By Andrew Norfolk
Source: The Times
A human rights organisation supported by Jeremy Corbyn has received more than £1 million in charity cash despite being run by self-declared Islamist revolutionaries closely aligned to Iran who say that the West is “the enemy” and Britain a “Stasi state”.
Leaders of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which has been said by Mr Corbyn to represent “all that’s best in Islam”, speak of “apartheid London”, label anti-terrorism laws a “war on Muslims” and condemn English as a “colonial language that will always subjugate you”.
The London-based group, given £1.2 million since 2013 by a charity that received £250,000 from the taxpayer via Gift Aid, claims to fight for the oppressed “whosoever they are and whomsoever oppresses them”. Its website fails to declare links to Iran, a lack of transparency highlighted by a leading Iranian campaigner who has accused the group of acting as a propaganda tool for Tehran. Masih Alinejad said that it was guilty of hypocrisy.
IHRC has condemned more than 50 countries for alleged mistreatment of Muslims. Its targets are Britain, the United States, Israel and Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt that have poor relations with Iran.
Since its formation 22 years ago, however, the group has offered no support to women’s rights activists and religious minorities in Iran. The country’s discriminatory laws against women have been labelled “appalling” by Amnesty International.
IHRC accused The Times of Islamophobia and racism.
Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the IHRC, spoke of of Ayatollah Khomeini, the cleric who became Iran’s supreme leader after the 1979 revolution, as “a torch of light for the whole of mankind”. Mr Shadjareh, who was born in Iran, gave an interview this year to the state-owned Press TV in which he waxed lyrical about the Islamic Republic’s glorious record of “standing against injustice”.
Iran was, he said, “the only nation standing against oppression, against tyranny, in line with the wishes of Iranians and the overwhelming majority of people in the region and beyond”.
IHRC, which was founded in London in 1997, has three directors in addition to Mr Shadjareh. They are:
• Saied Reza Ameli, the Tehran-based secretary of one of Iran’s leading policy-making bodies, the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution;
• Arzu Merali, the research director, who was introduced at a 2014 conference as “a revolutionary” and a “powerful voice of Islamic-inspired resistance to the status quo”. She said then: “We know who the enemy is. It’s the West, Nato countries [and] . . . the white supremacist or liberal structure we’re all suffering at the hands of.” She and Mr Shadjareh wrote a 2008 paper in which they told of their “radicalisation” as Islamists and said: “We are all Hezbollah.”
• Nazim Ali, who at a rally days after the Grenfell Tower fire condemned “Zionists who give money to the Tory party to kill people in high-rise blocks”.
IHRC’s wrath has also been directed at Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the European Court of Human Rights. But it stays silent about women’s rights in Iran. Sahar Khodayari was arrested for trying to watch a football match and died last month after setting herself on fire outside court.
Iran has been criticised for its role in the Syrian civil war, its funding of Hezbollah terrorism and its imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It was also blamed for drone attacks last month against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Before he became the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in an interview that IHRC “represents all that’s best in Islam”. He said: “I like the way it works. I like the sense of values surrounding it.” Masih Alinejad, a leading Iranian campaigner for women’s rights, suggested that Mr Corbyn try “living in Iran, because he’d soon change his tune. IHRC’s political masters have little regard for human rights. Tehran uses this group to spin its propaganda and it’s shameful Mr Corbyn has embraced it.”
A Labour spokesman said that Mr Corbyn had often criticised human rights abuses by Iran. The Times asked whether he continued to hold a high opinion of IHRC but has had no reply. As Labour leader, he attended a 2016 book launch hosted by the group. He has also received almost £20,000 for appearances on Press TV.
IHRC is primarily funded by the British charity IHRC Trust, which has the same address. It has given the group £1.2 million since 2013 and received £250,000 in taxpayer-funded gift aid.
The Charity Commission recently concluded a two-year investigation into the relationship between IHRC and its trust but did not order any changes.
Emma Fox, of the Henry Jackson Society, which published a report on IHRC this year, said that “cheerleading for Iran’s ayatollahs” was not a charitable objective. She added: “Gift aid is supposed to support well-meaning endeavours. It undermines public confidence when taxpayers see their money [supporting] such organisations.”
An IHRC spokesman said: “Trying to align us to any country based on the ethnicity of any of our staff, directors or volunteers is essentially a racist enterprise.” It was “proud” that Mr Ameli was one of its directors, describing him as “a highly renowned academic”.