Amir Taheri (born 9 June 1942 in Ahvaz) is an Iranian-born conservative author based in Europe. His writings focus on the Middle East affairs and topics related to Islamist terrorism. He has been the subject of many controversies involving fabrications in his writings, most notable of which was the 2006 Iranian sumptuary law controversy. He's the current Chairman of Gatestone Institute in Europe.
- 1 Career
- 2 Controversies and fabrications
- 3 Partial bibliography
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Taheri's biography at Benador Associates stated that he was educated in Tehran, London, and Paris. He was executive editor-in-chief of Kayhan, a "strongly pro-Shah" Iranian daily, from 1972 to 1979, and a member of the board of trustees of the Iranian Institute for International Political and Economic Studies in Tehran from 1973 to 1979. Taheri has also been editor-in-chief of Jeune Afrique (1985-1987), Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Times (1980-1984), and has written for the Pakistan Daily Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Daily Mail. He was a member of the executive board of the International Press Institute from 1984 to 1992.
He has been a columnist (often as an "op ed" writer) for Asharq Al-Awsat and its sister publication Arab News, International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and The Washington Post. He has also written for Die Welt, Der Spiegel, in Germany, La Repubblica in Italy, L'Express, Politique internationale (where he is part of the Consulting Committee) and Le Nouvel Observateur in France, El Mundo in Spain, and The Times in the UK, the German weekly Focus magazine, the National Review, and the New York Post.
Taheri is a commentator for CNN and is frequently interviewed by other media including the BBC and the RFI. He has written several TV documentaries dealing with various issues of the Muslim world. He has interviewed many world leaders including Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, King Faisal, Mikhail Gorbachev, President Anwar Sadat, Zhou Enlai, Indira Gandhi and Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Taheri has published several books, some of which have been translated into 20 languages. In 1988 Publishers Weekly in New York chose his study of Islamist terrorism, Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism, as one of the best books of the year. Another of his books, The Cauldron: The Middle East Behind The Headlines (1988) was used as a textbook in colleges in the United Kingdom and Canada. His most recent book, Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution, (2009) discusses the Islamic Republic's history, current political landscape, and geopolitical ambitions.
Controversies and fabrications
Nest of Spies
Shaul Bakhash, a specialist in mideast history at George Mason University, wrote in a review of Taheri's 1989 book Nest of Spies in The New Republic that Taheri concocts conspiracies in his writings, and noted that he "repeatedly refers us to books where the information he cites simply does not exist. Often the documents cannot be found in the volumes to which he attributes them.... [He] repeatedly reads things into the documents that are simply not there." Bakhash stated that Taheri's 1988 Nest of Spies is "the sort of book that gives contemporary history a bad name."
Claims of Osama bin Laden's death in 2002
Taheri's byline was attached to an op-ed in The New York Times of July 11, 2002 under the title "The Death of bin Ladenism". His clip claimed "Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago".
Iranian sumptuary law
On May 19, 2006, the National Post of Canada published two pieces, one by Taheri, claiming that the Iranian parliament passed a law that "envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public." Numerous other sources, including Maurice Motamed, the Jewish member of the Iranian parliament, refuted the report as untrue. The Associated Press later refuted the report as well, saying that "a draft law moving through parliament encourages Iranians to wear Islamic clothing to protect the country's Muslim identity but does not mention special attire for religious minorities, according to a copy obtained Saturday by The Associated Press."  Reuters also reported that "A copy of the bill obtained by Reuters contained no such references. Reuters correspondents who followed the dress code session in parliament as it was broadcast on state radio heard no discussion of proscriptions for religious minorities."
Taheri insisted that his report was correct and that "the dress code law has been passed by the Islamic Majlis and will now be submitted to the Council of Guardians", claiming that "special markers for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism are under discussion as a means to implement the law".
The National Post retracted the story several hours after it was posted online. The newspaper blamed Taheri for the falsehood in the article, and published a full apology on May 24. Taheri stood by his article.
Taheri's PR agent Eliana Benador defended his story. "Benador explained that, when it comes to Iran, accuracy is 'a luxury...As much as being accurate is important, in the end it's important to side with what's right. What's wrong is siding with the terrorists.'"
In 2007, Rudy Giuliani campaign adviser Norman Podhoretz wrote an article in Commentary magazine called "The Case for Bombing Iran," which included the following quotation (allegedly from Ayatollah Khomeini): "We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world." The quotation, which was later repeated by Podhoretz on the PBS NewsHour, and by Michael Ledeen in National Review, surprised Bakhash, who had never heard it before and found it out of character for Khomeni. Bakhash traced the quotation back to a book by Taheri, and reported that "no one can find the book Taheri claimed as his source in the Library of Congress or a search of Persian works in libraries worldwide. The statement itself can't be found in databases and published collections of Khomeini statements and speeches."
Javad Zarif accusations
Dwight Simpson of San Francisco State University and Kaveh Afrasiabi have written that Taheri and his publisher Eleana Benador fabricated false stories in the New York Post in 2005 where Taheri identified Iran's UN ambassador Javad Zarif as one of the students involved in the 1979 seizure of hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. Zarif was Simpson's teaching assistant and a graduate student in the Department of International Relations of San Francisco State University at the time.
Erdogan taking Turkey back 1,000 years with ‘reforms’
With his article, published on New York Post website, he made reference to his own opinions as if Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan made such statements. Examples of his own views that he published as if PM Erdogan's views are as follows, - Taheri claimed 'His plan to amend the Constitution to replace the long-tested parliamentary system with a presidential one (with himself as president and commander-in-chief) is only part of it. He’d also undo the key achievement of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.' while Turkish PM never mentioned during his press conference about presidential system and also PM publicly stated that he prefer presidential system to be discussed but it is not a must, only if there is consensus over presidential system between all political parties, it may be implemented. - Taheri also says in this article, 'First, his package encourages many Turks to redefine their identities as minorities. For example, he has discovered the Lezgin minority and promises to allow its members to school their children in “their own language.”'. The changes promised by Turkish PM doesn't refer to any specific minority or group of citizens and allow any language to be taught in private schools. News and comments in Turkish media stated this amendment was addressing to mainly Kurdish people as there has been requests from Kurdish citizens of Turkey for this. - His article reads, 'They (Kurdish citizens of Turkey) would be allowed to use their language, but not to write it in their own alphabet. Nor could they use “w” and other letters that don’t exist in the Turkish-Latin alphabet but are frequent in Kurdish.' Turkey, under rule of PM Erdogan, made necessary amendments to the laws and there were more than 6.000 books published in Kurdish language in 2012. Therefore, this is a clear example of Taheri's using his own views and ignoring the facts. - Taheri also says in his article, 'The second leg of Erdogan’s strategy is to re-energize his Islamist base. Hundreds of associations controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood are to take over state-owned mosques, religious sites and endowment properties — thus offering AKP a vast power base across Turkey.' which is just an opinion of himself, not based on single evidence or fact as there is no Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey. - Taheri says in his article that 'Erdogan is using “Manzikert” as a slogan to sell his package' while PM Erdogan never made any reference to Manzikert in his speech.
Hanging of 14-year-old gay in Isfahan
In July 2015, few days after nuclear deal has been reached between Iran and great powers, Taheri has tweeted that "14-year-old Akbar Zargarzadeh hanged from tree in Islamic boys' camp after camp's mullah accused him of being gay deserving death." Shortly thereafter an American LGBT activist Scott Long contacted Iranian queer organizations and Persian speaking people, and found out claim has been a hoax.
- 1986. The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution.
- 1987. Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism.
- 1988. The Cauldron: The Middle East Behind the Headlines.
- 1989. Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran.
- 1989. Crescent in a Red Sky: The Future of Islam in the Soviet Union.
- 1991. The Unknown Life of the Shah.
- The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution (2009) ISBN 1-59403-240-8
- Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy - P252, by Amitai Etzioni
- "Board of Advisors" Gatestone Institute. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Schwarz, Jonathan (2007-11-18) The Amir Taheri Story, Mother Jones
- "Profile: Amir Taheri". The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. Archived from the original on 2009-01-31.
- Larry Cohler-Esses, Bunkum From Benador, The Nation, posted June 14, 2006 (July 3, 2006 issue). Accessed online 18 March 2011.
- Bakhash, Shaul (15 May 1989). "Iran Amok". The New Republic: 43–45. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
- Amir Taheri (May 19, 2006). "A Colour Code for Iran's 'Infidels'". National Post. Copy available via Benador Associates.
- The Associated Press (May 20, 2006). "Iranian Law Would Encourage Islamic Dress". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2006-05-21.[dead link][dead link]
- Reuters (May 20, 2006). "Iran dress code law does not target minorities - MPs". Reuters. Archived from the original on 16 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-21.
- Amir Taheri (May 22, 2006). "Amir Taheri addresses queries about dress code story". Benador Associates Press Release. Archived from the original on 24 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-22.
- Yossi Melman,"Canada's National Post retracts report that Iranian Jews will be forced to wear yellow patches". Archived from the original on 2006-06-03. Retrieved 2006-06-03. , Ha'aretz, 21 May 2006. Archived on the Internet Archive 3 June 2006.
- Chris Wattie, Experts say report of badges for Jews in Iran is untrue Archived May 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. , National Post (Canada), May 19, 2006. Accessed online 21 September 2006.
- Our mistake: Note to readers Archived June 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., National Post (Canada), September 20, 2006. Accessed online 21 September 2006.
- Barbara and David P. Mikkelson (31 October 2006). "Badge of Distinction". Snopes.
- Taheri, Amir. "Erdogan taking Turkey back 1,000 years with 'reforms'". New York Post.
- Scott Long (20 July 2015). "Gay hanging in Iran: Atrocities and impersonations". Paper Bird.
- John C. Campbell book review (Spring 1986). "The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 2003-12-31.
- John C. Campbell book review (Winter 1987–1988). "Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 2004-07-05.
- Gaddis Smith book review (Fall 1989). "Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 2005-11-28.
- NameBase book review. "Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran". Public Information Research.
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