Ilhan Omar Attacks Iranian Journalist for Supporting Trump — Faces Brutal Backlash

Rep. Ilhan Omar has faced backlash for apparently trying to discredit an Iranian journalist who has criticized the Islamist regime defended President Donald Trump’s Iran policy.

On Monday, the Minnesota Democrat retweeted a post questioning the journalistic integrity of Masih Alinejad — and added a “thinking face” emoji. The writer of the tweet, Eli Clifton of the the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an anti-interventionist think tank, accused Alinejad and “the mainstream media” of failing to disclose that she works for the Voice of America Persian Service.

Clifton’s implication, spelled out in a linked article and echoed by others, was that Alinejad’s paychecks from the U.S. broadcaster explain why she “has been repeatedly echoing the administration’s claims that Iranians, despite all visible evidence, were welcoming Trump’s potential act of war against Iran.

Alinejad has triggered backlash from Trump critics by arguing that few Iranians are really mourning the killing of Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a Jan. 3 airstrike ordered by the president. In a Washington Post op-ed Monday, she said that the mass funerals in the streets of Iran are staged by the regime and that many Iranians “think Soleimani was a war criminal.”

However, she said, “Western journalists rarely reach out to them,” showing “unwarranted gullibility toward the official version of events.”

Masih Alinejad fires back at Ilhan Omar

Alinejad responded Friday to Omar’s attack with 10-tweet blast, revealing that she has repeatedly reached out to Omar for help after the Iranian regime targeted members of her family, including imprisoning her brother. She faulted Omar for not responding to her outreach and for staying silent about Iran’s many “human rights abuses,” as well as its downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane last week, apparently by mistake.

“Ilhan Omar, when my innocent brother was recently taken hostage by the regime, solely due to my advocacy of civil rights for Iran, I reached out to you, expecting solidarity from you. However, you were silent. You gave no reaction,” she said. “After months of silence, you instead chose to amplify a smear campaign against me, a fellow woman of color. Your only comments to all these human rights abuses is to repeat Islamic Republic propaganda against me.”

Alinejad, an anti-headscarf activist who last year sued Iran for its treatment of her family, went on to defend her contract work for VOA. She said that it was “created to counter the propaganda of authoritarian adversaries like the Soviet Union.”

“By bullying a freelance journalist like me, you are empowering the Revolutionary Guards to put more pressure on my family,” she said.

Alinejad also noted that she is far from a Trump lackey, having criticized his travel ban and threats against Iranian cultural sites, and that she has vocally opposed war with Iran for years.

However, Alinejad noted, “I’ve also condemned the Islamic Republic’s ban on Iranian dissidents that prevented people like me from going home” and its other “cruel policies.”

“Yet, when I divulge the repression of the Islamic Republic, attacks against me proliferate by the regime & their supporters in the West,” she said. “I’d have never imagined that one day a member of Congress, a fellow woman of colour, would join with my oppressors in trying to defame me.”

“How could you ever explain this tweet, Ilhan?”

Other prominent Iranian women’s rights activists backed Alinejad and slammed Omar.

Iranian-Canadian writer-editor Maryam Nayeb Yazdi shamed Omar, who has often complained that Republican criticism of her puts her life at risk.

“Masih Alinejad is receiving death threats. Rape threats. Her brother’s being held hostage by the IRGC,” she said. “How could you ever explain this tweet, Ilhan? My heart’s crying.”

Actress Nazanin Boniadi agreed, saying, “This piece is a defamatory hit job against @AlinejadMasih, a journalist who is already facing death and rape threats and whose brother has been taken hostage by the IRI to silence her. Why is a member of the U.S. Congress — a female member at that — endorsing it?”

Omar has yet to respond on Twitter, and her office did not respond to Pluralist’s request for comment.

She has previously said that Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani to distract from his own impeachment and complained that the resulting U.S.-Iran tensions triggered her “PTSD.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, spoke for many in the GOP when he accused Omar and other Democrats of “American self-loathing.”

Over the weekend, Alinejad’s take on Iranian public sentiment was partially vindicated, when hundreds of protesters took to the streets to call for an end to the Islamic Republic. According to videos posted to social media, crowds chanted slogans like, “Soleimani was a murderer, his leader is also a murderer!,” “Death to the dictators” and “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here.”

*story by Pluralist