Democratic Senators Ben Cardin and Republican Pat Toomey introduced legislation on Dec. 2, 2021 that would propose sanctions be placed on the Islamic Republic over the foiled plot to kidnap Iranian-American journalist and women’s rights activist, Masih Alinejad.

Both senators said their legislation would seek to hold Tehran accountable for a plot to kidnap Alinejad. They also said it would help prevent any other attempted kidnapping on U.S. soil by foreign adversaries.

“If you dare to attempt to come to our nation and kidnap an American citizen, there will be dire consequences,” Cardin said at the news conference. 

The lawmakers added they will do everything possible to have the bill passed and sent the desk of President Biden to sign it into law. 

The current path of the proposed bill is unclear, according to a report by Reuters, though Toomey offered some optimism.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” Toomey said at the news conference. 

The Department of Justice charged four Iranian nationals in July with conducting a plot to kidnap the Brooklyn-based Alinejad for publishing material that was critical of the country’s government. 

In a statement, the Department of Treasury said in September that the four Iranian intelligence operatives will be sanctioned for their failed plot attempt, Reuters reported. 

“I was honored to join @senatorCardin and @SenToomey as they introduced the bipartisan “Masih Alinejad Harassment and Unlawful Targeting Act,” Alienjad wrote in a tweet on Thursday. “More senators are lining up to support. It’s time to punish Islamic Republic terrorism and threats against journalists and activists.”

Two years after the Islamic Republic brutally cracked down on peaceful protests in November 2019, killing more than 1500 people, according to Reuters, the families of the victims are now facing pressure from the regime to stop speaking out about the death of their loved ones.

Mother of Amirhossein Zarezadeh, a 19 year old boy who was killed in November, reported how 50 security agents turned up at an event held on Nov. 18, to commemorate her son’s death. She said she would not be intimidated to keep silent.

 “I will write everything on a banner,” she said during a livestream on Instagram. “I will write that Khamenei is responsible for the murder of our children.” 

During the livestream, she said the security forces followed the family’s car after the event.

Mother of Amirhossein Zarezaded said that Khamanei is responsible for death of her son

There was also a show of heavy presence of police and security forces in another mourning ceremony held on November 18 in Malat village, in the Gilan province in north of Iran, for Pejman Gholipour, an 18 year old boy killed by five bullets. In a video of the event, Mahboubeh Ramazani, mother of Pejman, cries on her son’s grave: “God, they say heaven shakes when a mother cries. I have been crying for two years. Why have you forsaken me?”

Mahboubeh Ramazani at the grave of her son, Pejman Gholipour, an 18 year killed by five bullets in November 2019

Many mourners showed up at the event despite the heavy police presence, according to the person who recorded this video.

“They arrested people and confiscated phones,” he said.  “They closed the roads in and out of the village. Agents were present in numbers and no one dared to record. I sent this video to a family member as soon as I recorded it in case an agent forced me to delete it, which was actually what happened. I later recovered it from my family.”

Mahboubeh and her family were temporarily detained by the security forces. Although they were later released, their cell phones were confiscated.

Mahnaz Karimi, mother of Vahid Damvar who was killed by a bullet in the back of his neck, said that an agent was posted in front of their house a week before the anniversary of his son’s death. The security agents secretly took down a large photograph of Vahid that was hung like a banner from the side of the house when the family was not at home, accessing their roof by going through their neighbor’s house.

“They don’t want us to even hang their pictures. They are afraid of the dead,” Karimi said in a livestream on Instagram with Masih Alinehjad. On the day of the anniversary, the security agents video recorded those present at her son’s grave site, to intimidate the attendees. The agents also frisked Karimi and other members of her family and confiscated their cell phones to stop them from recording the ceremony.

Morteza Damvar, father of Vahid Damvar, says the security agents took away banners hung from their house

Since 2019, a group of more than 20 mothers, whose children were killed in the protests of November 2019, have found each other. Initially they were “Mourning Mothers” who found comfort and solace in each other but now they are “Mothers for Justice” who support each other and  wear a dark blue ribbon around their wrist as a symbol of their demand for justice.

Sakineh Ahmadi, mother of Ebrahim Ketabdar who was shot dead in front of his store, said the security agents forcefully cut the blue ribbon from her wrist. Mahboubeh Ramazani and Mahnaz Karimi have also reported the same harassment by the security agents. One agent told Karimi that he will put the ribbon in her file as evidence of her “crime”. 

“I am not afraid of prison. I am not afraid of death,” she responded.

Sevda, six years old daughter of Ebrahim Ketabdar, has tied a dark blue ribbon around her wrist as a symbol of her demand for justice

Islamic Republic has banned families from talking to the media based outside the country. Those who do,  face arrest and prison. Manouchehr Bakhtiari, father of Pouya Bakhtiari,  Mohsen Ghanavati, brother of Mohammad Hossein Ghanavati, Badrieh Hamidavi, mother of Ali Tamimi are all in prison for this “crime.” Other families were told if they give interviews to the media outside Iran “their other children might die in an accident or another incident.” 

author avatar image

By Elnaz Sarbar

Elnaz Sarbar is a women’s rights activist based in California


In Iran, women are sentenced to long prison terms only for taking off their veils for a short time. Iranian women also get their faces disfigured for the same reason. Journalist Suzanne Gottfarb writes about those who risk their lives because they turn out to be bareheaded.

Suzanne Gottfarb

Yasman Ariani, 16 years in prison.

Monireh Arabshali, 16 years in prison.

Mojgan Keshavarz, 5.5 years in prison.

