Iranian TV quiz show slammed as ‘disgusting,’ ‘cruel’ over Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘spy’ question

A video clip from the “Rokhdad” history and current affairs quiz show, which airs on the newly launched Ofogh network, shows contestants being asked to identify individuals arrested on suspicion of espionage in Iran. (Screenshot)
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Updated 13 November 2020

Iranian TV quiz show slammed as ‘disgusting,’ ‘cruel’ over Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘spy’ question

  • A video clip from the “Rokhdad” history and current affairs quiz program shows contestants being asked to identify individuals arrested on suspicion of spying in Iran

LONDON: An Iranian state television quiz show has been slammed over its use of images of jailed British woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a question on espionage.

A video clip from the “Rokhdad” history and current affairs quiz program, which airs on the newly launched Ofogh network, shows contestants being asked to identify individuals arrested on suspicion of spying in Iran.

The footage was discovered and shared by BBC Persian journalist Parham Ghobadi and has since gone viral, the Independent reported.

During the recent episode, the show’s host asked, “which spy did (British Prime Minister) Boris Johnson demand to be released in a meeting with the Iranian president?” as contestants assessed a screen with several faces on it.

One of them answered incorrectly with “Jason Rezaian,” referring to a photo of The Washington Post journalist imprisoned for 18 months on espionage charges after a closed-door trial criticized by several international observers.

“Wrong. Nazanin Zaghari,” the host replied.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, is a Reuters employee who has been jailed in Iran for five years on charges of spying, which human rights groups and the British government say are false.

Social media users reacted angrily to the “Rokhdad” clip, branding the use of the 42-year-old mom’s image in such a way as “disgusting,” “cruel,” and “sickening.”

The other individuals alleged to be spies and pictured for the quiz question were Lebanese and US resident Nizar Zakka who was freed in 2019 after four years in jail, and Canadian-Iranian diplomat Abdolrasoul Dorri-Esfahani who was part of the negotiation team for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and was jailed in 2017 on charges of leaking Iranian secrets during the talks.

Amir Toumaj, an expert and analyst on Iran, called the clip “an example of how the Islamic Republic uses instruments of pop cultures, creating bizarre, Kafkaesque scenes.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe recently gave an account of her first interrogation in 2016.

She said she was threatened with her daughter being taken away, and her interrogators claimed her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, was a spy and gave her false information regarding her release.

After her initial arrest and interrogation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sent to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.


Iran prepares to bury killed nuclear scientist as it mulls response

Updated 30 November 2020

Iran prepares to bury killed nuclear scientist as it mulls response

  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran
  • President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”

TEHRAN: Debate raged in Iran on Sunday over how and when to respond to a top nuclear scientist’s assassination, blamed on arch-foe Israel, as his body was honored at Shiite shrines to prepare it for burial.
Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran, parliament demanded a halt to international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites while a top official hinted Iran should leave the global non-proliferation treaty.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear program, and parliamentary bills must be approved by the powerful Guardians Council.
President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap.”
Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear program, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied, and Washington had sanctioned him in 2008 for activities linked to Iran’s atomic activities.
The scientist’s body was taken for a ceremony on Sunday at a major shrine in the holy city of Qom before being transported to the shrine of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.
On Monday live video from Tehran, shared by national outlet Iran Press, showed uniformed men gathering around images of Fakhrizadeh seemingly ahead of a procession.
His funeral will be held in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defense ministry said on its website, without specifying where.
Israel has not officially commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.
Trump withdrew the US from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and then reimposed and beefed up punishing sanctions as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.
Biden has signalled his administration may be prepared to rejoin the accord, but the nuclear scientist’s assassination has revived opposition to the deal among Iranian conservatives.
The head of Iran’s Expediency Council, a key advisory and arbitration body, said there was “no reason why (Iran) should not reconsider the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.”
Mohsen Rezai said Tehran should also halt implementation of the additional protocol, a document prescribing intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilitates.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Saturday for Fakhrizadeh’s killers to be punished.
Parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf called Sunday for “a strong reaction” that would “deter and take revenge” on those behind the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who was aged 59 according to Iranian media.
For Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Fakhrizadeh’s killing was clearly tied to Biden’s arrival in office.
“The timing of the assassination, even if it was determined by purely operational considerations, is a clear message to President-elect Joe Biden, intended to show Israel’s criticism” of plans to revive the deal, it said.
The UAE, which in September normalized ties with Israel, condemned the killing and urged restraint.
The foreign ministry, quoted by the official Emirati news agency WAM, said Abu Dhabi “condemns the heinous assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which could further fuel conflict in the region...
“The UAE calls upon all parties to exercise maximum degrees of self-restraint to avoid dragging the region into new levels of instability and threat to peace,” it said.
Britain, a party to the nuclear accord, said Sunday it was “concerned” about possible escalation of tensions in the Middle East following the assassination, while Turkey called the killing an act of “terrorism” that “upsets peace in the region.”
In Iran, ultra-conservative Kayhan daily called for strikes on Israel if it were “proven” to be behind the assassination.
Kayhan called for the port city of Haifa to be targeted “in a way that would annihilate its infrastructure and leave a heavy human toll.”
Iran has responded to the US withdrawal from the 2015 deal by gradually abandoning most of its key nuclear commitments under the agreement.
Rezai called on Iran’s atomic agency to take “minimum measures” such as “stopping the online broadcast of cameras, reducing or suspending inspectors and implementing restrictions in their access” to sites, ISNA news agency reported.
Iran’s parliament said the “best response” to the assassination would be to “revive Iran’s glorious nuclear industry.”
It called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to be barred from the country’s atomic sites, said the legislature’s news agency ICANA.
Some MPs had earlier accused inspectors of acting as “spies” potentially responsible for Fakhrizadeh’s death.
But the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, told IRNA on Saturday that the issue of inspectors’ access “must be decided on at high levels” of the Islamic republic’s leadership.