Saturday, 18 July 2015
01 October 2020
As some people in Kuala Lumpur were summoned,

“No Iranian activist has been deported or detained in Malaysia”

2012 January 29

Ardavan Roozbeh / Radio Koocheh

Translated by Avideh Motmaen-Far

If you happened to wonder around in downtown Kuala Lumpur, you would have probably seen ”Isfahan” street. This street was named after the city of Isfahan with the intention to show the level of bilateral ties between the two countries.

Many believe that Iran and Malaysia have strong ties. Iran has always tried to show their friendly relationship whenever possible in the past years.

Financial turnover, the presence of tens of thousands of Iranians in Malaysia and also the gossips and informal relations between Iran and Malaysia show that these two countries have had and still have strong ties. But maybe if you live in Malaysia, as an Iranian, you might find that this relationship is not as strong as it has been assumed. Increasing sanctions against Iran and the Iranian crisis after the presidential election Iran was involved in, in reality impacted on the relationship between Iran and Malaysia anyways. Even though Malaysia would like to maintain good relationship with Iran, but they have to consider the world and the global economy. It is what supporting one’s own national interests means, however insignificant and low-priority this concept can sound in Iran these days.

 With the increased Iranian immigration, the growing wave of protests after the elections was pulled out of Iran to Malaysia too. On one hand it is easy for Iranian citizens to enter the country which is a heaven gift these days and on the other hand, the huge number of young Iranians who came to study in Malaysia accompanied the wave of protest.

Protest rallies in front of the Iranian embassy, the UN Office and other meetings are things that the partisans of the so-called “green movement” did in Malaysia.

Although some activists have been summoned by the Diplomatic Police in Malaysia, they have only very respectfully been asked to appertain to the rules of the country

The Iranians protesters in Malaysia encountered lot of resistance in organizing their gatherings which they believe is caused by the Iranian regime. Some were even concerned about Iranian political and social activists to be summoned or arrested by the Malaysian authorities. We have even heard some rumors about this but according to a ”green” activists  called ”Resam”, no active political and civil activist has been deported, or arrested from Malaysia so far.

Although some activists have been summoned by the Diplomatic Police in Malaysia, they have only very respectfully been asked to appertain to the rules of the country.

Somehow, Malaysian authorities, more than being concerned by the conditions in Iran, are concerned about similar events in their own country.

Many believe on the other hand that threats come from Iranian authorities in order to prevent Iranian dissidents from their activities outside the country, but it seems that Iranians themselves feed these rumors.

 Radio Koocheh organized a panel discussion with three Iranian civil activists who have a history of civil rights activism in Malaysia: Hossein Sobhanallahi from ”Rasam” in Malaysia, Ali Tabatabai, civil rights activist and protester of the aftermath of the elections, and Mr. Akbar, journalist and political refugees in Malaysia.

My first question is for Mr. Sobhanollahi. After the Iranian election, a group of Iranian protesters in Malaysia, had similar activities to those in Iran at that time. What was the atmosphere in Malaysia?

”Many spontaneous movements and gatherings took place by Iranian dissidents in Malaysia after the elections in Iran. Some of which were the gathering in front of The Iranian Embassy, and in front of the United Nation office. These gatherings became hectic because of the Police reaction with the protesters as they could not control the situation due to the huge number of participants. But after that, people in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor found that they could cut the activities to different groups and ask help from different people. Finally, a number of different people organized different gatherings. And all the activities were respectful of the host country rules and laws. Since then, most of the gatherings were indoors or out but with previous announcement in order not to violate the laws of the host country. But still there were some clashes that I will explain later.”

Mr. Tabatabai! You have participated in the protests after the election in 2009. Some argue that the Malaysian government has a close relationship with the Islamic Republic. Do you find that the Malaysian Government has shown any sensitivity with ”green” activists in Malaysia?

