Iran ‘propaganda’ group IHRC gets £1.2m from taxpayer‑backed charity

By Andrew Norfolk
Source: The Times
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, with Hatem Bazian, a pro-Palestinian academic, at the latter’s IHRC-hosted book launch in 2016

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.

Sahar Khodayari, a persecuted football fan, set 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.

Women disguise themselves as men to enter a football stadium in Iran

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”.

Erdoğan gov’t secretly investigated family members of critical journalists in Turkey

By Abdullah Bozkurt

Source: Nordic Monitor

 

The Turkish government secretly investigated the family members of journalists critical of the regime including their spouses and children, a document obtained by Nordic Monitor has revealed.

The targeting of family members of critical journalists is part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of intimidation by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, causing Turkey to be named the world’s worst jailer of journalists. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), which maintains an updated list of jailed journalists, Turkey had 232 journalists behind bars as of Feb. 15, 2019.

A secret document dated Jan. 24, 2017 reveals that a Turkish prosecutor ordered the police to investigate the parents, spouses and children of 19 critical journalists including top reporters who were jailed by the Erdoğan regime. The order was sent to the police on Dec. 19, 2016 by prosecutor Can Tuncay, who requested information be gathered on the close relatives of journalists by the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department of the Turkish National Police (Kaçakçılık ve Organize Suçlarla Mücadele Daire Başkanlığı, or KOM). The document was signed by Deputy Chief of Police Burhan Akçay of KOM.

A secret and unlawful investigation into the spouses and children of critical journalists by the police in Turkey.

Among the targeted journalists were Ekrem Dumanlı, former editor-in-chief of Turkey’s one-time best-selling Zaman newspaper who was forced to live in exile in the United States, and Nazlı Ilıcak, a veteran 75-year-old journalist who has been jailed since Aug. 29, 2016 on trumped up charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on Feb. 16, 2018 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. Family members of prominent novelist and journalist Ahmet Hüsrev Altan and his brother, Mehmet Hasan Altan, an economics professor and journalist, were also included on the target list. Both brothers were also given aggravated life sentences.

Nazli Ilicak, veteran Turkish journalist

An annual press freedom report released by the Council of Europe (CoE) in early February 2019 stated that the Zaman Media Group, Cumhuriyet daily, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak trials illustrate the almost complete collapse of the rule of law in Turkey and highlight major concerns relating to the role of the judiciary and its independence. The report, titled “Democracy at Risk: Threats and Attacks Against Media Freedom in Europe,” underlined that journalists in Turkey continued to face extraordinary repression in 2018.

According to the document, former Zaman art director Fevzi Yazıcı, a member of the US-based international Society for News Design (SND) and the recipient of numerous SND awards, was also targeted in this witch-hunt aimed at the family members of journalists.

Prosecutor’s order asking for 19 investigations into journalists’ relatives on criminal accusations.

Others listed in the document are investigative journalists Mehmet Baransu, Emrullah Uslu, Tuncay Opçin, Today’s Zaman former Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, Samanyolu TV Washington representative Şemsettin Efe, Zaman daily journalist Abdülkerim Balcı, former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Zaman Mehmet Kamış, Zaman executive Faruk Kardıç, Zaman brand manager Yakup Şimşek, Zaman Culture and Arts Editor Ali Çolak, Professor Osman Özsoy, academics Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Tibet Murad Sanlıman, and media owner and publisher Alaeddin Kaya.

Police Chief Akçay wrote in his response that the investigation must be kept secret and must not be shared with any third parties. In a six-page report annexed to the secret document, the communications of the family members of the journalists were investigated and their phone records were analyzed by the investigators. The report shows Dumanlı’s two daughters, Süveyda and Süheyla Cemre, 22 and 19 years old at the time, respectively, were investigated by the police. Keneş’s wife, Özsoy’s son, Şimşek’s daughter, Kaya’s wife and son, Uslu’s wife, Yazıcı’s wife and Balcı’s wife were also investigated by the prosecutor with regard to their banking details, membership in nongovernmental organizations and shares in private companies. Dozens of pages listing the phone records of the journalists who spoke to family members were also annexed to the secret document as if it constituted criminal evidence.

Union and association memberships and positions in private companies of the spouses and children of journalists were listed as if they were evidence of criminal activity.

The document also reveals how criminal prosecutions were directed by the government through the National Police Department (Emniyet) in Ankara, which has no role in judicial investigations under the Turkish penal code. The Emniyet’s role is merely administrative, and it can only coordinate provincial police departments when there is a conflict of interest. In a clear breach of established procedure in this case, the Istanbul prosecutor asked the police department in Ankara to investigate the relatives of the journalists when he was supposed to send the order to the Istanbul police.

The Emniyet’s response also gives clues as to how the investigation was to be pursued in line with the Erdoğan government’s requests. Again, in defiance of the established rules, the police asked the prosecutor to treat the information as secret although the initial order from the prosecutor included no such provision, suggesting that the government feared the fallout if the communications were made public. The way the police report was written sounded more like instruction to the prosecutor on how to proceed, when it is supposed to be the other way around. In other words, the executive branch was calling the shots on how the criminal investigations and prosecutions of journalists and their families should proceed.

Union and association memberships and positions in private companies for the spouses and children of the journalists were listed as if they were criminal evidence.

The most notorious case of targeting the family members of journalists took place in 2016, when the police came to arrest journalist Bülent Korucu, editor-in-chief of the critical Yarına Bakış national daily, but instead arrested his wife Hacer on July 30, 2016. The case was listed in the 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by the US State Department. The police message was that she would be held as a hostage until her husband surrendered himself. Hacer, a mother of five who had nothing to do with journalism other than being an avid reader of the daily her husband managed, was formally arrested on Aug. 9, 2016.

Police went to the Korucu home several times afterwards, even going so far as to threaten their children with jail as well. The family could not find a lawyer willing to take up Hacer’s case and file simple motions to exhaust domestic remedies so that she could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for rights violations. Ludicrous charges under anti-terrorism laws included evidence of Hacer’s subscriptions to a newspaper that was critical of the government. No formal indictment was filed against her for months, and she was finally released pending trial subject to a travel ban.

The Erdoğan government has also closed down more than 180 media outlets since 2016 and canceled in excess of 900 press cards.