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A lot has happened in the aftermath of U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s major general and a key figure in Middle East politics. There were fears (and memes) that World War III was now inevitable. Iran said it unintentionally shot down a commercial flight that killed 176 people on board. There were, and continue to be, massive #NoWarWithIran protests across the U.S.
Amid all this, an Iranian woman’s video celebrating the killing of Soleimani went viral. Erica Saghar Kasraie posted the video with the 5,000 followers of her Facebook page two weeks ago with the title “Truth from an Iranian.”
Truth from an Iranian
My 2 cents on current events.#IraniansDetestSoleimani#EverybodyCalmDownSpeaking truth about the Middle East chaos, Erica Saghar Kasraie is an Iran-born American Middle East expert, activist, and voice for vulnerable religious minorities. She organized and supervised Congressionally-hosted global conferences in Washington for activists to plan the constitutional future of a free, democratic Iran. She was Executive Director of the Iranian Freedom Institute and a research assistant at the School of Culture and Security at the Institute of World Politics, educating the public and lawmakers around the world. Erica and her family fled to Italy shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Erica is the Vice President of Human Rights Policy for the Middle East with the Victor Marx Group. Follow Erica and learn more about her work at support Erica's work for the Middle East through Victor Marx and All Things Possible: https://victormarx.com/erica/Posted by Erica Kasraie on Friday, January 10, 2020
In the five-minute clip, Kasraie says she has worked 12 years as a “human rights activist working on Iran policy” and “watching the Middle East.” She blasted the media as a “propaganda machine” that was “glorifying Qasem Soleimani.”
“Do you people know that this man has not only the blood of Americans on his hands but the blood of Iranians, Yemenis, Iraqis Afghanis,” she says in the video, which now has 27,000 views and hundreds of responses and shares. “Since when did we start mourning the death of a terrorist?”
The same video was also shared on her personal Facebook profile and received millions of views.
She said many Iranians were celebrating the killing and that #ThankYouTrump was all over Twitter. A search by the Daily Dot on Wednesday afternoon showed only a handful of tweets with the hashtag related to the Soleimani killing.
In the video’s comments, many commended Kasraie for speaking the “truth” about Iranians. Most of the comments appeared to be from Americans eager for the opportunity to make President Donald Trump sound good.
“Thank you for your bravery in speaking the truth and letting everyone know that we all are indeed one and have to stick up for one another to spread the love and stop all of the misinformation that some political persons seem to try to get out there just to make it seem that there is a divide,” one commenter wrote.
“Thank you for stating the truth,” wrote one Daniel Morris. “For your courage and strength to speak out on the facts of whats happening in Iran… and other middle eastern countries… The media is the biggest problem in the United States.. not as much as making your people to be good.. but their desire to make Trump look bad.”
“Let’s let her have omars place in congress,” wrote another commenter, referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn).
The comments show that Kasraie’s video, which makes comments about “freedom” in the Middle East, sits comfortably within the tunnel vision that caters to a white supremacist narrative of the Middle East as land that ought to be saved by America.
But this week, a BuzzFeed News investigation found that Kasraie may have had an ulterior agenda. According to the report, Kasraie worked for an American lobbying company that assisted a militia group operating in and fighting in the civil war in Libya. And her viral video was seen by people that her clients would likely benefit from reaching.
ProPublica’s public records confirm that Kasraie was a lobbyist for Linden Government Solutions. The firm was active in Libya prior to the October 2011 killing of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and worked closely with Khalifa Haftar, whom Trump has said he “shared vision” with, according to an NBC profile. Haftar was rescued by the CIA after going against Gaddafi, whom he betrayed after the leader made him a commanding officer in the 1980s. According to the NBC profile, analysts believe Haftar still works with the CIA.
Much like the U.S.-Iran relations, the situation in Libya remains complex. It’s not a black-and-white issue. So for Kasraie to portray it as such in a five-minute hot take only minimizes Iranians’ diverse opinions. And hte least she could do is disclose her personal investment.
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H/T BuzzFeed News
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque