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June 16, 2020 6:00 am

Amid George Floyd Killing, Iran Suddenly Cares About Human Rights

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avatar by Potkin Azarmehr


A demonstrator holds a sign while gathering with others during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in front of the at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US, June 7, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz.

Protests following the police killing of George Floyd have spread from the United States to other Western democracies — and Iran is loving it.

In 2011, following what became known as the “Arab Spring,” I received a video of Hassan Rahimpour-Azghadi speaking to an audience outlining Iran’s plans for a “global operation” and the “disintegration of the West.”

Rahimpour-Azghadi, who calls himself a strategist, is no ordinary Iranian. He is a member of the powerful Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution. His 2011 speech outlined how “the revolution is on its way” to toppling world governments and Iran’s “units are now present throughout the five continents.”

The Washington-based Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) published another video in February in which Rahimpour-Azghadi specifically explains how Iran must exploit and provoke racial tensions in the United States:

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“[W]e have to make our presence felt in the conflicts in America that involve blacks and people of color,” he said “If their media fabric and the oppressing structures [police force] loosen a little bit, America is the kind of country that will disintegrate quickly. I am not just saying this; I have traveled to America two or three times. I talked with different types in seminars. There are levels of hatred, alienation, and estrangement there.”

He then laments Iranian complacency in exploiting past US racial tensions.

“There is hatred of various kinds there, and we are not taking proper advantage of it,” he said.

He called for “several thousand of our surplus people” to move abroad, including to England, and “even get married to the local girls. This is how we will change things.”

But if statements from Iranian leaders are any indication, the Islamic Republic has its own overt racism to deal with. In 2010, Mohamad-Javad Larijani, the American-educated secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council and a top advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, publicly uttered the n-word in reference to President Barack Obama. In 2014, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani used a different racial slur against black people during a United Nations speech.

None of this means Iran has stoked the reaction to Floyd’s killing. But it does show that it has wanted to foment racial tensions in the West for years.

On June 3, New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness published an analysis citing “International Islamist extremists and terrorist groups continue to publish propaganda about US racial and political tensions to proliferate their deception that America is a corrupt state.”

The bulletin mentioned Iran, as well as a transcript of a May 27 video tweet by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which claimed “African Americans are deprived of human rights in the United States.”

It was an ironic assertion, given how Iran deprives its citizens of their human rights, including the Baha’is, women, Christian converts, Jews, Afghan refugees, gays and lesbians, and thousands of political dissidents.

It is not just that Iran is reveling in the current protests: these events will also make it easier for Iran to crack down on any future domestic protests. It will enable them to claim they are dealing with rioters as was done in the West.

Iran cannot believe its luck. Last November, it was receiving international condemnation for having brutally murdered 1,500 protesters. In January, it shot down a passenger plane on its own soil, killing 176 passengers, and still refuses to hand over the black box.

The current global protests and the initial violent looting and riots however, have made sure all that is forgotten for now. It is a win/win situation for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Investigative Project on Terrorism Senior Fellow Potkin Azarmehr is a London-based investigative journalist, business intelligence analyst, and TV documentary maker who was born in Iran. He regularly contributes to several newspapers and television stations on Iran- and Middle East-related news. You can follow him @potkazar. A version of this article was originally published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). 

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