Independent journalist and My Stealthy Freedom campaigner Masih Alinejad says everyone must speak out against Zarif's lies — and it is Charlie Rose's duty to do so.
Mr Zarif’s words about journalists and prisoners of conscience in Iran are not new, but because this time, they have had vast repercussions.
The first time I was injured by Mr Zarif’s lies was when the families of those sentenced to death called me and sent me messages, asking me why I was silent and would not say a word. Mr Zarif had said before that there are no political executions or political prisoners in Iran. He had injured journalists before, but many of them chose to be silent because their names were not specifically mentioned.
I personally do not think that Mr Zarif made his recent remarks by mistake and then took them back on his Facebook page. Maybe it is because Mr Zarif, as a diplomat with the duty of resolving the nuclear issue, also has a responsibility to deny the human rights issues in the country. Or maybe he truly believes in what he says: this could be why he denies the existence of political prisoners in Iran. In either case, I believe his remarks are ugly lies and that everybody should react against them.
There was no reaction to his remarks the first time he made them, and this made Mr Zarif think that such remarks did not matter much. This time, he proceeded to speak bigger lies about the internal issues in the country. I, as a journalist, was completely unable to react with words when I first heard Mr Zarif’s remarks.
The first time I heard his lies about there being no political executions carried out in Iran, I personally interviewed more than 20 families whose members were executed because of political matters, and because of their beliefs.
So when I heard him repeating the same lies on an even larger scale, I began to cry. I recalled all the individual cases where people were executed; real people with real names, all of whom Mr. Zarif conveniently denies.
But when it comes to journalists, protests start. Behind Zarif’s smiling face, there is a mountain of cries and the wounds of families who, unlike journalists, have no name and are not well known. I have heard their cries in private: families of political prisoners whose voices who are never heard in international media, or even by nor active Iranian journalists inside the country.
I am one of the victims who was not able to see my family for five years because of expressing my views. People working for Iran’s national television visit my parents, and force them to make remarks against me. My family and the families of many other journalists who have left the country are hostages in Iran; they are not even allowed to leave the country to visit their loved ones. They spend their lives in fear, and suffer from anxiety and stress.
When I see Mr Zarif sitting there in his nice suit in front of Mr Charlie Rose telling lies while smiling, and see that Charlie Rose does not challenge what he says, I feel impotent. Charlie Rose does not have the wounds of an Iranian like me. He is a journalist who has not intimately felt the wounds of separation, or the cries and moans of the families of those who have been executed. He watches the incidents from afar and listens to what others say.
I interviewed the families of 57 people who were killed in peaceful demonstrations in 2009. I have talked to tens of people who were executed because of their beliefs. I have talked to Baha’i families who have no rights to higher education because of their religion. I have documented and registered the cases of 108 journalists who were killed after the 2009 election. Now I am in touch with nearly one million people through My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page, women whose problems are never published inside the country.
In Iran, a political voice that criticizes or opposes the dominant rule does not find a way to be heard. Those who express their views are either executed or imprisoned or expelled from the country, or, in the case of Jila Baniyaghoob, banned from working.
Mr Zarif told the biggest lie of his life in front of Charlie Rose, and now Charlie Rose is responsible. He let lies be broadcasted on his show. If he does not hear the voice of those injured by these lies, I think he has not done his duty as a journalist. He has added to the injustice continuously carried out against the people of Iran.
You can read other letters by Iranian journalists here: