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Masih Alinejad

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Masih Alinejad
مسیح علینژاد
Secretary Pompeo's Meeting With Iranian Women's Rights Activist Masih Alinejad (cropped).jpg
Masih Alinejad in 2019
Masoumeh Alinejad-Ghomi

(1976-09-11) September 11, 1976 (age 45)
CitizenshipUnited States[1]
EducationOxford Brookes University
OccupationJournalist and author
Years active2001–present
EmployerU.S. Agency for Global Media
Kambiz Forouhar
(m. 2014)

Masih Alinejad (Persian: مسیح علی‌نژاد‎, born Masoumeh Alinejad-Ghomi (Persian: معصومه علی‌نژاد قمی‎), September 11, 1976) is an American journalist, author, political activist, and women's rights activist.[2][3] Alinejad currently works as a presenter/producer at VOA Persian Service, a correspondent for Radio Farda, a frequent contributor to Manoto television, and a contributing editor to IranWire.[4]

Alinejad focuses on criticism of Iranian human rights, especially in women's rights.[5] She now lives in exile in New York City, and has won several awards, including a human rights award from UN Watch's 2015 Geneva Summit for Human Rights, the Omid Journalism Award from the Mehdi Semsar Foundation, and a "Highly Commended" AIB Media Excellence Award.[6]

In 2019, Alinejad sued the Iranian government in a U.S. federal court for harassment against her and her family.[7] She released a book in 2018 called The Wind in My Hair that deals with her experiences growing up in Iran, where she claims girls "are raised to keep their heads low, to be unobtrusive as possible, and to be meek".[8][9] In 2021, U.S. prosecutors charged that she was the target of a kidnapping plot by the Iranian government.[10]


Alinejad was born as Masoumeh Alinejad, but uses the first name "Masih" (Persian for "anointed" or "Messiah").[11][12] Alinejad was politically active from a young age, and was arrested in 1994 for producing leaflets critical of the government. She began her career in journalism in 2001 with Hambastegi daily, and then worked for Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA). Papers, including Shargh, Bahar, Vaghaye Ettefaghiye, Ham-Mihan, and Etemad Melli, have also published her articles. During the sixth and seventh parliament, Alinejad was the parliamentary reporter. In 2005, she wrote an article suggesting that government ministers had claimed they received pay cuts; they were actually receiving considerable sums of money as "bonuses" for everything from serving religious duties to ringing in the New Year. The article generated controversy, and led to her dismissal from parliament.[12]

In 2008, she wrote a highly controversial article in Etemad-e Melli daily, called "Song of the Dolphins", where she compared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's followers to hungry dolphins that make sounds and perform entertaining acts to grab a morsel of food from their trainer. Some people regarded the article as very offensive towards the president and the people, and eventually, Mehdi Karroubi, the director of the paper, had to apologise for the article.[13] In the summer of 2009, during her stay in the United States, Alinejad tried very hard to have an interview with Barack Obama; however, she was refused the interview, although she had been granted a visa based on this interview. Her visa expired, and she had to return to England. While in the United States, she participated in some Iranian protests, and delivered a speech in San Francisco, where she said, addressing the government authorities of Iran, "We have trembled for thirty years, now it is your turn to tremble". Her interview with Voice of America was shown together with parts of the videos she had made, called "A Storm of Fresh Air". In 2010, she and a group of Iranian writers and intellectuals established the "IranNeda" foundation. After the presidential election in Iran in 2009, she published a novel called A Green Date.[14][dubious ]

Alinejad graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Communications Studies.[15]

Opposition to Islamic totalitarianism

Alinejad just after she left Iran to United States in 2009

In 2014, Alinejad launched My Stealthy Freedom (also known as Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women), a Facebook page that invites Iranian women to post pictures of themselves without a hijab. The page quickly attracted international attention, and has garnered hundreds of thousands of likes.[16] However, some have claimed it is an exploitation of female rights activists by anti-Iranian US conservatives.[17]

In 2015, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, which is run by UN Watch, gave her its women's rights award for "giving a voice to the voiceless and stirring the conscience of humanity to support the struggle of Iranian women for basic human rights, freedom, and equality".[18]

Alinejad has said she is not opposed to the hijab, but believes it should be a matter of personal choice. In Iran, women who appear in public without a hijab risk being arrested.[16]

Some women have published articles denouncing this campaign as a tool of U.S. foreign policy, interested in only exploiting these currents for Regime change.[19]

Voice of America

Since 2015, as a contractor for the US Federal Government's Voice of America (Persian Language Service), Alinejad has hosted a weekly 15-minute primetime show called Tablet, produced by Saman Arbabi. "With original video from inside Iran, Tablet profiles ordinary citizens and connects them with Americans through short interviews on common themes illustrating both similar and different experiences. The program also has a weekly "timeline report", tracing the development of issues such as the international women's rights movement and relations between Washington and Tehran", the press release states.[20][21]

In July 2019, Iranian officials warned that anyone sending videos to Alinejad faced up to 10 years in prison. Musa Ghazanfarabadi, the head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court, told Fars News that those sharing protest videos with Alinejad could be imprisoned for up to a decade under laws relating to cooperating with an enemy of the state.[22]


Masih Alinejad and Secretary of the State, Mike Pompeo
Alinejad meeting with Trump's Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, 2019

Chess championship boycott

In 2016, Alinejad launched a boycott campaign against the 2016 women's chess world championship, held in February 2017 in Tehran, Iran.[23] The campaign was incited by Nazí Paikidze, a Georgian-American chess player. Paikidze, a non-Iranian, refused to attend world championships in Tehran because according to Iranian law, the players had to wear hijabs. Alinejad supported the act, and co-wrote an op-ed with Asra Nomani in The Washington Post.[24]

Meeting with Trump administration officials

In February 2019, Masih Alinejad met with top Donald Trump administration official Mike Pompeo.[25] US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said Secretary of State "thanked Ms. Alinejad for her bravery and continued dedication".[26] Alinejad said they met for 35 minutes and she highlighted three areas. First, “Many Iranians want an end to the Islamic Republic. Opposition voices should be heard”. Second, International community should focus on 40 years of human rights violations by the regime, and third, the Trump administration travel ban hurts human rights activists and students, not the regime.[25] Journalist Azadeh Moaveni has argued that the Trump administration has exploited Iran's feminist movement, and specifically named Alinejad as a prominent leader in that effort.[27]


Arrest of family members

On September 23, 2019, Islamic Republic security forces arrested three of Alinejad's family members as retribution for her women's rights activism, according to Amnesty International. Alinejad's brother, Alireza Alinejad, was arrested in Tehran, while Hadi and Leila Lotfi, brother and sister of her former husband, Max Lotfi, were all arrested in the northern city of Babol by officials from the ministry of intelligence.[28][29] The family members have since been outspoken about their criticism of Alinejad's work. Alinejad counter-alleges that her family was forced to say these things by the Iranian government.[30]

Kidnapping plot

Masih Alinejad and Secretary of the State, Mike Pompeo
Alinejad meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in July 2021

In July 2021, the US Department of Justice claimed that four Iranian intelligence officials and a fifth assistant were planning to kidnap Alinejad. Alinejad claimed that she was one of the targets. According to Alinejad, the plotters were trying to lure her into a third country—presumably Venezuela[31]—where an abduction was planned.[10]

Anti-compulsory hijab

Alinejad has been critical of the hijab, a veil worn by Muslims,[32] calling it the symbol of oppression,[33] and occasionally identifying herself as an anti-hijab activist.[34] She rejects accusations of Islamophobia, but insists that it is the Sharia law which scares her and it is Sharia laws which cause Islamophobia.[35] Speaking about hijab during a debate with Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour on CNN, Alinejad said: "It's important if you care about human rights, women's rights, you cannot use the same tool which is the most visible symbol of oppression in the Middle East and say that this is a sign of resistance [in the United States]."[36]

After the Christchurch mosque shooting in March 2019 in New Zealand, Alinejad remained quiet on the shootings but after the country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore a hijab, Alinejad started criticizing her for wearing a hijab ostensibly in sympathy and respect to the Muslim victims. She said she "felt that you are using one of the most visible symbols of oppression for Muslim women in many countries for solidarity, and it also broke my heart”.[37][38]


Alinejad's memoir, The Wind in My Hair, dealing with her journey from a tiny village in northern Iran to becoming a journalist and creating an online movement that sparked the nationwide protests against compulsory hijab, was published by Little Brown in 2018.[39] The New York Times alleges the book paints a vivid portrait of modern Iran and is told with a blunt honesty that seems a characteristic of Alinejad's life and writing. It is a gripping tale that permits us to peek at the inner workings of the Iranian Revolution and consider the question of its health and longevity.

She has published four books in Persian:

  • Tahasson[ISBN missing] - which describes the political turmoil/challenges created when the "Sixth Iranian Parliament" went on strike.
  • Taj-e-Khar (The Crown of Thorns)[ISBN missing] - a novel that is now being translated into English. It refers to the passion of the Christ and the crown of thorns placed on his head by the Romans.
  • I am Free[ISBN missing] - which deals with women's issues in Iran, published in Germany because of the banning by the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry in Iran.
  • Gharar Sabz (Green Rendezvous)[ISBN missing] - which deals with post-2009 presidential election fraud violence. This book was also published in Germany, for the same reasons.

