For a long time I’ve been admiring and touting the work of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American women’s rights activist (and general political activist) as well as a journalist. She’s absolutely fearless, even though she was arrested in Iran for agitating against the government. She’s particularly opposed to head and body coverings, and here’s a video she made 2016 after the “feminist government of Sweden” all wore hijabs when they visited Iran (see my post here). She calls them out for their hypocrisy.
Alinejad is passionate and eloquent. She also founded the My Stealthy Freedom movement and Facebook page, in which Iranian women take off their hijabs (a criminal offense) to show their opposition to the misogyny of Iran’s theocratic government. She also founded the “White Wednesdays” movement, in which Iranian women wear white on that day to protest repression by the government. Remember, before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many Iranian women dressed as they pleased (see my post from 2016), and when the theocracy began and imposed a dress code, there were huge protests by the women of Iran.
To no avail, alas. Iran now has morality police who enforce the dress code, and women showing more hair than the government likes are liable to be arrested, beaten, or called out by the more religious citizens of the country. In forty years, Iran has backtracked from a modern state to a medieval theocracy, and Alinejad is one of those few people whose life is devoted to pointing that out. She fled Iran in 2009, lived in Britain for a while, and is now a US citizen broadcasting for the Voice of America’s Persian network.
I bring this up because recently a plot was unveiled, involving four Iranian citizens and one American, to lure her out of the country (à la Jamal Khashoggi), kidnap her, and then smuggle her back into Iran. You know what would have happened to her then: certain death. Fortunately, the plot was discovered in advance by the FBI, the American was arrested, and the four Iranians were indicted. But in the eight months since she was informed of the plot, she and her family have had to live in a series of safe houses, moving from time to time so Iran doesn’t discover where she is. This is all, of course, meant to silence critics of the government.
Here’s her thank-you to the FBI:
I am grateful to FBI for foiling the Islamic Republic of Iran's Intelligence Ministry's plot to kidnap me. This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani.
This is the regime that kidnapped & executed Ruhollah Zam. They've also kidnapped and jailed Jamshid Sharmahd and many others pic.twitter.com/HUefdEbiil
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 14, 2021
Since then, Alinejad and her cause have received increasing attention (the “progressive” Western Left tends to ignore the oppression of women by Islamic countries of the Middle East). Here’s a tweet by Biden’s Secretary of State, who just met with her.
Good conversation today with @AlinejadMasih, who has demonstrated tremendous courage. I affirmed that the U.S. will always support the indispensable work of independent journalists around the world. We won’t tolerate efforts to intimidate them or silence their voices.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 20, 2021
And all this is by way of informing you that this evening, at 5 p.m. Pacific time, Alinejad will be having a conversation with Bari Weiss. It’s for subscribers to Weiss’s site only, and I’m one, but of course I can’t reveal the Zoom link for the conversation. But I’m sure it’s going to be a great exchange. Here’s Bari’s announcement (click on screenshot; I think this note is free):
Weiss’s words (her emphases):
Feminists don’t fare well in the Islamic Republic. About a decade ago, Masih fled the country, but she continued to lead the movement against Iran’s gender apartheid from exile. In 2014 she started the online movement My Stealthy Freedom, which has inspired countless Iranian women defy the regime by talking off their hijabs in public. These days, the journalist has more than five million followers on Instagram, a show on Voice of America, and a Twitter account devoted to elevating Iran’s pro-democracy movement.
It’s no wonder that the Ayatollahs are terrified of her.
In 2018, Masih’s sister was forced to denounce her on state television. In 2019, her brother Ali was arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison for the crimes of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.” In a video recorded and released just before his arrest Ali told his sister: “The moment I’m arrested, speak out.” He insisted: “Be strong and do your work. You are doing the right thing.”
. . . .I am thrilled to announce that on Wednesday evening at 5 PM PST I will be hosting a subscriber-only event with this courageous woman.
We’ll discuss the plot against her, the Biden administration’s policy toward Iran, where she summons the strength to risk her life for what is right, and any other questions you’d like to ask. Please join us.
All subscribers will receive an email with the link to the event on Wednesday morning. So if you haven’t already subscribed, click here.
It’s $50 a year, and it’s interviews like this that make it worth it. You can even ask Masih questions.
17 thoughts on “Bari Weiss in conversation with Masih Alinejad”
Bravo! I just subscribed. I hope she can get this message out to a wider audience.
I don’t know how the theocracy in Iran can ever be overturned, save by mass revolt with some lucky breaks, or by invasion from the U.S. Either way, there would likely be huge casualties and no guarantee. Election of a moderate with a view toward advancing progressive policies seems light years away.
The US really screwed up with Iran. During the Clinton years it seemed like Iran was open to normalizing relations with the US and that secularism was on the rise, or at least theocracy was on the wane. And then the Bush Jr. administration, almost immediately upon setting up shop in the White House, basically gave Iran the finger. And then right after 9/11 Iran offered their help, no doubt in large part to perceived self interest, but apparently sincerely. Instead of exploring that possibility the Bush Jr. administration again gave them the finger.
