Anti-headscarf law activist sues Iran in US over harassment

Masih Alinejad’s lawsuit seeking monetary damages comes in the aftermath of nationwide protests in Iran over spiking gasoline prices that reportedly killed at least 208 people in November. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 December 2019

Anti-headscarf law activist sues Iran in US over harassment

  • Alinejad, who recently published an autobiography, fled the country after the disputed 2009 presidential election and crackdown
  • She is a prominent figure on Farsi-language satellite channels abroad that critically view Iran

DUBAI: An Iranian-American activist famous for her campaign against Iran’s mandatory headscarf, or hijab, for women has sued Iran in US federal court, alleging a government-led harassment campaign targets her and her family.
Masih Alinejad’s lawsuit seeking monetary damages comes in the aftermath of nationwide protests in Iran over spiking gasoline prices that reportedly killed at least 208 people in November.
Dissent continues as Iranian authorities separately said on Thursday that they broke up a plot to cause a gas explosion at a student dormitory at a Tehran university.
But even before the latest unrest, authorities had already announced that women face a possible 10-year prison sentence for sending videos to Alinejad’s “White Wednesday” civil disobedience campaign against the mandatory head covering.
The harassment, including the imprisoning of her brother, was to “preclude Ms. Masih Alinejad from continuing her career as a journalist, author, and political activist working to criticize the Iranian government and bring international attention to the regime’s human rights abuses, in particular women’s rights,” alleges her lawsuit, filed on Monday in Washington.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Alinejad, who recently published an autobiography, fled the country after the disputed 2009 presidential election and crackdown. She is a prominent figure on Farsi-language satellite channels abroad that critically view Iran and has worked as a contractor for US-funded Voice of America’s Farsi-language network since 2015, according to the lawsuit. Alinejad, who lives in Brooklyn, became a US citizen in October.
Her “White Wednesday” and “My Stealthy Freedom” campaigns have seen women film themselves without hijabs in public in Iran, which can bring arrests and fines. But there have been signs of women increasingly pushing back against the requirement.
During a trip to Iran in July, an Associated Press journalist spotted about two dozen women in the streets without a hijab over the course of nine days. Many other women opted for loosely draped colorful scarves that show as much hair as they cover.
While there have been women fined and arrested, others have been left alone as Iran struggles with economic problems and other issues under re-imposed US sanctions following President Donald Trump pulling out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
In recent weeks, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized and began torturing her brother Alireza Alinejad-Ghomi, the suit alleges.
State television officials and security forces have pressured her mother as well, who at one point “threatened to pour gasoline on herself and set herself on fire” during a confrontation, according to the suit. Later, however, her mother called and disowned her over the telephone, “knowing that the phone lines in Iran are not secure and that she was essentially making a public statement that could be used against Ms. Alinejad at any time,” the suit said.
Alinejad seeks monetary damages in the lawsuit. Her suit comes after a US federal judge awarded Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and his family nearly $180 million over his imprisonment and torture in Iran.
Iran routinely does not respond to such lawsuits and has monetary orders levied against it. Some lawsuits end up receiving money from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which has distributed funds to those held and affected by Iran’s 1979 student takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and subsequent hostage crisis, as well as other events.
Alinejad also named the Guard and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as defendants. Both have been sanctioned by the US government under Trump, while the Guard has been designated by America as a terrorist organization.
Meanwhile Thursday, state TV read a statement from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry on air that said authorities arrested suspects in the plot to cause a gas explosion at the Elm-va- Sanat engineering university in Tehran. The statement said they cut a hole into a gas pipeline there for a dormitory housing some 200 students. The report did not elaborate.
The explosion was to happen on Students Day, authorities said. The commemoration Saturday marks the death of three students protesting a visit by then US Vice President Richard Nixon to Tehran following 1953 CIA-engineered coup against Iran’s democratically elect Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that cemented the shah’s power.


Arab nations send food, medical supplies to disaster-hit Lebanon

Updated 09 August 2020

Arab nations send food, medical supplies to disaster-hit Lebanon

  • Saudi Arabia at the forefront of an international relief air bridge for Lebanon

DUBAI: Arab nations are rushing to provide humanitarian relief to disaster-hit Lebanon, delivering planeloads of food and medical supplies to aid those affected by the massive explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday.

The devastating blast, thought to be caused by a stockpile of ammonium nitrate unsafely stored in a port warehouse, left a trail of damage over much of the capital and killed more than 150 people and injured thousands of others.

A UAE transport plane carrying 40 metric tons of critical medicine and food items, as well as nutritional supplements for children, arrived in the Lebanese capital as part of the assistance being implemented by the Emirates Red Crescent.

“A comprehensive phased humanitarian plan has been put in place in response to the crisis, and during this stage the focus is laid on providing medical supplies in support of the Lebanese health facilities under the current tough circumstances to help them respond to the needs of the large number of victims,” Dr Mohammed Atiq Al-Falahi, the ERC Secretary General, said in a report from state news agency WAM.

Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of an international relief air bridge, with about 200 tons of medical and emergency supplies so far delivered by the three aircraft dispatched to Lebanon.

Egypt has dispatched a second military plane to Lebanon, loaded with large quantities of medical supplies and food.

Two aircraft from Kuwait laden with medical supplies and food have arrived at Beirut’s international airport as part of the ongoing aid efforts to help Lebanon.

“We have just received two Kuwaiti planes carrying emergency aid,” on instructions of the Kuwait leadership, embassy advisor Abdullah Al-Shaheen said, and added that support will continue “in this time of adversity.”