September 25.2019 – Against a backdrop of an ongoing campaign aimed at silencing foreign-based activists, agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrested the brother of prominent U.S.-based activist Masih Alinejad, she announced on Twitter.
“The state’s systematic attack on activists’ families reveals the inhumane tactics they use to muzzle criticism of state policies,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “Targeting family members is the kind of behavior expected from mafias, not law-abiding governments.”
“Iranian authorities should stop violating citizens’ basic rights by detaining and endangering activists’ and journalists’ relatives,” he added. “This abhorrent practice reveals the absence of the rule of law in Iran, and the unchecked power of a lawless intelligence establishment.”
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Alinejad is the founder of the anti-compulsory-hijab “My Stealthy Freedom” online campaign. Her brother, Ali Alinejad, was arrested during the evening of September 24, 2019, and taken away in a blindfold and handcuffs, according to his sister.
In July 2018, Masih Alinejad wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Iranian authorities had pressured her family to denounce her to state-run media outlets, including in a state TV program that featured her sister publicly condemning Alinejad for her advocacy against Iran’s forced hijab law.
CHRI has documented dozens of cases of activists’ and journalists’ family members being harassed and detained as part of a long-established practice by the intelligence establishment aimed at controlling Iranian citizens based abroad.
The weekend before Ali Alinejad’s arrest, several members of U.S.-based Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi’s family were banned from leaving Iran and his mother summoned to court after they tried to travel to Turkey to meet him.
Security agencies have also imprisoned and harassed family members of journalists based in foreign countries.
In October 2017, the BBC urged the UN to investigate Iran’s freezing of the assets of 152 BBC Persian staff, current and former, in Iran and abroad.
The BBC also said family members of its Persian-language service have been arbitrarily arrested and some elderly members interrogated. Staff members have also been the subjects of smear campaigns and their personal online accounts have been hacked.
“State agencies aren’t content with stifling dissent at home by imprisoning activists, lawyers, and journalists under trumped-up ‘national security’ charges,” said Ghaemi.
“They’ve expanded their campaign beyond their borders and will continue to do so for as long as countries that have leverage on Iran refuse to register their strong condemnation,” he added.