Masih Alinejad

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Masih Alinejad
Masih Alinejad.jpg
Masih Alinejad in 2018
Masoumeh Alinejad-Ghomi

(1976-09-11) 11 September 1976 (age 44)
EducationOxford Brookes University
OccupationJournalist and author
Years active2001–present
EmployerU.S. Agency for Global Media
Kambiz Foroohar
(m. 2014)

Masih Alinejad (Persian: مسیح علی‌نژاد‎, born 11 September 1976) is an Iranian journalist author, political activist, and women's rights activist.[1] Contracted by the U.S. Agency for Global Media,[2] 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.[3]

Alinejad focuses on criticism of Iranian authorities, especially in women’s right.[4] 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.[5]

In 2019, Alinejad sued the Iranian government in a U.S. federal court for harassment against her and her family.[6] 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".[7][8]


Alinejad in 2009

Alinejad was born as Masoumeh Alinejad, but uses the first name "Masih" (Persian for "anointed" or "Messiah"), which is the title of Jesus of Nazareth in Islam and Christianity.[9][10] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12][dubious ]

Alinejad graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Communications Studies.[13]

My Stealthy Freedom[edit]

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.[14] However, some have claimed it is an exploitation of female rights activists by anti-Iranian US conservatives.[15]

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".[16]

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.[14]

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.[17]

Voice of America[edit]

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.[18] 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.[19]


Chess championship boycott[edit]

In 2016, Alinejad launched a boycott campaign against the 2016 women's chess world championship, held in February 2017 in Tehran, Iran.[20] 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.[21]

Meeting with Trump administration officials[edit]

Masih Alinejad and Secretary of the State, Mike Pompeo
Mike Pompeo "thanked Ms. Alinejad for her bravery and continued dedication to speaking out on these issues and defending human rights in Iran." (4 February 2019)

In February 2019, Masih Alinejad met with top Donald Trump administration official Mike Pompeo.[22] US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said Secretary of State Pompeo "thanked Ms. Alinejad for her bravery and continued dedication".[23] Alinejad said they met for 35 minutes, and claimed to each other, "Many Iranians want an end to the Islamic Republic".[22]

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.[24]

Arrest of family members[edit]

On 23 September 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.[25][26]

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.[27]

Criticisms and controversies[edit]

In 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]."[28]

Alinejad has been accused of feeding Islamophobia by focusing on the hijab,[29] calling it the symbol of oppression,[30] and occasionally identifying herself as an anti-hijab activist.[31] She rejects accusations of Islamophobia, but insists that it is the Sharia of Islam which scares her and it is Sharia laws which cause Islamophobia.[32]

After the Christchurch mosque shooting in March 2019 in New Zealand, Alinejad criticised the county's prime minister Jacinda Ardern for wearing a hijab 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”.[33][34]

Alinejad was recently also criticized for allegedly repeating Trump Administration talking points in public media appearances while failing to mention her US Government ties: specifically, that she is paid to produce material for the Persian Service of Voice of America, a government-funded broadcaster.[35]


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.[36] 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[edit]


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

External links[edit]