A New York-based Iranian-American journalist who was saved by the FBI from being kidnapped and taken to Tehran has said that the plot against her is ‘a threat to all Americans’ and should outrage the nation.
Masih Alinejad, 44, found out the extent of the plot against her on last week when charges against four Iranian intelligence operatives were unveiled by New York prosecutors. She had been told eight months previously that there was a scheme in place, and was taken to a safe house, but on July 13 she learnt they planned to snatch her from her house in Brooklyn and take her via speedboat to Venezuela.
From Venezuela – which has friendly relations with Tehran – she would be taken to Iran.
‘It is an insult to all of us that a foreign country comes here and tries to kidnap a US citizen,’ said Alinejad, in a Zoom conversation with Substack newsletter writer Bari Weiss.
Masih Alinejad, 44, an Iranian-American journalist and dissident, spoke on Wednesday to Bari Weiss about an audacious plot from Tehran to seize her from her Brooklyn home
Bari Weiss, who has a Substack newsletter, described Alinejad as heroic and brave
‘I am not a criminal – I just give a voice to voiceless people.’
Alinejad said that Joe Biden, whose press secretary condemned the plot, needed to be more forceful with his response.
Jen Psaki on Wednesday said: ‘We categorically condemn Iran”s dangerous and despicable reported plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on US soil. We will forcefully defend U.S. citizens and U.S. interests.’
Yet Alinejad told Weiss that the response was not sufficient.
‘It is about the regime that is challenging U.S. authority on their soil,’ she said.
‘This is a threat to all Americans and all journalists.
‘I want Biden to condemn that.
‘This is America.’
Four Iranian spies were charged on July 14 with plotting to kidnap the Brooklyn-based journalist (pictured) who spoke with DailyMail.com on July 15 from her front porch while overlooking her garden
Alinejad said that she was shocked when the FBI presented her with surveillance photos, taken on behalf of the Iranian spies, showing her in her beloved 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
Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, has been subjected to fierce criticism by Alinejad
She urged those outraged by the brazen attack to write to their Congressmen and seek further response.
‘If it was not me, if it was you – how would expect you to want the public to react? Being targeted by kidnappers? If a foreign country was trying to get you kidnapped?’ she asked.
‘Write to your congressman, warn them that this is about the safety of Americans.’
Alinejad grew up in a poor, rural community in Iran but was an activist from an early age – spurred on by seeing her brother Ali enjoying his freedom, while she was denied the same rights.
‘I never had a clue about equality, discrimination, feminism,’ she told Weiss.
Anti-government protesters are seen outside the Iranian Embassy in Berlin in January 2020
Pro-regime activists are seen in Tehran in January 2020, protesting against the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani by a US air strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad
‘I just had a brother, Ali. He was riding his bicycle, running around, jumping in the river, going to football.
‘I wanted to have the same freedom as him.
‘I started my own revolution from my own kitchen.
‘I became a warrior instead of victimizing myself, being miserable and staying at home.
‘We have only two options – to be a victim or a warrior.
‘That was my path: to be a warrior.’
Alinejad called on Joe Biden to do more to speak out against the Iranian plot
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.’
Alinejad became a journalist, exposing corruption within Iran’s political system and then, when that cost her her job, becoming a columnist.
Still she criticized the government – likening Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president from 2005-13, to a dolphin trainer making the ‘animal’ public obey him for a piece of bread – until she was forced to flee the country, in 2009.
Alinejad now lives in New York City, has U.S. citizenship, and is married to a fellow Iranian-American journalist.
Her high-profile attacks on the Iranian government continued, and she was aware of the risk.
But when the FBI knocked on her door eight months ago, she initially believed it was a joke.
‘Eight months ago they came to my house and said we have to go out.
‘Even this house, we won’t have a conversation here,’ she told Weiss.
She was taken to the FBI headquarters in lower Manhattan.
‘They told us that our house was not safe, we were under threat.
‘I was joking. I said come on. I’m used to it, what’s new.
‘Then they showed me photos of my stepson, my husband, my private life. Me coming out the house, every step. Me through the window.
‘They took photos of me watering my beautiful garden, my beautiful sunflowers.’
She was told that the Iranian intelligence agencies had hired a U.S. based private investigator to watch her. She was moved to various safe houses, with the FBI trying various methods to confirm the identity of the plotters and even attempt to arrest them.
She said it was ‘really scary’ trying to act normal, yet knowing behind the scenes what was happening.
Kiya Sadeghi (left) is accused of being an asset working for the Iranian spy chief, Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani (right)
Mahmoud Khazein (left) and Omid Noori (right) are among four Iranians charged in the kidnap plot
But she said it made her stronger.
‘For years they said America was this Great Satan,’ she said.
‘Then I saw they were not afraid of America, they were afraid of me.’
Alinejad said that she was determined to carry on her activism, believing that she was a voice for those who were voiceless.
Women have been imprisoned in Iran for participating in her campaign to end the compulsory hijab, and she said she was fighting for them.
‘It’s not a burden, it’s a responsibility for me,’ she said.
‘If I keep silent I betray them.’