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.
“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.
Listen to the heart-wrenching cries of this mother.— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 30, 2020
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? pic.twitter.com/QMo5I5GT1w
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.”
Simple question, No answer— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 31, 2020
When #Khashoggi was brutally killed, we were all united to condemn it, and rightly so.
Now, why this silence over the assassination of this Iranian dissident? This could have been me or others. https://t.co/OXQY8xCdSa
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.”
Khashoggi was the colleague of influential activists and journalists.— Maryam Nayeb Yazdi 🧢 (@maryamnayebyazd) March 31, 2020
This Iranian case is unknown. And most people will not take the time to look into it on their own. https://t.co/YQgSJux67q
The Saudi gov is easier to target than the gov of Iran.— Maryam Nayeb Yazdi 🧢 (@maryamnayebyazd) March 31, 2020
The brutality of the Saudi authorities is more visible while the Iranian auths hide behind a moderate facade.
Most activists and journalists prefer the easier route.
It takes much strength and thought to focus on Iran.
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.
Reuters confirmed: the murder of Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjan on the streets of Istanbul was perpetrated by assassins working for Iran's consulate in Turkey.— UN Watch (@UNWatch) March 30, 2020
The world cannot be silent. We call on U.N. investigator @AgnesCallamard to ensure #JusticeForMassoud. https://t.co/n3aC7Hm68M
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.
#Turkey choosing to release the details about #Iran murdering a dissident, Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, in Istanbul in November is clearly a political decision, as much as it is determined by the investigation. Ankara is especially angry with the Iranian regime over #Idlib.— Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) March 29, 2020
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.