By Sanaz Ariya
Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi accepted the Apadana Chronicle‘s invitation to be interviewed via telephone in the wake of the July 19 demonstration in front of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) headquarters in Washington DC. Dr. Amirahmadi attended that rally and his presence generated a considerable degree of controversy. Many attendees were puzzled by Dr. Amirahmadi’s presence at the rally, and some were outraged. The Apadana Chronicle requested an interview with Dr. Amirahmadi in order to clarify and address questions that Iranian dissidents may have about him and the reason he was at the rally.
Dr. Sanaz Ariya, an Iranian freelance journalist, was asked to conduct the interview with Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi.
The audio recording of the interview available at the end of the article. Here is the transcript of the interview with Dr. Amirahmadi:
SANAZ ARIYA: Good day Dr. Amirahmadi. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
My name is Sanaz Ariya and I am a freelance journalist. I was asked by the Apadana Chronicle to conduct this interview with you and I agreed.
Before we begin, I would like to make a disclaimer that I am conducting this interview for the Apadana Chronicle as a freelance journalist. In other words, the Apadana Chronicle solicited my services as an investigative journalist and I am interviewing you strictly in that capacity, and not on behalf of any political organization. So, this is essentially my profession and has nothing to do with whatever my political interests or affiliation may be.
So, I start with the first question.
As you are aware, there was a relatively sizable gathering in front of NIAC headquarters in Washington last Friday to protest that organization’s existence and operations. You happened to show up at the rally. What made you decide to attend?
HOOSHANG AMIRAHMADI: Well, I did participate because I believe that NIAC misrepresents itself to the public. It is not transparent about its sources of funding. It is not transparent about its intentions, and its sponsors. It mispresents itself in terms of the number of people that operate in the organization; misrepresents, for example, about the number of members that they have. And in fact, it lies! It lies a lot. This organization is not truthful to the public. So, I protest that. I think it’s not right. Particularly because NIAC is a non-profit and tax-exempt organization. It must be more transparent than it is.
SA: When you arrived at the rally, you probably noticed that many of the attendees were surprised and taken aback by your presence. What is your message to the people who were displeased with your presence there and took issue with it?
HA: Well, I really … just simply because they misunderstand me or they have no knowledge of me. Sometimes I am very surprised to see people that like me or dislike me, but have very little information about me. So, I think lack of information or disinformation about me is …. I am surprised by people who were not expecting me there. Why exactly shouldn’t have been that surprised because I never did work with NIAC, I never put NIAC together, I have never operated anything with NIAC. In fact, NIAC is, has always been, a completely different organization and inimical to what I do and used to do. So, I think the misinformation is the key word here and lack of it that sometimes makes my critics become what they become.
SA: There is a photo from the rally that circulated widely on social media showing you holding a paper sign that said, “barandazam.” Do you remember that photo? Yet, in a conversation with Abdol-Reza Davari, who is an Ahmadinejad supporter, you mentioned to him that you were not aware what was written on the paper and held it in the heat of the moment. Is that true? You had absolutely no idea what was written on the paper?
HA: Well, first off, I saw that in Emrooz Nama, and I was absolutely surprised and shocked. Obviously, Emrooz Nama is not professional publication. It is not, really. The people who are doing … are not professional. I tell you why. I went there to this rally and put something on my chest and there were pictures, right? That’s just the fact. Now, Emrooz Nama, whoever the guy spoke to Davari… speaks to Davari and then makes a judgment about me. Emrooz Nama should have talked to me, as opposed to Davari. Why Davari is my spokesperson? Mr. Davari is not my spokesperson. I speak for myself. But Emrooz Nama goes and talks to Davari, and what Davari says puts it on that publication. And Emrooz Nama goes to Aban’s Telegram site and then takes a statement that I have made in that Telegram and puts only half of that statement. If you wanted to quote what I said in that statement, why not to give the full information to the public? Why you put the first two paragraphs and not the others? In fact, the most significant paragraph of that explanation that I have given in my Aban site, kind of channel, is the last paragraph, which I very clearly say that Aban and myself is for regime change and by regime, we mean this theocracy and we mean these religious leaders who run that theocracy. You see? So, I don’t know why Emrooz Nama misquotes me, you know, puts part of the quote in its publication and completely misinforms the people. That’s not a professional publication. You know, honestly, if this was not in English, I would have not spoken to you. Because after I read that, I realized that this is not a professional publication. A professional publication doesn’t go and speak for you to a spokesperson. Who told Emrooz Nama that Davari is my spokesperson? He has his own views. Whatever I say, he has his understanding of it. It’s his understanding; I respect that. But my understanding is what is in Aban’s manifesto. It is what I write. For example, in that explanation I gave about my presence at the meeting, in the Aban channel, I very openly say how it happened. It’s a fact and there is not a single word that anybody can find to be anything but the fact. For example, I don’t say in that statement that I didn’t know what was written on that paper, so I was fooled, I was tricked, or I was cheated. I said, a gentleman came and gave me a T-shirt and another gentleman came and gave me the paper. I put it on my chest and the picture was taken.
