• IC Journal

Pro-Sanction Iranian-Canadians Attend Town Hall by Saudi Funded TV Channel

Updated: Apr 13, 2019

London based news channel Iran International, which is believed to be funded by the Saudi Royal Court, organized a town hall event with Reza Pahlavi, the former crown prince of Iran, on Nov 1, 2018 -- only days before the Trump administration reimposed the second round of sanctions on Iran targeting the Iranian banking, aviation and oil industries, among many other sectors. The event was held at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

This town hall was not open to the public and the audience was selected from monarchists and groups close to Reza Pahlavi. The few individuals who asked questions were mainly members of a pro-Pahlavi group called Farashgard (or in English: Iran Revival). Farashgard is a newly-formed opposition group that supports President Trump's sanctions against Iran. Many Iranians oppose Farashgard as they feel the group was created to advance Trump's agenda of sanctions and aggression towards Iran. The source of support and funding of this opposition group is also not clear, causing even more speculation by Iranians on social media as to the Farashgard's legitimacy -- speculation which was further fueled by the group's participation in the town hall organized by the Saudi funded TV channel Iran International.

Among the attendees several Iranian-Canadians were present, including Hamid Ghahremani, Ardeshir Zarezadeh, Saeid Hosseinpour, Ali Ashtari, and Siavash Bahman, all of whom are advocates for sanctions against Iran in Canada. Some of these individuals were also involved in lobbying for the breaking of diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran and the subsequent closure of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa in 2012 during the Harper government.

Hamid Ghahremani from Toronto asked a question during the town hall event organized by Saudi funded TV channel Iran International. In the back on his left side is Siavash Bahman, also from Toronto.

The Guardian has published two reports so far confirming that the London based TV channel Iran International has received significant funding from the Saudi Royal Court. In their first report on October 2, 2018 the Guardian wrote:

A source who has worked with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said Iran International’s money came from the Saudi royal court, estimated to be about $250m (£192m).

In their follow up report published on October 31, 2018, the Guardian reported that Saud al-Qahtani, who is believed to have planned the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, was involved in the funding behind Iran International TV:

A UK-based Iranian TV station is being funded through a secretive offshore entity and a company whose director is a Saudi Arabian businessman with close links to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Guardian can reveal.

According to Guardian's investigation, Volant Media is the company that runs Iran International and its director Adel Abdulkarim is a Saudi national. The report added:

According to one source, Saudi Arabia gave $250m (£197m) in funding to help the launch of Iran International, which runs no commercial advertising. The source did not give a timeframe, but a scrutiny of its office’s rent and employee salaries points to an initial five-year period – $50m per year. Volant Media lost £26m in 2017, according to accounts filed on 4 October.

Ardeshir Zarezadeh sitting first from the right side in the town hall event. Ardeshir is a paralegal who has lobbied extensively in Canada for sanctions against Iran and diplomatic isolation of Iran, especially targeting members of the Conservative Party of Canada. He was a supporter of the Iran sanctions bill S219 which was introduced in Canada by the Conservatives and later defeated with the support of independent and Liberal Senators.

Saeid Hosseinpour is a member of the pro-Pahlavi group Farashgard (Iran Revival). Saeid is a real estate sales representative in Toronto, Canada.

Saeid Hosseinpour's tweet sparked controversy about his agenda and the agenda of the group he is a part of, Farashgard. In his tweet he praised dictatorship over liberal democracy and said that while liberal democracy has not been tried in Iran, dictatorship of Pahlavis was tried before and it worked. He added that he would not mind a dictatorship in Iran if it improves human rights.

Ali Ashtari is a member of pro-Pahlavi Farashgard (Iran revival) who was present in the Iran International town hall as well. Ashtari is a meditation coach.

Siavash Bahman is a member of pro-Pahlavi group Farashgard (Iran revival). He was also among those invited to the town hall in DC organized by Saudi-funded Iran International TV.

The objective of IC Journal is to raise awareness about political activities that affect the lives of Iranians in general and Iranian-Canadians in particular. We welcome any comments or response from individuals we mention in our reports. In our reporting and articles we rely on publicly available and credible information and we have included sources and references used in the report.

هفته قبل روز اول نوامبر شبکه ایران اینترنشنال، که طبق گزارش گاردین ۲۵۰ میلیون دلار بودجه این شبکه از دربار سعودی تامین شده، برنامه ی گفتگویی را با رضا پهلوی ترتیب داد. در این برنامه حداقل ۵ نفر از ایرانیان کانادا (حمید قهرمانی، اردشیر زارع زاده، سعید حسین پور، علی اشتری، سیاوش بهمن) که طرفدار تحریم ایران هستند شرکت داشتند. این افراد در کانادا نیز برای تحریم ایران تلاش میکنند و برخی از آنها در سال ۲۰۱۲ برای قطع رابطه دیپلماتیک ایران و کانادا در زمان دولت هارپر لابی کردند.

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