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Iranian-American journalist who was the target of Iranian kidnap plot speaks out with her husband

The day after the FBI announced they’d foiled an Iranian plot to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist in Brooklyn, the target was back home with her husband, sitting on their front porch and proclaiming they’re not afraid – not even after federal agents warned them that they’ll have a bullseye on them for the rest of their lives.

In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, the husband, Kambiz Foroohar, a fellow Iranian-American journalist, spoke about their time in hiding, how they’d been shuttled between three safe houses as the feds uncovered the plot to smuggle his wife Masih Alinejad out of the city on a speedboat to Venezuela then fly her to Teheran. When federal agents alerted them a couple weeks ago that they’d cracked the case, the couple’s relief was short-lived.

‘One thing they said was, ”You’re going to have a bullseye on your back for the rest of your life,”’ said Foroohar, a former Bloomberg reporter. ‘They said this has been thwarted, but you should be aware that this is not going to go away.’

But the couple said that if anything, they’re even more motivated to pursue their activism and also enjoy their lives, which means stepping out to enjoy restaurants in their neighborhood, sipping beverages on their porch overlooking Alinejad’s prized sunflower garden, and greeting neighbors who’ve been stopping by more frequently these days to check on their well-being.

Four Iranian spies were charged Tuesday with plotting to kidnap Brooklyn-based journalist Masih Alinejad, 44, (pictured) who spoke with DailyMail.com from her front porch while overlooking her garden 

Alinejad and her husband Kambiz Foroohar, a former Bloomberg reporter, proclaimed that they're not afraid, despite federal agents warning them that they have a 'bullseye' on them for the rest of their lives

Alinejad and her husband Kambiz Foroohar, a former Bloomberg reporter, proclaimed that they’re not afraid, despite federal agents warning them that they have a ‘bullseye’ on them for the rest of their lives

That’s where DailyMail.com met up with them on Wednesday afternoon, and Foroohar sat down for what he said was his first interview.

‘I’ve always wanted the attention to be on her because she’s the real target, not me,’ he half-joked.

Federal prosecutors revealed on Tuesday that they had charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, over the plot to kidnap Alinejad.

The four spies were named in court documents as Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori. The four defendants all live in Iran, the prosecutors said, identifying one of them, Farahani, as an Iranian intelligence official and the three others as ‘Iranian intelligence assets.’

Alinejad has frequently criticized the regime in Tehran for human rights abuses and fled the country in 2009

Alinejad has frequently criticized the regime in Tehran for human rights abuses and fled the country in 2009

A fifth defendant, Niloufar Bahadorifar, accused of supporting the plot financially but not participating in the kidnapping conspiracy, was arrested in California.

Foroohar, 55, grew up in England and attended Kings College. After moving to the United States, he worked for Bloomberg for 17 years and co-authored the book, ‘The Wind In My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran.’ He now freelances as a documentary filmmaker.

It’s his wife who’s been most active in speaking out against the Iranian government’s human rights abuses and led a campaign against dress codes for women including the wearing of the hijab. She has five million followers on Instagram.

Alinejad fled Iran in 2009 and moved to New York in 2014. Her brother was arrested by Iran in 2019, tortured, tried in secret and sentenced to eight years in prison, she said, ‘for being my brother.’

She’s been the target of repeated death threats over the years. Then last June, federal agents came knocking on their door and told them, ‘We’ve got death threats on your wife,’ he said.

‘And we’re like, ”that’s nothing new, we get that every day, get back in the line,”’he recalled. ‘We didn’t take it seriously.’

Then a few weeks later, agents returned and shared surveillance photos they’d intercepted. Iranian intelligence had allegedly hired a U.S. private investigator to monitor and document their movements.

‘It’s crazy to see yourselves being targets of a surveillance operation,’ Foroohar said. ‘We’ve been photographed doing ordinary things. Our neighbors were being photographed. Our kids were photographed.’

He said spies were also hacking into location-sharing apps on their phones to track their movements. 

The feds uncovered the plot to smuggle Alinejad out of the city on a speedboat to Venezuela then fly her to Teheran

The feds uncovered the plot to smuggle Alinejad out of the city on a speedboat to Venezuela then fly her to Teheran

Mahmoud Khazein - one of four Iranians charged in the kidnap plot

Omid Noori, another of the accused four plotters

Mahmoud Khazein (left) and Omid Noori (right) are among the four Iranians charged in the kidnap plot

Kiya Sadeghi is accused of being an asset working for the Iranian spy chief

Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani is described in charging documents as the ringleader in the plot

Kiya Sadeghi (left) is accused of being an asset working for the Iranian spy chief, Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani (right)

With guidance from the feds, the couple began to change their routines. They’d alert the FBI before leaving their home. Federal agents and the NYPD counter-terrorism officers were assigned to protect them. He recalled one false alarm last summer when a friend stopped by.

