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March 21, 2017

Where’s the Coverage? Iran Sentences Iranian-American to Death

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

On March 12, 2017, the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced an Iranian-American named Karam Vafadari and his wife, Afarin Niasari, to death for promoting “corruption on earth” and founding a “cult.” The couple’s death sentence was widely ignored by major U.S. news outlets.

According to a policy brief by Iran analyst Tzvi Kahn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, Tehran has alleged that the couple was selling “obscene images” at an art gallery that they ran, and encouraged “corruption and debauchery by holding mixed parties.”

Foreign diplomats frequented the art gallery owned by the couple, perhaps one reason behind the Iranian regime’s decision to target the couple. Additionally, Vafadari is Zoroastrianism. As Kahn noted, “Though Iran formally recognizes Zoroastrianism as a protected minority religion, its adherents have long faced persecution by the regime.”

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps initially arrested both Vafadari and Niasari in July 2016. Thereafter, both were denied due process, were subjected to solitary confinement, and confiscated and destroyed the couple’s artwork.

In addition to Vafadari, six other Iranian-Americans are currently being held in Iranian jails—many of them on charges of dubious merit. This may be by design. As Kahn pointed out, “By targeting the couple as well as other dual nationals, the regime discourages travel to and from Iran, and demoralizes moderate Iranians who oppose its Islamist rule.” Moreover, Tehran may be seeking to demonstrate both that a rapprochement with the West is unlikely and that “its own religious minorities constitute second-class citizens who must subordinate their convictions to the imperatives of Shiite Islamist governance.”

Despite the danger and oppression that religious minorities face in Iran, some in the news media have insisted that the opposite is true. For example, as CAMERA has highlighted, USA Today ran an Aug. 7, 2015 piece that whitewashed Iran’s denigration and oppression—at times murderous—of its Jewish community. Iranian Jews were interviewed and—no doubt as there government minders intended—painted a rosy picture for Western journalists, such as the Global Post’s Reese Erlich whose reporting was featured by Today (“Global Post Omits Key Facts While ‘Interviewing’ Iran’s Jews,” Aug. 13, 2015). Similarly, The New York Times’ Nick Kristoff has also claimed “Iran doesn’t treat its 20,000 Jews as wretchedly as its rhetoric would suggest (“Starting Another War,” Sept. 12, 2006).” However, prior to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, more then 100,000 Jews lived in the country—until subsequent show-trials and executions of Jewish citizens encouraged many to flee. Those who remain, live in fear, their existence at the tyrannical government’s whim.

Many major U.S. news outlets failed to report the death sentence that was handed out to an American citizen and his wife. A Lexis-Nexis search of some prominent journals, including USA Today, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, among others, showed not a single mention of Tehran’s latest action.

Posted by SD at March 21, 2017 09:25 AM


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