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Iran Arrests Relatives Of Renowned US-Based Women's Rights Defender

Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and women's rights activist, speaks on stage at the Women In The World Summit in New York, April 12, 2019

An exiled outspoken women's rights activist, Masih Alinejad disclosed on Wednesday, September 25, that the agents of the Islamic Republic Ministry of Intelligence have arrested her brother in Iran.

Masih Alinejad, 43, is an Iranian-American journalist, author, and an activist. Alinejad currently works as a presenter/producer at VOA Persian Service, and a contributor to other foreign-based Persian networks.

Furthermore, she is the founder of the anti-compulsory-hijab "My Stealthy Freedom", and "White Wednesdays" online campaigns.

Intelligence agents stormed into Ali Alinejad's house on Tuesday, ransacked the place, confiscated his laptop and cellphone, handcuffed and blindfolded him before taking him away, the New York-based Masih Alinejad disclosed.

"We have no information about my brother's whereabouts. My mother and the family members of my brother's wife are deeply worried," Alinejad lamented late Wednesday, asserting, "They have been threatened to remain silent, or else."

"President Rouhani talks of hope and peace at the United Nations, and yet he is terrorizing people inside the country," says Masih Alinejad, adding, "The Islamic Republic acts as a hostage-taker and at the same time wants to be trusted by the rest of the world. My brother was not involved in any political activity, and yet he has been detained just to put pressure on me."

In July 2018, Masih Alinejad had written in a New York Times op-ed that Iranian authorities pressured her family to denounce her on the state-run media outlets, including the monopolized TV network that featured her sister publicly condemning Alinejad for her campaign against compulsory hijab.

Meanwhile, the Intelligence Ministry's agents have also stormed the house of Alinejad's ex-husband in the northern city of Babol and arrested his brother Hadi Lotfi, 34, and his sister Leila Lotfi, 38, along with a friend.

According to Alinejad, her ex-husband lives outside Iran, so instead other family members were arrested.

"My ex-husband has edited some of my documentaries, but his family members have no connection with me," the self-exiled activist says.

Reacting to the latest arrests in Iran, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Hadi Ghaemi, said on Wednesday, "The state's systematic attack on activists' families reveals the inhumane tactics they use to muzzle criticism of state policies”, affirming, "Targeting family members is expected from mafias, not law-abiding governments."

The Islamic Republic's agencies, according to Ghaemi, aren't content with stifling dissent at home by imprisoning activists, lawyers, and journalists under trumped-up "national security" charges.

"They've expanded their campaign beyond their borders and will continue to do so for as long as countries that have leverage on Iran refuse to register their strong condemnation," he added.

Masih Alinejad, renowned for not mincing her words, says, the behavior of the Islamic Republic agents is the reflection of "terrorism," "violence", and "taking hostages".

The Islamic Republic, Alinejad has asserted is the herald of "terror" not "peace."

Numerous arrests and condemning civil and political rights activists to long term jail sentences have failed in silencing dissidents in Iran, Alinejad has noted, adding, such approach has been repeatedly tried and failed in the past four decades.

Alinejad has won several awards, including a human rights award from UN Watch's 2015 Geneva Summit for Human Rights, and a "Highly Commended" AIB Media Excellence Award.