also want better economic opportunities and a free market economy in Iran where they can feed their families and enjoy a high quality of life. They want a new free government that is accountable to them and offering them something better than the misery they have had endure for nearly four decades under the Islamic regime in Iran.

Who is organizing these opposition protests?

There is no single Iranian opposition group or groups that are specifically organizing these protests. These protests are 100% organic, grassroots, spontaneous and from average people in Iran fed up with their current poor living situation and coming out to voice their grievances against the regime. Different Iranian opposition groups living outside of Iran have recently taken credit for these protests within Iran, but in reality they have and had nothing to do with these protestors.

Can the protestors really have success in ultimately bringing  down the current regime in Iran?

No one can say for sure right now because the protests are still in their early stages. However if the momentum continues on the streets in Iran with more people partaking in civil disobedience and bringing the country to a halt, things may start moving against the current ayatollah regime in Iran. Yet it is also important to mention that the people of Iran need the support of the American public, American elected officials as well as from other western democratic governments to pressure the Iranian regime and for them to gain more momentum in their efforts to unseat the ayatollahs in power in Iran.

How widespread are the protests in Iran against the regime during the last three days?

Thousands of people in dozens of Iranian cities have come out day and night to largely peacefully protest the regime. Some regime police motorcycles and vans have been set ablaze by the protestors and protestors have burned or torn down posters of the supreme leader in several cities.

What has the regime done to crack down on the protests?

In Tehran and other cities, the regime has sent in their armed thugs or police to beat, shoot and arrest hundreds of protestors. The regime has also used tear gas and water cannons against protestors in the streets to break up the protests. There are reports from people in Iran that the regime has slowed down or stopped internet access in many cities to prevent people from organizing protest, meeting to protest as well as to stop video footage being sent out of the country showing the widespread protests. Likewise many protestors have received threatening text messages on their phones from the regime warning them not to join the protests or face dire consequences.

Will the ayatollahs give up power easily  to the people if the protests and civil disobedience continue?

Most likely not. Based on my own knowledge of how this regime has operated for 39 years, the ayatollahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in power in Iran will not give up control of the country without a lot of bloodshed and without a fight. This regime in Iran and their cohorts have killed hundreds of thousands of voices of opposition to their reign of terror in the country and those voices of opposition outside the country without any hesitation. If one looks at the Islamic clerics’ long history in Iran, they have been yearning and fighting for power and wealth in the country for nearly four centuries in Iran. Then after gaining this power and wealth since 1979, they will not allow anything or anyone to stop them from sucking the national wealth of the nation like parasites.

 Does President Donald Trump’s messages and other elected officials messages on social media really help the people of Iran?

Yes. The president’s messages on Twitter and those from other U.S. elected officials offer moral  support and encouragement to those protestors in Iran to continue with their struggle to overthrown the current regime. Undoubtedly when the greatest democracy and only superpower in the free world is behind them, they feel stronger to move forward with their movement for freedom. In the late 1980s the late President Regan offered words of moral support to the people of Poland and East Germany trying to overthrow the oppressive communist dictatorships ruling them. His words helped the European protestors and they were ultimately successful in riding themselves of their communist rulers. This is also true today with President Trump speaking out quickly and vocally in support of protestors seeking democracy in Iran. In 2009 former President Obama was largely silent on speaking out in support of the protestors and not quick to denounce the ayatollahs for cracking down on protestors in Iran. As a result the people of Iran lost hope to continue their efforts and their protests were brutally crushed by the ayatollahs in Iran. To the Iranian protestor’s disappointment, they chanted in the streets; “Obama you are either with them or with us”. Ultimately with Obama remaining silent to their calls for support, they were crushed by the regime.

How are these protests today in Iran different from the 2009 election protests?

The protests in 2009 in Iran were primarily in response to the fraudulent outcome of the elections in that country. Those protests were organized by the “Green Movement” or Iranian government “reform” leaders that were seeking to “fix” Iran and to supposedly allow people certain freedoms and better economic conditions under the current Islamic regime. Those protests were quickly quashed by the Iranian regime because the Obama administration did not stand with the people of Iran but instead wanted to curry favor with the Iranian ayatollahs in power in order to “engage them in diplomatic dialogue”. The leaders of the Green Movement were arrested and voices of opposition to the election were beaten, tortured, killed or arrested. The current protests have nothing do with the elections or the Green Movement, they are purely spontaneous protests from average Iranians who are totally fed up with the regime ruling them, hate the ayatollahs’ corruption and want complete regime change in Iran. Likewise it seems as if the current Trump administration is backing the current Iranian protestors.

Why haven’t the mainstream U.S. and European news media not given extensive coverage to these protests?

I honestly do not know the answer. However as an Iranian American journalist who witnessed the ridiculously positive news media coverage in America and Europe of the Obama 2015 Iran Deal, it was evident that many news media outlets were their blind, naïve or just plain lazy about honestly giving real criticism of the deal’s serious shortcomings. The majority of the news media outlets did not question nor challenge the Obama administration’s unsubstantiated claims that the Iran Deal would “supposedly open up Iran and bring economic relief to its people” or “bring Iran back to the family of normalized nations” or “create more freedom for the people of Iran”. Now for the mainstream news media to honestly cover the protests in Iran today would make the media outlets look like true incompetents since the protest prove that the Iran people’s lives did not get better as a result of the Iran Deal and the deal only enriched the ruling ayatollahs in Iran instead of benefiting Iran’s population.

If there is ultimate regime change in Iran towards a true democracy, will the Iranian society support America and the West?

Yes indeed, if and only if the radical Islamic regime and the military apparatus that is enforcing their rule in Iran is totally dismantled or uprooted in Iran. Close to 70% of Iran’s population is under the age of 35, highly educated, pro-Western and have long voiced support for America and Americans. These young Iranians are social media savvy and have seen the benefits of free societies and democracies for people in America and the West. They no doubt want the same benefits for themselves in Iran. The people of Iran, unlike the clerics who rule Iran, are generally very friendly and hospitable people. They harbor no hatred or ill will towards any group. There is no doubt that after nearly four decades of living in misery, poor economic conditions and lack of freedoms, this new generation of people in Iran is hungry for real democracy in their country.