Alinejad’s past criticism of Iran: 

July 2018, The New York Times:

‘As a journalist in Iran, I often got into trouble exposing the regime’s mismanagement and corruption until, eventually, my press pass was revoked. 

‘I was often threatened with arrest or worse for writing articles critical of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

‘Ultimately, I was forced to flee my homeland in 2009.’ 

July 2020, Voice of America:

‘I call on the leaders of European countries to join the U.S. in not only condemning Iran’s hostage-taking but also condemning its recent executions of prisoners.’

August 2020, The Washington Post:

‘The regime’s cruel treatment of women remains one of its biggest weaknesses, and my focus on related injustices explains why it remains so persistent in targeting me.’ 

‘We had an incident where they thought someone was coming, and within two minutes, there were like six undercover agents with guns drawn running to our house, saying ‘Are you okay?’ he recalled. ‘And we’re like, ‘We know this guy.’

The couple, who are raising two teenage children from his prior marriage, were sent to various safe houses outside the city. The feds were concerned that the Iranians might take action in the lead-up to last November’s presidential election.

‘Obviously we’re going to a place where no one knows who we are and where we are,’ Foroohar said. ‘And we were told to keep it that way.’

He didn’t share full details with his younger son, but assured him that ‘we’ve been told to stay away for a while’ and that ‘it’s all safe.’

‘He thought it was interesting, exciting, but the excitement wears off after a few days of nothing happening,’ he said.

A few times, the feds had them alert people that they were no longer in Brooklyn, just so U.S. intelligence agents could monitor chatter among Iranian operatives.

He and his wife were alerted a couple of weeks ago that the federal government was ready to act. But it wasn’t until Tuesday, when the federal indictments were unsealed, that they learned the horrifying scope of the plot.

‘It’s like a TV movie,’ he said. ‘You kidnap someone, throw them on the back of the boat, then go over to Venezuela. That’s quite a long way,’ he chuckled.

But he and his wife knew not to take it lightly, given Iran’s history of kidnapping and killing journalists.

‘I just learned last night they were going actually to take me on a speedboat to Venezuela and then arrest me from there,’ Alinejad told DailyMail.com, with a slight smile. ‘I was like, wow, it’s like a scary movie. But we the people of Iran, we know this is the nature of the Islamic Republic. Kidnapping, killing is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic.’

'I've always wanted the attention to be on her because she's the real target, not me,' Foroohar half joked. 'If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. I can't stop it. I can't stop taxes and I can't stop death'

‘I’ve always wanted the attention to be on her because she’s the real target, not me,’ Foroohar half joked. ‘If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I can’t stop it. I can’t stop taxes and I can’t stop death’

'I'm not going to live in fear, paranoia, at all,' Alinejad said. 'I'm a free person. You think I'm going to leave my sunflowers? No. I'm going to enjoy my life'

‘I’m not going to live in fear, paranoia, at all,’ Alinejad said. ‘I’m a free person. You think I’m going to leave my sunflowers? No. I’m going to enjoy my life’

Her husband recently spoke with a private security agent about precautions they should take going forward. He said the agent told him, candidly, that there’s only so much that can be done if they chose to live a public life.

For now at least, they plan to remain in Brooklyn. ‘We have all kinds of security which we don’t talk about around us,’ Foroohar said.

But he added, ‘If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I can’t stop it. I can’t stop taxes and I can’t stop death.

‘I may not do the exact same routines as before, but my work will continue,’ he continued. ‘I’ll be more secure, trying to get extra cameras, get a dog or two, get a gun license. But change my life? No. Life goes on.’

He laughed when asked whether he or his wife will tone down their activism.

‘Heck no,’ he said. ‘Actually, this is doubling our efforts. Here we are, two journalists, far, far away and they (the Iranians) think we’re such a big threat to them that they want to kidnap us. Who’s afraid of who? They’re more afraid of us than we are afraid of them.’

His wife concurred.

‘For years and years, they (Iran) say our biggest enemy is the Great Satan America, but they sent someone here to kill an Iranian woman,’ she said. ‘That means we the women of Iran are the biggest threat to the regime. It makes me feel even more powerful, more determined to do my job. I’m not a criminal, I’m a journalist. I’m giving voiceless people a voice.’

She’s given dozens of interviews in the past couple days and was heading to another appearance in Manhattan on CNN.

‘I’m not going to live in fear, paranoia, at all,’ she said. ‘I’m a free person. You think I’m going to leave my sunflowers? No. I’m going to enjoy my life.’


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