Social media highlights case of Iranian dissident murdered in Turkey

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Turkish officials’ conclusion that the Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani was killed in a plot organized by the Iranian consulate in Istanbul has sparked a range of reactions online, with many calling for the case to receive more attention in the international press.

Vardanjani was killed in the streets of Istanbul in November 2019. In a report this week, two senior Turkish officials said that the killing was instigated by two Iranian intelligence officers based at its consulate. Vardanjani had been a critic of the Iranian regime and posted a message on social media criticizing Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on social media three months before he was shot dead.


Many on social media suggested that the case hasn’t received enough press, comparing it to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khasoggi, who was also gruesomely murdered in Istanbul.

Read more: Iran assassination in Istanbul latest regime murder abroad, say experts

“Listen to the heart-wrenching cries of this mother. She mourns the death of her son, Masoud Molavi Vardanjan, killed in Istanbul with the role of Iranian diplomats. This could have been me or any other Iranian dissident. Why is the world silent? Because his name isn't Khashoggi?” tweeted Iranian activist Masih Alinejad along with a video reportedly showing Vardanjani’s mother at his funeral.

Alinejad went on to ask the question why there had been “silence” over Vardanjani’s murder in comparison to Khasoggi’s, stating: “Simple question, No answer.”

In response, fellow activist Maryam Nayeb Yazdi suggested that Khasoggi’s case had received more attention because he was the colleague of influential journalists. She also added that Saudi Arabia is an easier target than Iran because its “brutality ... is more visible.”

UN Watch, a verified Twitter account which posts tweets aimed at holding the United Nations to account, called on UN investigator Agnes Callamard to provide justice in the case.

Other reactions looked at the implications on Turkish-Iranian relations, considering Turkish officials were accusing Iranian activities of carrying out a murder on Turkish soil.

In a thread, researcher Kyle Orton suggested that Turkey choosing to release the details about Iran murdering Vardanjani “is clearly a political decision” which reflects Ankara’s anger with Iran over continued Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey supports anti-Assad opposition forces in Syria’s Idlib province.

Experts who spoke to Al Arabiya English pointed to a similar dynamic, adding that the Islamic Republic had a long history of assassinating dissidents abroad.

“Turkey has long-been a permissive jurisdiction for Iranian malign activities, but the publication of this information citing unnamed Turkish officials is sure to hurt ties, particularly as both parties are on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict, with a particular emphasis on Idlib,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow covering Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think-tank in DC.

“Turkey is a lifeline for Iran with regard to smuggling and sanctions-busting. They have put aside their sectarian divide as well in order to cooperate in their diplomatic efforts to undermine Saudi Arabia,” added Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in Iran, Turkey and the broader Middle East.

Ismaeel Naar contributed to this report.

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