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Oct. 16, 2019: IRGC kidnaps Iranian dissident, fails in attempt to capture 2nd journalist.

The IRGC announced in Tehran on Monday, Oct. 14, that it had captured dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam, and brought him back to Iran. Zam ran the wildly popular AmadNews website and telegram channel, that helped Iranians coordinate street protests in 2017-2018.


According to Iranian government Press TV, the IRGC claimed it had run a “professional, smart and multifaceted operation” against Zam to maneuver him into a position where he could be brought back to Iran and arrested.


In fact, however, Zam was arrested by Iraqi security servicesupon his arrival at the Baghdad international airport from Paris, and delivered to Iranian intelligence officers without due process. 


Zam’s wife, Mahsa Razani, told reporters about the arrest, but declined to comment on important details that were revealed by Iranian dissident reporter Ali Javanmardi, who claimed on AvaToday and on YouTube that Zam had been lured into traveling to Iraq by one of his employees, Shirin Najafi.


“Shirin Najafi worked with Zam at AhmadNews,” Javanmardi said. “She invited him to Iraq to visit with Ayatollah Sistani, claiming that Sistani was prepared to fund his project of transforming AhamdNews into an opposition TV with a 15 million Euros grant. That is why he traveled to Iraq in the first place.” Najafi denied any involvement in his kidnapping.


“Zam was arrested pro-Iranian security agents at the Baghdad airport and taken by car to Najaf, and then to Iran,” Javanmardi said.


Javanmardi said that IRGC agents attempted to kidnap him in a parallel plot on the same day in Erbil, in northern Iraq.


“A woman named Samira Moradpour came to visit me in Erbil. She claimed to work for Rejman, a Kurdish Regional Government newspaper, as a professional journalist. In fact, we now believe she was an Iranian intelligence officer. She had tried to send us tips for three months with leaks from inside Iran, but we couldn’t publish any of her information, because we could not corroborate it. Just before the operation against Ruhollah Zam, she contacted me and said, I have lots of information for you, but we must meet in person.”


Javanmardi says he was suspicious of her effort to meet him in person, especially when she asked for him to come to her hotel in Erbil at night, alone. “Instead, I called the As-Ayish,” the Kurdish internal security services. “They arrested her and discovered that she was working with two men who were planning to kidnap me when I came to the hotel,” he said.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is President and Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. Contact him by email.