Sahar Gholizadeh remembers the exact moment when he received a strange message requesting a false confession.
She was having trouble processing what was ordered.
“I have to confess and say I was brainwashed,” she remembers the message.
The order came after she used social media to expel members of the regime who were allegedly involved in violent retaliatory attacks on protesters who had returned to Iran.
An Iranian-Australian nurse has been helping vulnerable people in Melbourne survive the pandemic for the past few years.
She was soon inducted into the Victorian Honorary Roll for Women for her service to the community.
“I was honored. I was proud. But at the same time, I was saddened by what was happening in my hometown,” she said.
Hundreds of protesters have been killed in the streets of Iran since September amid a growing violent crackdown on dissent.
The demonstration was sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Martha Amini, who died in hospital three days after being detained by Tehran’s morality police.
Sahar Gholizadeh told background briefings of several members of the local Iranian community about how the regime is using intimidation tactics to silence critics and monitoring protests in Australia. One person.
“We dedicated this award to Masa Amini, saying, ‘We want to use this to raise awareness and raise our voices,'” Sahar said.
By speaking out now, she is taking a serious risk.
eye of iran
To quell popular protests, the Iranian government has started blocking major internet platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
From his home outside Melbourne, Sahar began contacting demonstrators who had returned to Iran and reposting their messages and videos as a means of overcoming government censorship.
She describes the power of the Iranian regime as “extremely frightening”.
“Since the government shut down the internet, I started broadcasting on social media saying I would be your voice,” explains Sahar.
As dissidents back in Iran warned her of allegations of police brutality, Sahar began releasing the names of the officials involved and publishing them on her social media accounts.
“I have posted one list of names that have been sent to me. List of official names, including a series of videos.”
She continues to have family living in Iran and is well aware of the risks they face with her decision to continue speaking out.
She says officials told her sister and warned her that she could be detained as a result of Sahar’s actions.
Her brother-in-law is a lecturer who has been threatened with the possibility of losing her job if she continues to post.
“They said I had to go to my parents and ask my daughter to stop,” said Sahar. said to burn the
In the end, Sahar refused to post the fake confession.
“Even as a child, every time I got stressed out at night, I would have nightmares where I would have no voice. I wanted to talk, but my voice wouldn’t come out,” she says.
“And now, here in Australia, I have found my voice.”
‘We have to stand up’
The tactics she describes are consistent with warnings made earlier this year by ASIO Executive Director Mike Burgess.
“Foreign governments often monitor and intimidate members of the diaspora community who criticize foreign governments or express views that oppose the regime’s policies,” he said in the Annual Threat Report last February. mentioned in the evaluation.
“It is unacceptable that you and the people living in my city could be exposed to powerful foreign weapons.”
Several Australian-Iranian protesters told ABC how informants often attended anti-regime demonstrations in Australia and filmed the participants.
Kylie Moore Gilbert, an Australian-British expert on Islamic studies, agrees that the domestic threat posed by the Iranian regime is real.
“Some of my events were monitored in questionable ways by Iranians, and they asked other Iranian audience members very questionable questions at my events,” she told Background Briefing.
“There are also Iranians who are sympathetic to the regime who can provide information or provide information to their Australian compatriots without being a member of the Iranian intelligence or trained intelligence services.”
From September 2018 to November 2020, Dr. Moore-Gilbert was imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges after visiting Iran to attend an academic conference.
She and the Australian government have rejected the charges against her as baseless and politically motivated.
Like Sahar Gholizadeh, Dr Moore-Gilbert says it is critical that the Australian government stop dealing with the Iranian government.
“We have to stand up. We have to know what our values are,” said Dr. Moore Gilbert.
“It’s not enough to say ‘Oh, we have a trade interest’ or ‘We have a diplomatic interest in maintaining good relations with Iran’.”
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Background Briefing that it had expressed its concerns directly to the Iranian embassy.
“The Australian government strongly condemns the current heavy-handed crackdown on the protests by the Iranian authorities,” a spokesperson said.
The Iranian embassy in Canberra did not respond to specific questions.
Instead, it offered a series of statements defending the government’s handling of the protests, saying several violent mobs turned the peaceful gathering into a “riot” and was further instigated by terrorist groups.
The statement also accused the United States and other Western countries of openly interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.
The embassy denied that the internet had been shut down across Iran, saying the restrictions in place were “totally restricted and temporary” and would only affect some platforms.
In a statement announcing the sanctions last month, the US government said that Tehran’s Minister of Communications, Eisa Zarepour, was responsible for blocking Iran’s internet access.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Antony J. Brinken has condemned Internet censorship and claimed that the U.S. government acted to “promote Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people.”
Last month, the European Union joined the United States in imposing sanctions on Dr. Zarepour, including a travel ban and an asset freeze.
The EU Council said: “In his position, he was instrumental in the Iranian government’s decision to systematically violate the freedom of opinion and expression of the Iranian people by imposing restrictions on internet access during the protests following his 22-year death. Played the role.-Old Masa His Amini on September 16, 2022.
But before Dr. Zarepour became the man the White House and the EU accused of silencing Iran’s voice, he was a talented student at the UNSW campus in Sydney.
Between 2012 and 2015, he completed his PhD in Nanotechnology at Kensington Campus, where he won an Innovation Award for his work.
Sahar Gholizadeh is now calling on the Australian government to join international partners in announcing sanctions against Iranian government officials.
A DFAT spokesperson told ABC that the Australian government would not publicly comment on possible sanctions.
ABC has contacted Dr. Zarepour for a response.
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