See also


  1. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (July 13, 2021). "Iranian Operatives Planned to Kidnap a Brooklyn Author, Prosecutors Say". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2021. ... Ms. Alinejad, an American citizen ...
  2. ^ "Iran: Family of women's rights activist arrested in despicable attempt to intimidate her into silence". September 25, 2019.
  3. ^ Fang, Lee (January 7, 2020), "VOA Persian Awarded Journalism Contract to Controversial Former Trump Campaign Operative", The Intercept, retrieved March 20, 2020
  4. ^ "USAGM". USAGM. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  5. ^ Morris, Cheryl (November 1, 2007). "How Masih Alinejad is paying the price for confronting Iran's leaders". New Internationalist. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  6. ^ "Radio Farda and Radio Free Afghanistan Honored By AIB". Pressroom. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. November 7, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  7. ^ "Anti-headscarf law activist sues Iran in US over harassment". AP News. April 21, 2021.
  8. ^ "The wind in my hair: one Iranian woman's courageous struggle against being forced to wear the hijab". The Guardian. June 2, 2018.
  9. ^ Smith, Jordan Michael (August 13, 2019). "How Voice of America Persian Became a Trump Administration PR Machine". The Intercept. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Iranians 'plotted to kidnap US, Canada and UK targets'". BBC. July 14, 2021. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  11. ^ Tanagho, Samy (2017). Glad News!: God Loves You, My Muslim Friend!. Moody Publishers. p. part 78. ISBN 9780802495778. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Morris, Cheryl (November 1, 2007). "Masih Alinejad on the cost of confronting Iran's patriarchal leaders". New Internationalist. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  13. ^ Siamdoust, Nahid (May 7, 2008). "'Jesus' vs. Ahmadinejad". Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "Speakers: Masih Alinejad". Striving for Human Rights. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  15. ^ "Brookes student speaks on BBC World Service". Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (May 12, 2014). "Iranian women post pictures of themselves without hijabs on Facebook". The Guardian. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  17. ^ Moaveni, Azadeh. "How the Trump Administration Is Exploiting Iran's Burgeoning Feminist Movement". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  18. ^ Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (February 24, 2015). "Iranian woman wins rights award for hijab campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  19. ^ Curator (March 12, 2019). "Masih Alinejad Does Not Speak For Me". Medium. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  20. ^ "New VOA Persian Show Targets Young Viewers in Iran". VOA. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  21. ^ Masih Alinejad, funding by the US since 2015
  22. ^ "Iranian women face 10 years for sharing videos of hijab removal". The Telegraph. July 29, 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  23. ^ Wootson Jr, Cleve R. (October 6, 2016). "'I will NOT wear a hijab': U.S. chess star refuses to attend world championships in Iran". Washington Post. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  24. ^ Nomani, Asra Q.; Alinejad, Masih (October 5, 2016). "The American chess champion challenging Iran's hijab fetish". Global Views. Washington Post.
  25. ^ a b "Pompeo Tells Iranian Rights Activist Of U.S. Support". Radio Farda. February 5, 2019. Archived from the original on February 5, 2019. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  26. ^ "Secretary Pompeo's Meeting With Iranian Women's Rights Activist Masih Alinejad". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on February 5, 2019. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  27. ^ Moaveni, Azadeh (July 9, 2018). "How the Trump Administration Is Exploiting Iran's Burgeoning Feminist Movement". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Archived from the original on December 15, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  28. ^ "Iran: Family of women's rights activist arrested in despicable attempt to intimidate her into silence". amnesty. September 25, 2019. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  29. ^ Alinejad, Masih (October 6, 2019). "My Brother Ali Is Iran's Latest Hostage". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  30. ^ "Family members taken 'hostage' by Iran to silence critics abroad". Middle East Monitor. October 3, 2019. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  31. ^ "Iran 'spies' charged in plot to kidnap US journalist and speed her to Venezuela". July 14, 2021.
  32. ^ Ghattas, Kim. "Those Who Dare to Bare Their Hair". Foreign Policy. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  33. ^ Women in the World (February 10, 2016), Masih Alinejad: The "hijab is the most visible symbol of oppression", retrieved March 23, 2019
  34. ^ "Fox News: Iranian activist speaks out about treatment of women in Iran". Masihalinejad Media. August 10, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  35. ^ Weltwoche. "The Menace of the Mullahs". Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  36. ^ Katy Scott (February 18, 2018). "Macy's decision to sell hijabs sparks debate among Muslim women". CNN. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  37. ^ "New Zealand women face praise and protests for donning the hijab". Reuters. March 26, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  38. ^ "Iranian women threw off the hijab - what happened next?". BBC News. May 18, 2018.
  39. ^ Zakaria, Rafia (July 3, 2018). "The Woman Whose Hair Frightens Iran". The New York Times (review).

External links

External video
video icon Activist Masih Alinejad fights against the compulsory hijab in Iran, Matter Of Fact With Stan Grant, ABC News