Rahele Ahmadi, 4.5 years in prison.

Saba Kordafshar, 24 years in prison.

These are some of the women imprisoned in Iran. Their only crime is that they have filmed themselves bareheaded and sent their videos to the exile and journalist Masih Alinejad, who has made it their life’s work to be the voice of these women. Masih, who has more than five million followers on social media, publishes these videos in his TV show “Tablet – voice of America”.

In Iran, Masih was a political journalist but asked so oppositional questions that she was eventually forced to leave her homeland. In 2014, she started the protest movement My Stolen Freedom in New York, followed by White Wednesday, My camera is my weapon and most recently Men in hijab, where men dressed in hijab stand next to their bareheaded wives, sisters and mothers. It started with Masih photoshopping a picture of Iran’s foreign minister wearing a hijab. That image received an incredible 13 million views.

In other words, Masih has become a nail in the coffin of the regime and a factor of power to be reckoned with. The chairman of the Revolutionary Court has, in his own high person, felt compelled to go out on Iranian state television to warn women. Anyone who takes off his veil and sends his videos to Masih risks imprisonment for between one and ten years.

About this, the Swedish-Iranian filmmaker Nahid Persson has made a documentary, “Hear my voice – the revolution of the veil”, which is available on Svt.play and is sold to several countries.

“More and more people are being imprisoned, more and more people are being executed in Iran,” says Nahid, who herself fled to Sweden from Iran after the revolution in 1979, when her two younger brothers, aged 15 and 17, were imprisoned. The 17-year-old brother was executed.

– The regime in Iran is no better than IS. They oppress, kidnap, mutilate, whip, imprison and execute their own citizens. This is the most political film I’ve made.

Women in Iran are also attacked with acid. The young and radiantly beautiful Masoumeh Atai is now blind with a disfigured face.

– I have twelve videos from women who have been subjected to acid attacks, Masih says on the phone from New York.

– Some have been attacked by strangers on the street because they did not wear the hijab. In other cases, it is family members who, because of divorce and the like, have punished them in this brutal way. The most horrible thing is that men who throw acid go free, while women are sentenced to long prison terms just because they claim their human right to rule over their own bodies.

In Iran, gender apartheid prevails . You are oppressed only by being born a woman. A woman is not allowed to dress as she pleases, not to sing or dance, not to cycle, swim or play football. Because of his activities, Masih receives daily death threats. Iranian men threaten to throw acid in her face, to skin her, to slaughter her.

And the regime has put a price on her obsessive-compulsive disorder, where the large curly hair adorned with a flower has become a symbol of women’s freedom. Her autobiography consistently bears the title “The wind in my hair”. Now Masih’s older brother Ali has also been sentenced to eight years in prison.

– They tried to get him to lure me to Turkey, where I would be taken on to Iran to stand trial, she says, but he refused. Instead, he warned me. That’s his only crime. He is not politically active in any way. He has two small children. They are holding him hostage to keep me quiet.

Masih gets overwhelmed by videos. From International Women’s Day on March 8, bareheaded women can be seen handing out flowers in the subway. Several of them are now in prison.

A mother shouts out in despair after her daughter received a long sentence: “Women who take off their veils spend their best years in prison,” she shouts. “Why are you silent around the world?” Because of this video, she herself was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.

But during Sweden’s only hijab demonstration, Swedish feminists in 2013, led by Gudrun Schyman – then spokesperson for the Feminist Initiative – instead put on veils and demonstrated for the right to wear the hijab without being harassed.

– The world is truly upside down, says Nahid Persson. Of course I am for religious freedom. Adult women get to decide for themselves. But I believe that the hijab is an oppressive garment, which, for example, should not be allowed for minors in schools.

Men in Iran are freer but only as long as they do not oppose themselves. Inside a prison, Kurdish Shahram Akmadi films with a smuggled mobile phone. He is sentenced to death for “warfare against God.” His brother has already been executed. And in December last year, Nahid’s good friend, the journalist Ruhollah Zam, was hanged, publishing news critical of the regime from his platform in Paris.

– He was tricked into going to Iraq, where he was kidnapped, Nahid says. That he was the son of a mullah did not save his life.

Right now, the Swedish-Iranian researcher Ahmadreza Djalali is also in solitary confinement in Iran after a death sentence for alleged espionage.

– Djalali’s mother has also contacted me and asked me to be her voice, Masih says.

– Iran calls the United States the great Satan and Israel the little Satan. But it is not them but us, the Iranian women, who are the enemies of the regime. Change must come from the people. Not from us activists. A flower does not make a garden. But if everyone sows a seed, the world will be full of flowers.

Author and journalist.

SVENKA DAGBLADET

Promoting the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran should be a pillar of any U.S. national security strategy.

by Masih Alinejad

Outside of the United States, few peoples in the world are more impacted by the results of the U.S. presidential election than the citizens of Iran. President Donald Trump has subjected Iranians to the most punishing sanctions regime in the world, while also making clear his desire to make a deal that will make Iran “very rich, very quickly.” While Vice President Joe Biden has been critical of Trump’s Iran strategy, his own strategy views Iran—and its 80 million inhabitants—primarily through the prism of another nuclear deal. Both miss the point.

For years, U.S. administrations have sought to address the symptoms of Iranian malignancy—its nuclear ambitions and regional extremism—while ignoring the underlying cause, the nature of the Iranian regime. The reality is that as long as Iran is led by a small clique of unaccountable men who rule with an iron fist, America’s four decades of hostility with Iran will never be resolved. For this reason, promoting the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran should be a pillar of any U.S. national security strategy.

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