From The Final Call Newspaper

‘I was kidnapped ... You can be made to disappear very easily’


WASHINGTON—Even though she was never charged with a crime, U.S. born Iranian TV journalist Marzieh Hashemi was detained, often shackled by federal authorities for 10 days because, she insists, the U.S. government wants to intimidate her and those who would support her.

With U.S. Capitol in background hundreds of supporters of detained Iranian journalist march in front of courthouse where she testified. Photos: Askia Muhammad

Ms. Hashemi was released from federal custody, but she remains defiant, urging her supporters to fight on—and challenge American wrongdoing.

A news anchor for Iran’s English-language Press TV, she had been held in jail to force her to testify before a federal grand jury in Washington.

“As you know, I made the call for everyone to continue to come out today even though I gained my freedom a couple of days ago and the reason was and is as I’ve been saying in various interviews, is that this is not about (U.S. officials getting) harsh on me. This is the U.S. government and thinking that they can do this to anyone at any time without facing any ramifications,” Ms. Hashemi told 200 supporters Jan. 25 at a rally outside the courtroom where she testified. She had been released from federal custody two days earlier.

“Make no mistake. They can call it whatever they want to call it, but I was kidnapped,” Ms. Hashemi said, describing her arrest. That arrest, she said is linked to her tireless reporting about racial and anti-Islamic bias throughout U.S. society. She remained steadfast. “We will not be intimidated. We will not back off the truth, no matter the price,” she said to a broad band of supporters. Other support rallies were held in Iran, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and in New York and other cities in the United States and around the globe.

Journalists for foreign, state-run media should be concerned, she warned, about what she described as an attempt by the U.S. government to intimidate her news outlet because it airs opposing views.

She was taken into custody at the St. Louis airport on Jan. 13, and then transported by the FBI to Washington. After initial news reports by Iranian media, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies declined to confirm the arrest for several days.

Finally, the U.S. government, in a court order unsealed Jan. 18, confirmed it was holding Ms. Hashemi (who was referred to by her birth name Melanie Franklin in the court filing) pending testimony in a sealed criminal matter, and that she was not accused of any crime. She was arrested under a material-witness warrant.

Demonstrators protest detention of Iranian journalist Marzieh Hashemi by federal authorities. Photos: Askia Muhammad.

“It’s their hatred of her. She’s the Ida B. Wells for the 21st century,” Dr. Randy Short, a researcher with Ms. Hashemi on her ongoing “Black Lives Matter” documentary series, said in an interview. “She’s a proud Black, Muslim woman. She tells the truth. She has a compassion for the Islamic Republic of Iran because it inspired her when she was in college.”

During the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s visit to Iran last November, Ms. Hashemi interviewed him about his impressions about Iran, how he was received in the Islamic Republic, the Black struggle for justice in America, U.S. power and influence and other subjects.

They talked about the failures of the American government to deliver on its promises to Black people. In answer to her question, Min. Farrakhan said Black suffering in America has proved Whites are disagreeable to live with in peace and Blacks must have a nation of their own.

Blacks suffer from tainted water in Flint, Mich., and other places and these conditions are part of a “genocidal plot” against Black people, said Min. Farrakhan.

“Every glimmer of hope has brought us nothing,” he said.

“Trump seems to relish the evil that he says and the evil that he does, but today, that man walked out from behind the podium … They’re very antagonistic to him and now that they have put the Democrats in power in the House of Representatives, there is no telling where this thing is going to go in the next couple years,” Min. Farrakhan said.

Min. Farrakhan also said he was honored to sit with Ms. Hashemi, saying her role with Press TV was important. “Our people in America would be moved to hear you, to see you, because though you live in Iran you are very up to date with everything that is happening to your people back in America. And you have wisdom, you are not somebody who sees and doesn’t know,” he said.

Groups condemn arrest, denial of rights

Ms. Hashemi is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who has worked in Iran for about 25 years, who is married to an Iranian man, and who is a mother and a grandmother. She was in the United States to visit an ailing brother and to complete a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement when she was detained. She has become an internationally recognized journalist on Press TV, an outlet that—like the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom—receives most of its support from the Iranian government.

The anti-war group March On the Pentagon said, “Aron Trainin, the Soviet legal scholar whose work helped serve as a basis for the Nuremberg Charter, said that ‘crimes against peace’ included ‘acts of aggression’ and ‘propaganda of aggression.’ It is in that context that we view the FBI’s illegal seizure and holding of truth-telling journalist Marzieh Hashemi, a Black American grandmother who is a world-renowned news anchor for PressTV.

“Hashemi’s reporting has exposed the illegal war-making of the United States government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, among other places.”

The group condemned her arrest as “intended to discourage truthful reporting on American war crimes, another Nuremberg-level offense by Washington” and demanded “a statement clearing her of all wrongdoing and apologizing for this grotesque act of harassment.”

The National Writers Union added, “She was not served with a subpoena nor did she refuse to testify in a criminal proceeding. … As a journalist for an Iranian news outlet, the union believes she is likely the victim of escalating attacks on Iran by the Trump administration. She is also yet another target of Trump’s disdain and constant offensive on journalists.”

“Her abduction reflects all the worst of this administration’s racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim, anti-journalism tendencies. We also cannot condone the silence of the corporate media on this matter—the same media that gave Trump tens of millions of dollars of free campaign publicity and continues to promote his every word. It is ironic that the same mainstream media that cried out in horror over the abduction and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or the banning of CNN’s Jim Acosta from White House press briefings, are largely silent about the government’s kidnapping of a Black woman who is also a Muslim and a U.S. citizen,” said the group. complained, “Officially she was kept in prison as a ‘material witness.’ … Broadly there is still no information from the U.S. government about what happened. Hashemi was in court on at least three occasions, but it is as yet unclear what, if anything, was discussed therein, and the Justice Department has in the past overtly abused the material witness law as a way to detain people when they lack any legal basis for doing so.”

“It seems that this had to do with Iran and it seems that it’s part of intimidation of people who work with Iran,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace said in an interview. “There was no reason to keep her in prison, to have her be a material witness. She just could have been asked to appear and she would have appeared. So keeping her locked up for the time that they did and having her appear three different times. It seems like that was a form of intimidation.

Supporters of Marzieh Hashemi, an American-born anchor for Iran's state television broadcaster, demonstrate outside the Federal Courthouse where Hashemi appeared before a U.S. grand jury Jan. 23 in Washington. She was in custody as a material witness. Photo: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

“I was really impressed the way a broad community came together to support her,” Ms. Benjamin continued. “It was a community that included the Muslim community; many people in the peace community; folks in the Black community because she had been involved in doing videos and work around Black Lives Matter. And so, it was a pretty widespread group that came together and said, ‘We demand answers,’ and put in calls to the Justice Department and State Department.

“And what’s interesting is that the protests continued, even after she was released, people could have easily said: ‘Okay, it’s done. She’s out. Let’s be happy, go home and celebrate.’ But instead they said: ‘No, we want you to not only do protests here in D.C., but all over the country.’

“She is lucky because she has all of you,” Ms. Benjamin continued. “There are so many other people in the Black and Muslim community that are harassed and imprisoned that we don’t hear about. And let’s keep this going; make it much broader mobilizing to be a support system for the other people whose voices we don’t hear.”

The Nation of Islam has been steadfast in defense of Ms. Hashemi, and in support of the Islamic Republic, according to A. Akbar Muhammad, international representative of Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. “In 1979 Minister Farrakhan put Ayatollah Khomeini’s remarks in The Final Call newspaper. In January 1996, Minister Farrakhan was the first outsider to address the national celebration of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran,” Mr. Muhammad said in an interview.

“Anybody that has anything to do with Iran is really in the crosshairs of the Trump administration right now,” said Ms. Benjamin.

Despite difficult ordeal, a vow to keep fighting

When this ordeal began, for two days, Ms. Hashemi’s family had no information on what had happened to her. When she was finally allowed to communicate with her children, they were shocked to learn that she had “been disappeared” by the FBI and moved to a detention center in Washington, D.C., where she was subjected to degrading treatment, including the forcible confiscation of her hijab (headscarf), constant surveillance, disrespecting her Islamic diet, and not informing her as to why she was being detained.

Marzieh Hashemi is an American-born Iranian journalist and televi- sion presenter. Photo: MGN Online

Reuters cited an unnamed U.S. federal source, which said Press TV is being investigated as an Iranian “propaganda outlet.”

