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Are Shia religious freedoms caught up in U.S. seizure of Iranian media?

Written By | Jul 5, 2021
Shia, Television, Religious, Iran

WASHINGTON: The US is once again confusing Shia Muslims with the revolutionary Iranian government. Last month, the US seized 33 Iranian state-linked websites saying they were “hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.” The US saying the stations: “…are a part of a disinformation campaign and reportedly associated with violent organizations.”

In a statement, the Justice Department said,

“Today, pursuant to court orders, the United States seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and three websites operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), in violation of US sanctions.” It must be mentioned that KH has been listed as a Foreign Terror Organisation by the US.”

In October 2020,  the US Justice Department seized 92 domains used by the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to spread disinformation by posing as independent media outlets.

Over the past decades, many Shia organizations and activists have advocated for the separation of religion and politics.

For many years Shia Muslims have been wrongly associated with the revolution of the Iranian government. 

Shia Islam is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic religion with a vast international history that is more than 1400 years old. Members of the Shia Faith have long denounced dependence on a single political entity, yet time and time again, they are regarded as synonymous with the Islamic  Republic of Iran.

Every single administration that steps into the White House has made the same mistake, proving the misunderstanding of administration and anti-Shia bigotry. And while President Trump took a hard-line approach to Iran using sanctions and assassinations, Trump did not take aim at the freedom of speech or information.  Biden is said to be open to relaxing tensions between Iran and US going so far as to allegedly begin lifting Trump era sanctions.

However, actions speak louder than words.


In the past, the United States Justice Department and U.S Department of commerce seized thirty-five news, political and religious TV stations, signaling religious discrimination fueled by the uneducated plan.

Shia Religious stations seized by U.S.

Among the religious Shia TV stations previously seized were HudHud TV, now available on YouTube, a channel for children parallel to the Disney channel.  Karbala TV, which sends out live broadcasts from the religious city of Karbala. Al-Anwar TV, the oldest Shia religious TV station, and Ahlulbayt TV, a London-based British TV station


           — ALANWAR TV ( June 24, 2021


The aforementioned are just a sample of the religious TV stations seized by the Justice Department.

The more one examines the list of these TV stations, the more insights of those in charge are undermined.

The Obama administration associated religion with a single political entity, damaging its appeal to thousands of Shia Muslims and advocates of religious expression. Moreover promoting anti-Shia sentiments.

The limitations of religious expression on TV is not the first instance of anti-Shiism. Nor is it the last.

The Pentagon briefing on March 3, 2021.

Department of Defense’s Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and spokesman, John Kirby associated active militia groups with the faith of Shia Islam, a rhetoric that is false in association and harmful to the millions of Shia Muslims who actively condemn violence.

In many speeches and official remarks, Mike Pompeo the former secretary of state has affiliated millions of Shia Muslims as allies of the Iranian government, indicating on numerous occasions the armed group as Shia militia rather than their actual name. But when it comes to ISIS or Taliban and Al-Qaeda, none of them were considered “Sunni militia” or Sunni organizations.

The United States claims to pioneer humanitarian efforts and the defense of rights for people of various faiths.

We defend the Christian in Iraq and Syria, we defend the Yazidis from violence do our best to be the safe haven for those who are seeking their rights, but when it comes to Shia Muslims we do our best to make sure they are not heard and close every door to them. It seems we are handing Shia Muslims in silver tray to Iranian government and making sure they suffer by every country.


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Mustafa Ahkwand

Mustafa Akhwand is founder of minority rights organization Shia Rights Watch. His peace advocacy efforts span from West to East as he facilitates non-violence on the ground in war-ridden nations such as Iraq. He founded the Shia Rights Watch, which focuses on the humanitarian rights of Shia Muslims. Mustafa Hold BCS (Bachelor of Computer Science) and BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) and MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University focusing on Dynamic of Violence. Mustafa has also led facilitation, mediation, and peace-building programs in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.