October 19, 2022

Bomb Threat Against University of Chicago is Latest in Campaign to Silence and Divide Iranian Americans

Washington, DC – Yesterday, a bomb threat was called into the University of Chicago as part of an escalating hate campaign against progressive Iranian American voices in the United States. This coincided with the circulation of a video allegedly associated with “Anonymous” threatening the University of Chicago to cancel an appearance by an Iranian-American journalist that has worked with the National Iranian American Council or face ominous consequences. The video cited a decades-old rant from an Islamophobic organization that spread birther conspiracy theories about Barack Obama and placed NIAC at the center of an alleged pro-Islamic Republic “cabal” within the Democratic party. These events are being driven by a flood of online, social media activities being amplified by hardline Iranian diaspora opposition groups and which many experts believe demonstrate a potentially state-actor supported coordinated, inauthentic behavior campaign. This has led to threats and violence at events against Iranian Americans that are supposed to be focused on solidarity with the people of Iran, threats against prominent Iranian-American elected officials and public figures associated with our organization, and efforts targeting Iranian American academics, journalists, and civil society members.

NIAC President Jamal Abdi responded to these outrageous actions, stating:

It is time for the Iranian-American community and broader diaspora across political stripes to stand for the democratic values and free speech that our heroes inside Iran are fighting for. We must all condemn these outrageous threats against women, academic institutions, journalists and voices in the diaspora. 

“It is not enough to only criticize violence when it occurs – such as Donald Trump criticizing the January 6 rioters when it served him but refusing to acknowledge or distance himself from the many acts that produced those events. For our community, we all need to pause and consider how we can end the divisive rhetoric and efforts to delegitimize those we disagree with, stop silencing each other’s voices, and prioritize the very real struggles Iranians are undertaking over our petty political differences. There must be an effort to heal, to work toward being able to discuss our differences of opinion and even disagree vehemently without resorting to defaming each other. 

“Anything short of that is an insult to the brave people of Iran, who do not have the privilege that we have to live in a society like ours that – however flawed – offers protections for fundamental rights like freedom of expression without the threat of political violence. We absolutely cannot allow ourselves to embody and endorse the authoritarian tactics and anti-democratic values of the Islamic Republic of Iran that Iranians are dying in the streets right now to dismantle. We wholeheartedly condemn the outrageous bomb threat made against the University of Chicago and the fearmongering that led to this scary and disheartening point.”

This campaign of attacks is not new – many independent Iranian-American voices participating in public life as Americans and not associated with any of the hardline Iranian diaspora opposition groups have for years been falsely accused of outrageous and unfounded allegations of serving as “agents” of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2019, an inauthentic, coordinated campaign to smear Iranian American voices was discoverd to have been coordinated in part by the then-State Department funded organization Iran Disinfo Project and the rightwing thinktank Foundation for Defense of Democracies which had deep ties to the Trump White House.

NIAC is an American community organization giving voice to a large portion of the Iranian-American community and we condemn all acts of political violence and disinformation. We absolutely do not have any connection to any foreign government and after twenty years of attacks there remains little else but innuendo and false accusations but no actual evidence to the contrary. We routinely criticize, condemn, and advocate against the abuses of the Iranian government, and the intention of our work has always been to give Iranian Americans a voice in Washington for peace and civil rights, and to empower Iranian society to be able to secure for themselves the change and freedom they deserve.”


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