“I was kidnapped, make no mistake, it can be called whatever they want to call it, but I was kidnapped from the St. Louis Airport,” Ms. Hashemi told the rally. “Fortunately my son Razah was with me. Otherwise, who knows what could have happened? You can disappear. You can be made to disappear very easily and the case can be sealed and so there’s no way that you can find out because of national security.

“I want them to know and I thank all of you also, that we cannot be intimidated, that we will not back off from the truth, no matter the price, no matter the price.

“I don’t know how long we’re going to tolerate this kind of injustice. They can say that it is legal, but I know all freedom loving people around the world know that illegally detaining, I will say kidnapping, transferring, shackling, imprisoning, taking off my headscarf and so many other things. They can call it legal but we know that it is not legal.

“We have one life to live, so make it count. I will give it all I have. I will one day die. We all will die. So make sure that your life counts for something. Stand up for the oppressed. Stand up for your people.

“So if I’m not charged with a crime, then God help those who are charged with crimes, brothers and sisters. The reason why I wanted these demonstrations to continue today is because what happens to the average Joe, Ali, on the street who doesn’t have money?

“So you can either deal with it and resist, or you can acquiesce and cave in because of fear, but I’m going to tell you something at the end of the day, if you fear, if you don’t speak out, if you don’t do anything about it, it will get worse and worse and worse.

“Come on back down. You can come pick me up. Pick me up again right now and take me to jail. Someone can take me out, but I am telling you and I promise that I will make my last stand against oppression!” she declared.

From The Final Call Newspaper

‘A battle cry,’ and the strength to endure? Amid tensions, Women’s March tries to overcome America’s old evils
By Barrington M. Salmon and Nisa Islam Muhammad

WASHINGTON—The 2019 Women’s March was smaller than the previous two but had tens of thousands of participants in the District who were just as energetic, vocal and committed as marchers in 2017 and 2018, participants said.

Tensions between Black and White women arose during major gathering but organizers of the Women’s March said difficult conversations and emotions had to be tackled to create a space for all women. Photos: Hassan Muhammad

Women gathered and marched in Washington, D.C., New York City and other parts of New York, Denver, Chicago, Seattle and all points in between. The march began two years ago when on the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, several million women, men and children made it the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history, led by women and women of color in particular.

Then, as now, women and their allies in the U.S. and other parts of the world, marched to express their vehement hostility towards Mr. Trump, opposition to his hardline rightwing agenda and support for women’s social, civil and human rights.

Participants who gathered at Freedom Plaza said they felt they had to support the march, and some like Fatima Toor, said her desire to attend was heightened after learning just before the march about the controversies that have dominated “mainstream” media coverage.

Ms. Toor, is a Muslim from Pakistan who works for the District of Columbia Public Schools. She said she arranged with “a bunch of Muslim girls” to go to the march.

“I definitely went to the march after that,” she said. “There were 50 of us together. We wore blue, scarves, hijabs and for those who don’t wear hijabs, bandanas. We went out there to make a statement. A mosque in Falls Church, Va., Mosque Dar Al Hijrah, got a bus and people all came to D.C. I saw a very large turnout of White women.”

“I wasn’t there when this happened but I heard that our group connected with Jewish women and we marched. We marched side-by-side. That was really good.”

The ramped-up attacks against the leadership of the Women’s March, especially on Tamika Mallory by Whites and Jews who demanded she disavow and condemn Min. Louis Farrakhan, was right out of the playbook of White supremacy and was part of an effort to hijack the march.

Tamika Mallory (center) with Linda Sarsour, (left) and Carmen Perez.

Bob Bland, Women’s March leader 

The other major march leaders were Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian woman, Carmen Perez, a Latina, and Bob Bland, a White woman. In an interview with journalist Roland S. Martin, Ms. Mallory called much of the “controversy” manufactured as part of an effort by women who were asked to step down from leadership roles years ago. It was a power struggle to control the march, then they tried to derail it by spreading false stories of anti-Semitism, she added.

A diverse collection of musical groups regaled the crowd with songs of resistance and women’s empowerment, and an equally diverse group of women—Black, Latina, gay, bisexual, trans, disabled and other women spoke. Ms. Sarsour, a March co-chair and board member, said on Twitter days before the march that she and others at the 2017 Women’s March made a declaration to win back the House. In what is generally regarded as a pointed rebuke of Mr. Trump and the Republican Party’s stewardship of the United States over the past two years, the Democratic Party was swept into power in the House of Representatives.