We, the US, had 2 or 3 chances to pursue stronger relations with Iran at times when large segments of their population seemed receptive about it. Each time we didn’t just say no, we said F@#$ Off.
Not to mention the various ways in which the US has contributed to this situation in the first place, like their support for the Western-oriented, but tyrannical Shah Reza, infamous for his excessive torture program, that has also led to the Iranian revolution. The US had been his biggest supporter, and sold arms to him.
Later, the US continued to sell arms to Iran, despite an embargo, which led to the Iran-Contra Affair (the black money, with drug trade on the side, was to be used to support right wing death squads in Nicaraguar. US foreign policy famously continued like that with their next best men in the region being one fellow named Saddam Hussein, and the other being Osama Bin Laden. So after they armed up Iran, the US armed Iraq, then the merry men of Bin Laden, to harass the Russians (then they removed both, and gave the stage to the IS). But no mistakes were made. It was intended that way and should be viewed as such.
The pentagon has a literally incredible accounting hole as high as $35 trillion dollars.
Invasion by the US would probably be a bad idea, considering that the theocracy was a reaction to a US backed government that was put in place by toppling a democratically elected government. There’s a reason that they called the US the “Great Satan,” and it isn’t because they “hate our freedoms.” It’s because they have experience with the US (and the French and the British) installing governments friendly to our oil companies.
Any revolution against the theocracy in Iran will need to be initiated by Iranis.
Election of a moderate with progressive policies should not be the goal. That’s IMO where we keep going wrong. A democracy with free, fair, regular elections should be the goal and let the chips fall where they may. Have confidence in democracy as a system, instead of trying to manage the result.
I will submit to you my opinion that while Hamid Karzai was an elected moderate with reasonably progressive policies – exactly what you ask for – one reason democracy failed to take hold is because we helped him stay in power for 14 years straight while shutting out the religious conservatives. That’s not how you get a people to accept that losing elections is better than no elections. You get the fundie religious conservatives to support democracy when they can run, and win, and everyone respects the results. And you get them to step back down in an orderly fashion by running that exercise every 2-4 years, through many cycles, until the entire population including the fundies themselves think that’s the best way to transition leadership, and they themselves would rather step down and try again next cycle than break the process.
That doesn’t guarantee support for democratic institutions, of course. But I think it’s a necessary step along the way. You’re not going to get theocrats in power to embrace democratic reforms if part of those democratic reforms are “and oh by the way, while anyone can in theory win, we’re going to use the might of the most powerful nation on earth to ensure you don’t win.”
The ayatollahs are in power for 42 years now, the majority of Iranians have no recollection of the harsh regime (yes, not as bad as the present theocracy, but still, very harsh) of the Shah, or even the war with Iraq.
I agree that some more enlightened, progressive policies appear light years away, but one never knows. The fall of the Soviet Union also appeared light years away, just like many other dictatorial regimes. Who had forseen the quick fall of Apartheid in South Africa? I remain slightly optimistic, these regimes can change unexpectedly fast.
Yes they can. The sad thing is that real progress seems to be difficult to achieve, and the outcome of revolution is unclear even in the best of circumstances. The fall of the Soviet Union revived nationalism, old ethnic feuds and religiosity within the Ex-Soviet republics and the periphery. Most ex-Soviet republics are now either outright autocratic dictatorships (e g Turkmenistan) or semi-autocratic and/or corrupt neo-feudal oligarchies.
The fall of Apartheid was formally a success story, a great legal injustice has been remedied and The representation of black people among the very rich and of white people among the poor has “improved”. But social inequality hasn’t, it has even worsened a bit (judging from the Gini coefficient). The ANC had promised to change that. But ANC officials post Nelson Mandela were mainly interested in filling their own pockets (says a book I read).
It’s reminders of regimes like Iran’s that makes me hate being an ape.
Yes. In our attempts to create a more just and peaceful human society, we must from time to time ground ourselves with the reminder that we are glorified bonobos who use our big brains in ever more sophisticated pursuits of food, sex, territory and possessions.
I somehow feel our character is closer to ‘ordinary’ Chimps than to Bonobos (of course we’re neither). The ‘patriarchal’ rules in countries like Iran most certainly do.
Yes, the three of us, chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans, had a common ancestor about seven million years ago, and IIRC we share a little bit more percentage of genetic material with chimps than with bonobos. Your point about patriarchy is well taken. I guess I was thinking more about the bobobo hypersexuality being similar to the human.
Correction: bonobo. I don’t know where autocorrect got bobobo from.🤔
Pfft, some “republic” — in a republic, sovereignty vests in the people, not in some tin-pot ayatollahs. You go, Ms. Alinejad, you go.
Misogynist relics locked in the past with a religious ideology has no alternative other than to resort to violence.
The continuity and adherence to a degraded doctrine is all they have little wonder it is enforced with all the passion they can muster. They are ‘dead’ wearing a beard without it…
this fearless individual is a crack in their wall and all they can do (or find) is a violent act to fix it.
Religion and violence, bedfellows to the bitter end. Not that its alone in that but ‘god’ morals are not that much different to tyrants.
Reason has vacated… Iran is ruled by pessimism.