Another problem is out definition of regime change. Do you what I mean? I have a different definition of regime change than you guys have perhaps. Mr. Davari has a completely different definition of regime and regime change. It is his definition. Has nothing to do with my definition. You cannot take Mr. Davari’s word to stand for me; for my voice. That is not professional; period. I protest what this Emrooz Nama has done.I think Emrooz Nama really owes me an apology.It really owes me an apology because they have distorted my stand. It has distorted my position. Emrooz Nama said at the very beginning that Dr. Amirahmadi has taken back his position [on] regime change. Where did I take that back? Where is that statement? Where did he find that? Well anyway, so I think I am very angry at them. They’re not really professional people.
SA: I understand. You also mentioned to Mr. Davari that you were not against the Islamic Republic or the Islamic Revolution ….
HA: Who said that? Again, again, again. First, how Emrooz Nama …
SA: So, is that really not your belief?
HA: Listen, how Emrooz Nama knows what I have told Davari? Davari is talking his understanding of what I said to them. This is not my position what Davari puts together. My position is what I put together.
Again, that’s another problem. Emrooz Nama quotes Davari that I am not against the regime or Islamic Revolution. Again, I have full respect for Mr. Davari. That is Davari’s understanding of my position. But that is not my position. My position is written in the Aban manifesto; it is written in my article; it is spoken in my TV interviews. I am surprised that these unprofessional people will take other people’s word to stand for my words.
SA: Also, there is a tweet from Mr. Trita Parsi’s Twitter that he has claimed you currently work closely with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard intelligence. Is that true?
HA: It’s completely false and I am going to sue him for that. If you show me … Send me that tweet and I will take it court.
SA: Yes, there’s a tweet …
HA: I will certainly take him to court. Show me that! Send me that tweet; I will take him to court. I promise you.
SA: Yes, I can read that tweet for you. It was tweeted on May 31, 2019 and it says:
HA: Ok, I will take that; that’s nonsense, of course. Trita Parsi has never said anything truthful. He’s not a truthful person. So whatever he says … He’s just a … He’s an apologist of the Islamic Republic. He’s trying to make up.
SA: So, next question, there are documents that indicate you were at one point the president or the operational manager of the Alavi Foundation. Is that true?
HA: No, it’s wrong; completely wrong. No, absolutely not.
SA: There are letters from various universities addressed to you as the president of Alavi. I have two of them …
HA: I have never been… Lady, I said that I have never been an employee, president, board member, anything of the Alavi Foundation.
SA: Then why these letters was addressed to you as the president?
HA: What address? What letter?
SA: There is a letter from Columbia University from June 10, 2009, it says:*
HA: I really have no idea. Just show me that. I want to see who wrote the letter and what it is. I have absolutely no idea. I have never ever received a letter that would name me as the president or whatever, anything of the Alavi Foundation. I have no idea; you just send me the copy of the letter. Let me see.
SA: Yes, of course
HA: Then I could tell you… maybe. Who signed that letter?
SA: This letter is on the internet. So, one from Columbia University, one from McGill University.
HA: These are all made up, lady. These are all stupid, made-up stuff.
SA: I will send them to you, of course.
HA: That’s right. Thank you. That would be appreciated.
SA: Ok, let’s talk about Mr. Trita Parsi, a man with whom you had a working relationship at one point. As you are aware, Mr. Parsi resigned as the president of NIAC last year and has now formed a think tank funded by George Soros. In your opinion, do these actions by Trita Parsi suggest NIAC ultimately failed as a project?
HA: I have no idea. I don’t want to comment on something I have no information about. I really don’t know. I don’t want to get into it. I have absolutely no idea what Trita Parsi is doing these days; or what, you know, the money that they have got. I have no idea. I just don’t know.
SA: Are you aware if NIAC is or was at any point being investigated by the US government for acting as the regime’s representative in the US? Was NIAC’s office in Washington raided by the FBI?
HA: You are asking me if I know that happened?
HA: You have to question the FBI, why do you ask me? I have no idea. All I know is from the internet they told that Trita Parsi himself also wrote a letter on that their other office was broken in and the computer was taken, but he also denied that this was done by FBI. I believe he said it was done by another [inaudible] that had some relationship with the Israelis, I believe. So, that’s all I know. I know that from the internet what Trita Parsi said. The fact that their office was broken in by someone, that their computer was taken, these are facts. The stuff they said. Who broke in? I have no idea what they took; I have no idea what they found; I have no idea … In fact, nothing came out of it.
SA: Does NIAC, directly it indirectly, receive funds from the Islamic Republic?
HA: I have no idea. Again, see I’m not an investigative journalist. You are interviewing me as a professor. Again, all I know is that NIAC has a lot of money. And someone must pay them. So, you could look into it and see who paid NIAC. In fact, we know that NIAC took money from the US government, from NED, National Endowment for Democracy. We know that NIAC took money from certain individuals in this country; big money. And why those big monies from those individuals went to NIAC, I have no idea. And NIAC also gets money from some US organizations like the Ploughshare and so on. I think it’s easy to discover that because NIAC is a 501(c)(3) and all you have to do is to go into the IRS site and see where NIAC is getting its money. You know, Trita Parsi, when he left, as NIAC’s president, in his letter, he said that NIAC has $2 million in its bank account. That’s exactly Trita Parsi’s statement. Now the question is where that $2 million came from? The source of that money has to be transparent. Someone has to say where that money came from. The NIAC I think has the responsibility to say where $2 million came from because I know for a fact that Iranians … never cannot give NIAC this much money. Or even American organizations would not give that much money to NIAC. So where that money comes from is something that needs to be investigated.
SA: Why, in your opinion, does NIAC deny that its activities are to serve the interest of the regime in Iran?
HA: Because NIAC is by definition and by nature is a liar. They don’t tell you the truth. They are not transparent. They are not open to the public. They lie. They are not transparent; simple. And they try to [inaudible] this is an enemy of the US government, and it is illegal to work for the Islamic Republic without being registered, and it’s not easy to get registered. So, there must be some reason; I don’t know. Again, you have to ask NIAC as to why it does what it does, but it denies it.
SA: In your opinion, is Trita Parsi an agent of the Islamic Republic regime?
HA: I have no idea. I know Trita Parsi works for Javad Zarif. That I know for a fact.
SA: And my final questions to you.What is your current relationship with the Iranian regime? Where do you stand with respect to the regime?
HA: As I said, I am against it, the theocracy in Iran. And I think that theocracy must go and be replaced by a secular, democratic government, parliamentarian government. That’s my position; simple. And I think that theocracy is owned and controlled by about 200 mullahs that to start with, we need to get rid of them.
SA: There are reports that your organization Aban is seeking to unite with the Revolutionary Guard and install Qassem Soleimani, a designated terrorist, as the leader of the new government. Do you confirm or deny that?
HA: Of course, I deny that. That’s complete nonsense. You know, I have no, we have, Aban has absolutely no relationship with Qassem Soleimani and anybody who makes that claim or that accusation must at least give you a piece of paper, phone, any document, any evidence, whatsoever, any evidence. If you don’t have the evidence, those who say that, if they have no evidence, they have to shut up. You know, Americans say either put up, or shut up. They guys who say that they have to put up, or they have to shut up.
Thanks again for you time and for making yourself available to for this interview. Good day.
*After reviewing the letters from Columbia and McGill Universities addressed to “Houshang Ahamdi,” Dr. Amirahmadi informed us that Houshang Ahmadi is another person who did indeed serve as Alavi Foundation’s president at that time.
Dr. Sanaz Ariya is a freelance journalist, a political analyst on issues pertaining to Iran and Russia, and a pro-democracy activist. She earned an MA in Journalism and a PhD in Mass Communications from the Russian State University, and a BA in Fine Arts with concentration on photography from Tehran Art University. From 2007 to 2011, she was a correspondent for BBC Persian and Ria Novosti (Russian news agency-Persian department) in Moscow.