The shift in Republican fortunes was fueled by a Black woman-led suburban revolt with voters supporting progressive candidates and political outsiders, sending 127 women—the most racially diverse group of people ever—to Congress. The 116th Congress boasts the first two Muslim women, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib; the first two Native Americans, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids; the youngest member, Alexandria OcasioCortez; and the youngest Black woman, Lauren Underwood, among other firsts.

“Now we have marching orders to build a work plan,” Ms. Sarsour said. “It’s not enough to elect people, progressives and women. It’s about what they do while they’re there and how are they going to stay accountable. We need to plan and prepare for 2020.”

This includes ramping up voter registration, having conversations, building platforms and creating excitement and momentum, she added.

“We are putting out a policy agenda because there are tangible policies that can alleviate suffering, stop the bleeding just a little bit,” she continued on Twitter. “It was written by 50 women experts around the country and it’s broken down into 10 areas, including civil rights, civil liberties, reproductive rights, environmental justice, and healthcare so that all communities are able to be seen. It’s not an aspirational platform. There are specific things that Congress could pass right now.

I believe that there’s bi-partisan support.”

Even if corporate media and some Jewish publications have glommed onto accusations of anti-Semitism, and stories bounce around describing tensions between board members, disgruntled movement activists who’ve been deeply critical of the march leaders and other issues, what several women said is real, is a divide between Black and White women.

Much of the rift is rooted in history and the unresolved wounds of racism and discrimination; the culpability of White women in the subjugation and oppression of Black women in the past; and most recently, dismay in Black circles at the number of White women who voted for and support Mr. Trump.

“White women have proved themselves to be unreliable,” said Dorie Ann Ladner, a legendary civil rights activist who was a member of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was involved with the Freedom Riders. “We should ignore them and not deal with the chicanery and back stabbing. They (White people) use their women in so many different ways. We have to stand firm— like Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, and unknown people who had to walk miles to go to a well and endured all manner of hardships.”

Ms. Ladner, who was a key organizer of the Freedom Summer Project, said there has always been conflict and tension between Blacks and Whites. The fact that the march has “been dominated by Caucasians” comes with its own set of problems and furthermore she added, whenever Black people are involved or focused on building their communities certain Whites sow discord.

“We have to ignore these people and we have to do what we feel we must do because they’re not going to do it,” she said soberly. “For them to say ‘hate Farrakhan and we’ll accept you,’ I’m tired of that. We never asked them to condemn Ariel Sharon.”

“If we only have 20 Black women who are free, independent and unencumbered at the march, we should expect a reporter to come up and ask them if they like

Whitney Young, Martin Luther King or Dick Gregory.”

Native women were among speakers at Women’s March in Washington. Photos: Hassan Muhammad

White women expressed their opposition to Trump administration policies and sexism.

Roxanne Gupta and Medea Benjamin are two White women who consider themselves allies of Black people and who have been involved in movement work for many years. Both acknowledged the difficulties and tensions, said they were pleased with the turnout of White women at this year’s march and spoke of the need for continued engagement.

“This is a way to divide the women’s movement. Divide and conquer. It’s been working forever,” Ms. Gupta said. “When I was there two years ago, everybody was so thoughtful to every

body else. A lot of White women have tried to be there for African Americans, Native Americans and other women but the media will always try to downgrade it. In trying to look unbiased, they bend over backward to maintain the status quo.”

Ms. Gupta, an anthropologist and activist, said she wasn’t even aware of the infighting until her brother sent her a news article. She said the dominant mindset in this country is racist, as evidenced by what continues to unfold in the Trump presidency.

“Everything a minority person does is put under a microscope. It makes no sense. But a disgusting, self-professed molester and accused pedophile is allowed to do what he wants and they (White people) support him.”

March organizers said diverse voices and a practical political agenda are important for its success.

She said she went to see Min. Farrakhan at Syracuse University several years ago because she wanted to hear what he said unfiltered. His visit stirred a lot of controversy and protest from Jewish organizations, but after listening to him she left thinking that he was “brilliant and made a whole lot of sense.”

Ms. Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women For Peace, a peace and social justice organization, said this year’s march was “certainly a lot smaller,” but was positive, upbeat with good energy and had racial and generational diversity.