”As Mr. Sobhanollahi noted, there were some clashes in the past. We were summoned along with Mr. Sobhanollahi and some other friends for the gathering we wanted to organize in front of United Nation’s office. One of their concerns was that the activities of the opposition against the Islamic Republic in Malaysia, do not tie with the opposition activities of the Chinese dissidents in Malaysia. Also, the The Iranian Embassy, because of their good relations with Malaysia puts lot of pressure on them and wants to deal with the Iranian opposition in Malaysia.

In all the interrogations, it was obvious that the Malaysian government was reluctant to put pressure on the Iranian activists in Malaysia but wanted us to respect the rules. They were afraid of such gatherings and opposition protests to become common. They are highly sensitive to the street demonstrations because of their own problems and do not want the street protests to become widespread. Therefore, that was a good thing for the Islamic Republic. But considering the fact that the Islamic Republic is gradually becoming more and more isolated in the international community, Malaysian interests in connection with other countries are impacted if they continue to maintain good relations with the Islamic Republic.”

Do you believe then that it was more about the Malaysian interests rather than trying to maintain good relationships with Iran?

”Both questions were raised. In a part of the interrogations, they were asking us why we were against the Islamic Republic and it was obvious that the question was tailored by the Iranian authorities and the second most important concern was related to their own country Malaysia and the respect of their laws.”

Mr. Akbar! you are journalist and asylum seeker in Malaysia. Most people choose a country like turkey, which is close to Iran for asylum but you choose Malaysia. Has the good relationship between Iran and Malaysia, made things more difficult for you?

”What is obvious and even UN is trying to show is that there is no difference between Malaysia with Turkey or other countries in terms of Immigration and the kind of treatment and facilities that Malaysia offers to refugees. But as everyone knows, Malaysia has not signed the refugees convention Charter, so they are more free in the way they deal with each individual asylum seeker. Our feeling is that after the elections, Malaysian government along with the UN has tried to have a very slow process for the asylum seekers because of their good relationships with the Islamic Republic. They have no desire for an Iranians asylum seeker immigration in Malaysia. This can be easily sensed in the length of time the Iranians’  cases are treated in Malaysia in comparison with Turkey. They are at least thirty to forty percent slower.

Mr. Sobhanallahi! you were living in Malaysia for seven years prior to the events after the elections of 2009 in which you were very active. Although any official statistics is not available on the number of Iranian dissidents living in Malaysia but some believe that about 60 thousand Iranians live in Malaysia. What do you think Iranians might do that can affect our conditions in this country?

In the past six-year stay in Malaysia, I see that the number of Iranians in Malaysia, especially after the elections of 2009, had grown substantially and I think the number of Iranians in Malaysia is much more than what you mentioned. The Iranian immigration to Malaysia was at first mostly about students, and businessmen. Then the immigration grew out of control and since three years we are witnessing Iranian drug dealer problems which impacts negatively the image of Iranians. But I strongly believe that the type of relations and exchanges with Malaysian society is very effective and can help us to live in a calmer atmosphere.

I believe that a false mindset of the Malaysian society makes the living more difficult. Most definitely, Malaysia is very different from other countries but many problems exist because of what we do ourselves preventing us from living in a peaceful atmosphere.

Mr. Tabatabai! Certain pressures have been imposed on the opposition movement but, as a journalist I believe that there might be some exaggeration. It is suggested that some kind of political pressure exist on Iranians in Malaysia. And even lately we have heard that some had been summoned, or have been dealt with violently. Are these things effective in Iranians situation in Malaysia?

”In the every day life is definitely effective. But the most important thing is that the Islamic Republic loves creating and spreading an atmosphere of fear and terror in order to better control the opposition. As Malaysia is among the most active countries in opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iranian community is very large, it is one of the primary sites that they want to control. They love to show off and make believe that they control the opposition activities abroad. The Secretary of Information, the Attorney General, the Deputy Culture of the Corps announced that the political activists overseas are not safe and they have even threatened them with assassination. This shows how badly they want to increase  the fear among many people who are not even political activists.

