Burning the American and British flags at a ceremony held for convoy activists
The activists of the Asian convoy greeted in Tehran by local residents
Masked convoy activists at the ceremony in Palestine Square in Tehran.
Iran's Mehr News Agency, December 13, 2010
Iran's Mehr News Agency, December 13, 2010
Ahmadinejad at a reception in honor of the Asian convoy at Tehran University
Iran's FARS News Agency, December 14, 2010
Map of the convoy's route to the Gaza Strip
Left: Burning the American and British flags at a ceremony held for convoy activists (IRNA, December 14, 2010). Right: Iranian president Ahmadinejad speaks before the members of the convoy (Iran’s Mehr News Agency, December 12, 2010).
1. Activists of the Asian convoy, who set out on December 4 after having been delayed by the Indian authorities, arrived in Iran from Pakistan on December 7 and spent ten days in Tehran.1 They visited Qom, Zahedan, Isfahan and other Iranian cities; the highlight of their visit was Tehran. In Tehran they received an official welcome from the president and other senior figures.
2. The visit was exploited by the convoy activists and members of the Iranian regime to display hatred and incite public opinion against Israel and the West. The issue of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, the avowed objective of the convoy, was almost completely ignored during the various ceremonies. In effect, the convoy’s negligible amount of material aid for the Gaza Strip is supposed to arrive in Egypt by air (although it is unclear whether its arrival has already been arranged with the Egyptian authorities).
3. When the convoy activists left India they abandoned their human rights and non-violent peace slogans, and they and their Iranian supporters publicly and prominently expressed their hatred for Israel and the West (with occasional anti-Semitic undertones), along with praise for the Iranian regime. For example:
A. Feroze Mithiborwala, leader of the convoy, showered praise on the Iranian regime. He said that the idea of organizing the convoy was inspired by the May 2010 flotilla to the Gaza Strip and the active support of Iran, and that the convoy intended to take a stand against "Zionism, which wants to create a hegemony in the world, and especially in Asia" (Iran’s PressTV, December 13, 2010).
B. The APSP, the umbrella organization behind the convoy, defined its goals at a press conference in Karachi on the eve of its departure, November 29, 2010, as "the liberation of Palestine," "breaking the siege of the Gaza Strip," "destroying Israel’s system of apartheid" and uniting the Asian countries around those goals (Iran’s FARS News Agency, December 1, 2010).2
C. During their stay in Iran the convoy activists participated in anti-Israeli propaganda functions produced by the Iranian regime. For example, there were "ceremonies" of burning the Israeli, American and British flags in "Palestine Square" in the heart of Tehran, Feroze Mithiborwala gave a speech in the Iranian parliament (Majlis) in which he called the United States president "an agent of Israel," and convoy activists at the Majlis session at the time shouted "Death to Israel" in four languages.
D. Iranian President Ahmadinejad played a major role in the hate propaganda campaign. At a reception for the convoy at Tehran University he called for the "liberation" of "Palestine" from "the blood-sucking Zionist occupiers" and called the existence of the State of Israel "an insult to humanity."
4. A group of Majlis members announced their intention to join the convoy, and the Iranian regime seems to support it in other ways, possibly including logistics and financing. Moreover, the nature of the convoy may become more extreme because of the involvement of the Iranian regime, the convoy’s intention to pass through Turkey and Syria and the possibility that other activists will join it, especially from Pakistan.
Integrating Convoy Members into the Anti-Israeli,
Anti-Western Campaign during Their Stay in Iran
5. The Asian convoy left from New Delhi on December 1. It met with unexpected bureaucratic difficulties (caused by the Indian authorities) regarding entrance visas into Pakistan and was delayed at the border for a number of days. Some of the convoy participants were banned from leaving India, including Feroze Mithiborwala, the organizer. Finally, on December 5, some of the participants were allowed to cross the border and the convoy left for Lahore, Pakistan (Convoy website, December 5, 2010). From Pakistan the convoy flew to Iran.
