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Masih Alinejad: 'His crime is to be my brother'

September 27, 2019

"My brother has nothing to do with my campaign. He was not involved in any kind of political activity," Alinejad told DW after her brother Ali's arrest in Tehran on September 25. In 2013 DW honored Alinejad's blog.

USA Masih Alinejad beim Power Women Summit in Los Angeles
Image: Getty Images/P. Ann

Iranian journalist and White Wednesdays activist Masih Alinejad, whose brother Ali and two other family members were arrested in Iran yesterday, spoke to DW from the United States about last night's incidents. Alinejad said the arrests were "a continuation of what the government has done to silence the White Wednesdays movement by arresting the members and sending them to prison."

"What is happening to me is not not unique," Alinejad said. "It is typical of what the Iranian government has done to other activists for more than 40 years by holding their families hostage to keep those activists silent. This is what Stalin would do. This is what a dictator would do to its own citizens."

She said a lawyer had not been allowed to meet her 45-year-old brother Ali and that her family had "no idea where they are holding my brother, what they are doing to my brother." 

"The agents of the Intelligence Ministry of the Islamic Republic raided my brother's house," she said, adding that he was taken away handcuffed and blindfolded. "They arrested him in front of his two small children. They dragged him away while they were saying that we just want to ask him some questions [about his sister]." 

Alinejad confirmed the arrest of two other relatives: "That is true. On the same day when the agents raided my brother's house, they actually went to northern Iran to my hometown, Babol. Seven security forces went there. They also raided my ex-husband's house and arrested his 38-year-old sister Leila Lotfi and his 34-year-old brother Hadi Lotfi. Who knows why? Both have nothing to do with me, but they have been arrested for their possible connection with me." Hadi Lotfi was released this morning.

Threats from authorities for many years

Iran, Zwangs Hijab, Frauen Aktivisten, Monire Arabshahi, Jasmin Aryani, Mojgan Keshavarz
Three of the imprisoned Iranian women who protested against compulsary hijab.Image: humanrightsinir

"Since I launched my campaign I have faced many backlashes and threats," Alinejad said, adding that authorities first spread "fake news about me on Iranian national TV saying that Masih Alinejad was raped by three men in London and it was a total lie. In their mind, they think if a woman is raped, it is her fault. They tried to discredit me by saying that Masih was raped. This is the mindset of this government. They don't even think that if a woman is raped and she is Iranian they have to go and hold her or support her but they fake this kind of news."

She said that later "they said that Masih Alinejad is not only a prostitute but also those who wear a white headscarf and join the White Wednesdays movement are prostitutes and the white headscarf is the flag of prostitution. And then, they made my family come to Iranian national TV to disown me publicly. They brought my sister on TV. My mother refused to go. They interrogated my mother for two hours about her relation with me, about the love between us."

islamische Kleiderordnung
Women in Iran Image: Basij

"I call on the international community to understand the issue right now," Alinejad said. "The president of Iran and the foreign minister of Iran both are lecturing the United Nations, lecturing Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson and the president of France. They are lecturing the leaders of the EU and other Western countries about terrorism. These leaders should understand that we, the people of Iran, face terror every day in our life."