This atmosphere will affect people’s life and we should not be feed the Islamic Republic of “political bluff”. I believe that these things are most likely just “political bluff”, because for Malaysian government, their international relations are more important than the expectations of a country which is politically isolated. I do not think that Malaysia would put such pressures on the Iranian opposition in Malaysia. We should not get involved in the Islamic Republic’s game and live peacefully in this country. And the Political activists can more or less continue their activities.

Mr. Akbar! considering the fact that you are an asylum seeker in this country, what do the exaggerations of this kind can bring up for you in your situation?

I just wanted to add something to my friends’ description. I think that for the last two years,  the Malaysian government has a more positive view regarding to the Iranian opposition and  we should not forget that a large part of Malaysian intellectuals were somehow in contact with their Iranian dissidents friends and intellectuals in Iran. So since the events and the police reaction in Malaysia against Iranian protestors opened their eyes about Iran and the fact that Iran is not the country they can rely on and have friendly relations in the current situation. While trying to do their duty, they are trying to deal with a friendly and strong opposition also in order to keep both sides happy.

Concerning your question, I should say that the Malaysian police does not want things to get out of control. By feeding the atmosphere of false claims, the only ones benefiting from the situation is the Islamic republic informative forces. Because they expected Malaysians to what they want but they know also that their expectations have to be limited. But we are creating an atmosphere in which the living for a good number of Iranian opposition has become difficult.

Why do you think these rumours exist? Even from people who are not probably related to the Iranian regime but creates these kind stories. What is their goal?

I do not know about the individuals’ inner intentions but I do know that the biggest problem is the same kind of individual movements that cause problem in our political movements and in Iranian opposition. Perhaps it is based on personal interests or a bad analysis. I compare the Iranian atmosphere in Malaysia to a ship in which every individual can not do something that causes the ship to drown. If some people think that by creating this kind of atmosphere, they create a safer environment for themselves, they are mistaken and they only make things more difficult for others.

Mr. Sobhanallahi! Some believe that events in Malaysia has a clear central decisive source. Do you confirm this and whether each movements or events are centrally organized?

First I escape briefly to the previous question. In the last two years I have heard several times about some people being dealt with violently or some have been deported and other issues in Malaysia. But as far as I know, no one have been deported from Malaysia because of political activities. If someone has been deported from the airport, it has definitely had to do with some other immigration laws of Malaysia and he has been denied entry. And as far as I am concerned there have not been any abusive behavior to the described extent. In the meantime, different people have different experiences but what is certain is that a natural, logical and systematic process shows the type of behavior discussed here but exceptions exist, and in every place in the world is possible that these type of behavior happen and there are unconventional and have unconventional causes too. The Iranian regime is following  a goal since two years to create an insecure atmosphere and environment in Malaysia and I believe it has not reached its goal because of the kind of attitude Iranian dissidents have  here. But we need to be careful not only not to prepare the situation they would like to achieve but also not to help them achieve more than they would have expected.

In Facebook, there is a page called the Green Network in Malaysia, where friends exchange news and thoughts regarding the green movement. But over all, all the activities in Malaysia, are based on the agreement of the group on Facebook, a lot like to respect the laws of the host country. Therefore, activities are decided by the activists friends and have no specific reference. Friends consult and held meetings, but no direction is taken from anywhere outside of Malaysia. Friends were trying to gather different sets of thoughts that have no other purpose except to free Iran from the current situation together, and express their views and critics within the Malaysian civil law.

Do you mean that if something is announced by them, it is not the result of a meeting  but their own thoughts? Is there a council or group of people in Malaysia monitoring the statements?

Over the past two years, all the statements published by the ”Green Community” in Malaysia, has been from the organization ”Resam”, (The Green way of Iranians in Malaysia), and you can be sure that any statements that does not have this title, has not been issued by the activists in Malaysia. The majority of Iranians outside Iran, in Malaysia and all over the world are against the current situation in Iran and opposed to the election results over the past two years. In Malaysia, they have expressed that too. But some of us has spent more time and energy to form this group. Their positions and programs also go through Facebook where it is expressed and statements are released with the same name and title. If any other group declares anything stating that we have approved, it is not true.