6. According to Salim Ghafouri, an Iranian citizen who is the convoy’s spokesman,3 the convoy represents 137 organizations from 50 countries, including 15 Asian countries. Among the countries mentioned were Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Britain and Australia (in reality, most of them are from India). He said that the "war with the Zionists" is not only an "Islamic-Zionist war," but the showdown between the "truth," represented by "the freedom-loving people of the world," and the "lie," represented by Israel and its supporters (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, December 10, 2010).
7. The Asian convoy’s participants flew to Zahedan, Iran, from Pakistan on December 7. They visited a number of important cities, including Qom, Zahedan, Isfahan and Qazvin, where they were welcomed by crowds of people and senior Iranians. In Isfahan they were welcomed with an official ceremony led by the Ayatollah Tabatabai, Khamenei’s representative. At the ceremony local chief cleric said that "Iran has been at the forefront of the liberation of Palestine and will continue at the forefront" (Shabestan News Agency, Isfahan, December 10, 2010).
8. In Qazvin the convoy participants were welcomed by local residents who shouted slogans such as "Hezbollah fights, Israel fears" and "Death to Israel," and waved pictures of Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In other cities they were greeted by local residents carrying Hezbollah, Palestinian and Iranian flags.
Left: The reception at Qom. Right: The visit to Isfahan (taghribnews.ir website).
9. The high point of the visit came in Tehran on December 13, where the convoy activists were received at a series of official functions. The most important was in "Palestine Square" in the heart of Tehran. The reception was attended by senior Iranian figures, including Tehran’s mayor, and large crowds. During the reception the Israeli, American and British flags were burned.
The activists of the Asian convoy greeted in Tehran by local residents
(IRNA, December 14, 2010).
Right: Masked convoy activists at the ceremony in "Palestine Square in Tehran
(IRNA, December 13, 2010). Left: Tehran’s mayor greets the convoy
(Iran’s PressTV, December 13, 2010).
Left: Burning the Israeli flag. The word "Egypt" can be seen at the bottom of the poster behind the demonstrator, probably part of an anti-Egyptian slogan (Iran’s Mehr News Agency, December 13, 2010).
More photographs from the reception in the. Left: The Israeli, American and British flags
trod underfoot by women (Iran’s Mehr News Agency, December 13, 2010).
10. An official function was held for the convoy activists at Tehran University on December 13, headed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He gave a speech in which he said that the Palestinian cause had become a global issue and that it proved that all the ways used to find a solution to the Palestinian problem had failed. He said the Iranian people would stand firm with "oppressed Palestine and besieged Gaza" until they were liberated from "the bloodsucking Zionist occupiers." He added that "the Zionist regime employs methods of terrorism, human destruction and denies the rights of the Palestinian people." He called the existence of the State of Israel "an insult
Left: Ahmadinejad at a reception in honor of the Asian convoy at Tehran University
(IRNA, December 14, 2010). Right: Ahmadinejad with an Asian convoy activist.
The Hamas emblem appears on the activist’s kaffiyeh, partially hidden by the
microphone stand (Iran’s Mehr News Agency, December 13, 2010).
11. The Majlis held an extraordinary session where Feroze Mithiborwala, the convoy’s organizer, gave a speech. He called Iran "the Zionist regime’s greatest obstacle" and said that American President Obama was an "Israeli agent" (IRNA, December 14, 2010). During the session convoy activists shouted anti-Israeli slogans, including "Death to Israel" in four languages (Iran’s FARS News Agency, December 13, 2010).
12. On the occasion of the session the Majlis issued a statement supporting all efforts to lift the so-called "siege" of the Gaza Strip and expressing satisfaction with the "blessed activities " of pro-Palestinian Asian groups "to help the oppressed Palestinian people, who suffer from the crimes of the racist Zionist regime…" (Hamas’ Palestine-info website from Tehran, December 12; Iran’s tabnak website, December 14, 2010). At the same session 200 of the 290 Majlis members told the convoy participants that they would transfer part of their monthly salaries to the Palestinian people (Iran’s tabnak website, December 14, 2010).
Convoy activists at the Majlis session, where they shouted "Death to Israel" in four languages
(Iran’s FARS News Agency, December 14, 2010).
13. On December 12, 2010, Khabar TV, the Iranian news channel, broadcast a two-and-a-half hour program devoted to the convoy. It included interviews with activists, anti-Israeli video clips and statements from senior Iranian figures. Many of the remarks made by the presenters contained hate propaganda against the "Zionist entity" (Iran’s Khabar TV, December 12, 2010).
14. During the convoy’s visit to Iran its participants collected contributions from Iranians (and possibly the Iranian regime) for the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. Ali Kamili, a member of the convoy’s Iranian committee, said that during the visit to Iran many contributions had been received from the Iranian people (irdc.ir website, December 15, 2010). To receive the contributions, dozens of headquarters were opened in the large cities (ISNA, December 11, 2010). Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash, a member of the Iranian national security and foreign relations committee, said that he and six other Majlis members would go to Syria to join the convoy for "the liberty of Gaza." According to another version, 10-12 senior Iranian figures would accompany the convoy to Gaza (Islamic Revolution Document Center website, December 15, 2010).4 According to Mahmoud Bighash, the Iranian foreign ministry made an intense effort to arrange Egyptian entrance visas for the Majlis members, and Egypt had assured them that everything was in order (ISNA, December 14, 2010). The Iranian regime may support the Asian convoy in other ways, including logistically and financially.
The Continuation of the Convoy’s Journey
15. According to the Iranian media, another delegation from Pakistan is expected to join the convoy while it is still in Iran, raising the number of participants to 200. In addition, the chairman of the Indonesian parliament said that eight of his country’s activists, representing various organizations, would fly to Iran to join the convoy (Asiatogaza.org website, December 8, 2010).
16. According to convoy organizer Feroze Mithiborwala, it is supposed to leave Iran for Turkey, Syria and Jordan, and from there by boat to the port of El Arish (as noted above, the convoy entered Turkey on December 17). It is unclear whether the sea voyage and entrance into the Gaza Strip have already been arranged (despite Feroze Mithiborwala’s claim that the convoy has already received the necessary authorizations from the Egyptians). He also stated that six Turks would join, as would several activists from Australia and New Zealand, who will come by plane (Iran’s PressTV, December 13, 2010). In addition, members of the Jordanian LifeLine committee, among whom activists from the Muslim Brotherhood are prominent, have also announced that they will participate in the Asian convoy (Al-Sabil, the organ of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, December 8, 2010).
Map of the convoy’s route to the Gaza Strip
17. The activists who visited Iran and joined its hate propaganda campaign did not bring any humanitarian aid with them. At this point, apparently ,the humanitarian aid (a relatively small quantity) which includes two ambulances and other equipment, will be flown to Egypt before the convoy’s arrival (Iran’s PressTV, December 5, 2010). It is unclear whether the arrival of the equipment by air has been arranged with the Egyptian authorities.
1 On December 7 the convoy activists entered Turkey from Iran and were received by IHH representatives.
2 For further information about the convoy see the December 12, 2010 bulletin "A convoy from India and other Asian countries left New Delhi to reach the Gaza Strip at the end of December. Among the participants are extreme leftist and Islamic activists who were joined by human rights activists. The convoy has links to FGM, which plays a central role in organizing flotillas" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e146.pdf
3 Salim Ghafouri produced the anti-Indian movie "Kashmir: The Forgotten Paradise."
4 The remarks were made a few days previously, when Ali Larijani, Majlis chairman, said that "no representative of the Iranian parliament will join the delegation." He said that "we say to the delegation from Asia: welcome to Iran, but no member of the Majlis should consider joining the delegation and I do not agree that they do" (ISNA, December 9, 2010).