Interview by Rachel Brooks
Special guest Ali Javanmardi
February 6, 2021
I was born in the city of Sanandaj, in Iranian Kurdistan. I became interested in journalism and media in general in my youth. My career in media started 26 years ago. I started work with US media Persian service 16 years ago when I became a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America/Persian in Ankara, Turkey, and later in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
In 2017, I started Ava Today, initially on Telegram, disseminating factual news and commentary covering Iranian and US events for the Iranian people. Their only option to receive uncensored news is via the internet, particularly through social media. AVAToday in multiple social media platforms today and has emerged as a major source of news, particularly for the Iranian youth. We are on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, as well as our website. We have a professional staff that includes Iranian, Kurdish, Arab, and Turkish journalists and stringers. We publish in five languages, namely, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, and English, and broadcast in Persian and Kurdish on YouTube and Facebook.
Due to government control of media and the press, all news is strictly censored and journalists are brutally suppressed. Examples of arbitrary arrests, torture, and imprisonment of journalists as well as their legal counsel are numerous.
A prime example is the imprisonment of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer who routinely defended incarcerated journalists. She was arrested on multiple “national security” charges including appearing without hijab in public and after a sham trial sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.
Factual news about Iran is prevented from being reflected in the outside world. Certain international broadcasters such as BBC/Persian service and, to the surprise of all, the Voice of America Persian Service are influenced by certain Iranian “reformist” elements that have penetrated their organizations greatly influence the news content and prevent reflection of the domestic reality of the country.
Iranian laws today are based on Islamic Shiia tenets, and accordingly, cannot be reformed, updated, or changed. In the Islamic Republic, opposition to the system is not allowed and all voices of dissent are quashed.
Both factions of the system, “fundamentalists” and “reformists” have similar archaic religious beliefs in which women’s rights are not equal to men’s rights, and human rights or democracy has no place in their Islamic system. Worse yet, the system thrives on corruption. The two factions take terms plundering the country.
In such circumstances, news about Iran, particularly in regards to its terrorist activities as well as its hostility towards the west – mainly towards the US and Israel – rarely leaks out and is seldom published here. The frequent murder of Kurdish, Baluch, and Arab ethnic minorities, routine execution of political opponents, rampant human rights violations which include routine torture are rarely covered in the US press.
In contrast, the U.S. press gives good coverage to even the smallest report on events in the rest of the Middle East.
Ava Today has routinely reported and shared with the U.S. and western press Iranian domestic news in English.
We have extensively reported on terrorist activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their complicity in the elimination of the regime’s opponents in Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, the UAE, Syria, Lebanon, and the heart of Europe, We have routinely reported on the type and distribution of Iranian missiles to Syrians, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and HAMAS in Gaza.
It should be noted that the commercial interests of certain western countries have contributed to their policy of ignoring the IRGC’s terrorist activities and their negligence in publishing reports of such activities in their midst.
But the former Trump Administration broke with this tradition and declared the IRGC a terrorist organization.
2. Communist and leftist elements played a very significant role in the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah.
Although the regime and its laws are derived from Shiia Islam, in reality, there was a strong leftist ideological and methodological influence particularly in their methods of suppression, imprisonment and execution/murder of opponents, censorship of the press, rule by terror – quite similar to methods used in Russia and China today.
These two countries are also greatly benefiting from have extensive political and commercial relations with the clerical regime.
The Obama Administration’s JCPOA ignored the fact that the IRGC was present in Iraq and was responsible for the mines that killed many American soldiers.
3. General opinion in the western world is that what the Islamic regime does in Iran is a domestic matter. They fail to realize the consequences of the malicious support the Islamic regime consistently provides to any anti-American or anti-western organizations worldwide. There is hardly a terrorist group or organization in the world that has not received assistance from the Islamic Republic. The West must take terrorism more seriously than it has so far. This is a rootless regime that according Reutersused its war machine to gun down 1800 protesters in a single day in Iran. Just imagine what it could do if it were in possession of nuclear weapons.
4. Islamic regime of Iran has a hostile attitude to all non-Shia sects and religions. The Baha’i faith is officially banned and their followers are considered apostates. Their belongings are expropriated, their children deprived of education in universities, and excluded from hiring by the government.
Conversion to any religion including Christianity is forbidden and the person who does will face imprisonment. Jews are under total control. Suni Moslems are not allowed to build mosques and are discriminated against. About twenty percent of the population of Iran follows the Suni sect of Islam. They are mostly Kurdish, Baluchis and Arabs, and are under constant pressure.
Last month we launched a petition that garnered 120,000 signatures to inform the new Biden Administration that the National Iranian American Association, NIAC, despite its name, does not represent the majority Iranian-Americans or the majority of the Iranian people.
From its inception in the early 2000s, NIAC has tried to present itself as the representative of the Iranian people in Washington DC. It has and is lobbying in the halls of Congress for policies that seem to support at least some of the actions and policies of the Islamic regime. It consistently acts as an apologist for the regime and argues that the endemic corruption, the miserable economic situation, and the daily suffering of the Iranian people under the oppressive rule of the clerical regime are all the results of US sanctions on Iran.
NIAC has even gone as far as calling Ghasem Soleimani, an international terrorist, a national hero. It also described the shooting down of the Ukrainian commercial aircraft over Tehran, murdering 176 passengers, “due to technical problems”, although the regime itself finally admitted to the heinous crime.
There is no clear indication of what policy the new administration will follow towards the Islamic Republic, but we are worried about the probable renegotiation of the JCPOA and its effect on the empowering of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
It is imperative that in any negotiation with the clerical regime the issue of human rights, particularly the rights of women, should be on top of the agenda. We hope and suggest that leaders of Iranian political opposition groups should be invited to present their views to the Administration so better policy decisions can be arrived at. The Islamic regime is a destabilizing factor in the world and should not be appeased. It thrives on its anti-American rhetoric and suppressing its people while spending lavishly to support terrorist organizations worldwide.