Mr. Tabatabai! Iranian’s activities in Malaysia started in the past two years, and those who were protesting the elections were frequently gathering. These days, with the  rumors of arrests, deportation and summons, it seems that something has changed. What are your impressions? Do you think this is the result of our own way of feeding rumors?

”Yes, definitely. The Islamic Republic creates the atmosphere and we, by feeding rumors help the Islamic Republic. When you search well, you see that nothing has happened and none of it is true except that the IR can not impose their expectations to the Malaysian authorities. I believe that this atmosphere will disappear very soon because the security services are even unable inside Iran. That’s the reason why they keep all the activists in prison. If their security system was effective, they wouldn’t have to keep the slightest young activist in prison. This is  the proof that they cannot control people outside of prison. So how are they supposed to control activists outside Iran?

They even likes to pretend they can control all the political activists in Canada, but this is not true. Three years ago when I was living in Malaysia, it was still before the elections take place and Iran was not as politically isolated as it is now, Malaysia denied entrance to Iran in the  Islamic Republic military exhibition upon the United States request. At that time the Malaysian Prime Minister declared officially that they did it because of the western countries pressure. This proves that whatever decision the Malaysian State makes is based on their own interests and international relations and not because of the expectations of a very isolated country that has no clear future.

Therefore, feeding the Islamic Republic’s rumors is the only thing the Islamic Republic wants. This is only an illusion that we create ourselves. I can assure all the political activists. The Islamic Republic is now too weak to control any activists abroad. Where have you seen such a thing that a political activist being deported? There has been a case in Norway, but in a country like Malaysia, we have not seen such incidences.

Mr. Akbar! Do you have a similar opinion? Did you have any serious problem as a journalist?

No. I definitely confirm our friends’ comments here. I think we should be vigilant and respect the laws of Malaysia. While trying not to be affected by rumors, we should not do anything  to raise the Malaysian government sensitivity.
Malaysia has laws like any other country. Although, even with their own protesters that did not have authorization, the police did not reacted violently. This is being rational in the multinational or multi-racial country such as Malaysia.

You can be sure, to Malaysia’s security forces, in a meeting in an enclosed space, doesn not matter what is said and done. What they do not want is the gatherings in front of Tourists.  The Malaysian government does not like to show weakness of their security forces in front of tourists. If you touch the sensitive spot, they will not tolerate because they decide based on their national interests. Activists must act more rationally in coordination with the Malaysian laws. We have always witnessed that individual actions are not effective.

We should not make the Malaysian police an enemy to us. This is an experience that all the activists have had even before the revolution in foreign countries. We should not get trapped twice. The Police in Malaysia or anywhere else in the world is not the enemy of foreign dissents and the opposition. If Malaysia did not tolerate us, where we would have been? While we continue our activities, we should be very grateful to them.

Do you have something to add?

Mr. Sobhanallahi: ”the activities of ”greens” in Malaysia for the past two years has been respectful of our host country and holding meetings in an enclosed space has caused less sensitivity. If there has been a Police presence, it has been because of the IR’s pressure. And since the past two years, there has been no clashes or problem with the Malaysian security forces. We hope our activities continue. Things have changed, we had more activities after the first year but now we need to focus on important things that can have a more important impact on the future of our country.”

Mr. Tabatabai: ”Considering the fact that in the past few days, some friends in Malaysia and other countries were concerned about their political activities outside the country, I can totally assure them that no danger is threatening them from Iran. And as people who live in free countries we have the obligation to complement the activities of people inside the country, and to bring their voice to the world. Do not get fooled by the IR’s scenarios.

Mr. Akbar: ” I would like to ask our friends and countrymen not to get impressed easily and act emotionally, because the political atmosphere has nothing to do with emotions, we should be rational. When something happens, we should deal with it with the importance it has. No more nor less. Any decision made collectively will be benefit-able to each and everyone of us.

Thank you.”


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