First hijab-wearing L’Oréal hair model resigns over Israel comments (& brave Iranian woman missing)

January 23, 2018



[Notes by Tom Gross]

Just days after British blogger Amena Khan made headlines around the world for becoming the first hijab-wearing woman to be featured in a hair care campaign for Paris-based cosmetics conglomerate L’Oréal, Khan has stepped down from her role after her virulent anti-Israeli tweets and comments were revealed yesterday by the (London) Daily Mail.

“I deeply regret the content of the tweets I made, and sincerely apologise for the upset and hurt that they have caused,” Khan said yesterday.

“Championing diversity is one of my passions, I don’t discriminate against anyone. I have chosen to delete them as they do not represent the message of harmony that I stand for.”


Among her past tweets, Khan had called the Jewish state “sinister” and said “Insha’Allah, it’s only a matter of time [before it is destroyed].”

Prior to her announcement, Khan had received widespread praise for being the first hijab wearing women to appear in a hair care ad.

A spokesperson for L’Oreal told the BBC yesterday that it welcomes Khan’s decision to step down.


Some may find it somewhat odd that she was hired to sell shampoo without showing her hair.


L’Oreal has previously been criticized for its links to Nazi war criminals as well as its anti-Israeli activities. This has been discussed in the French media and written about in the book “Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott” by Michael Bar-Zohar.



This is a follow up to:I searched in vain in the New York Times… (& Who is standing up for her?) (January 3, 2018)

Dozens of Iranians were killed, and hundreds arrested and tortured, in the anti-regime protests in late December and early January.

Among those who have been “disappeared” by the regime and is probably being held in one for the regime’s notorious prisons, is this Iranian woman (pictured above) who I wrote about in my previous dispatch here, and who bravely stood on a pillar box in Tehran and took off her white hijab and waved it in the air at the start of the protests.

Leading Iranian women’s rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh told the AFP news agency yesterday that witnesses saw the woman being taken away. The photo of her later went viral, and she has become known as the “Girl of Enghelab Street,” although prominent western feminists have generally avoided saying anything in support of her or other brave Iranian women.

Sotoudeh, who declined to name the woman for her own protection, said the woman was 31 years old and had a 19-month-old baby.

Under Iran’s Islamic legal code, women are required to wear a headscarf and long clothes that cover the arms and legs, or they face fines and prison sentences.

Sotoudeh told AFP yesterday: “Before even being charged or tried by legal authorities, women are taken to a place called ‘Gasht-e Ershad’ [Guidance Patrol], where they can be harshly beaten up. Whether a case is opened for them or not is unimportant. The illegal punishment they have had to bear has always been much more than what is foreseen in the law.”



There continues to be much highly politicized (and effectively pro-regime) nonsense (some might even call it fake news) written about the recent anti-government protests in over 100 Iranian towns and cities. This is particularly the case in the New York Times’ international edition.

In its latest efforts to try and prove that the “death to the supreme leader” anti-Islamic regime protests were not in fact political in nature, the New York Times tried to convince its readers in a news piece this past weekend that the revolt was not against the regime but solely the result of global warming.

Below, by contrast, is a piece by someone who actually knows what he is talking about concerning Iran, Asharq Al-Awsat columnist Amir Taheri. (Taheri is a long-standing subscriber to this email list.)



This is a follow-up to other recent dispatches on football.

The former English national football team manager Steve McClaren has recently returned to England after a five month spell as coaching consultant at Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he assisted Maccabi manager Jordi Cruyff, who is the son of Dutch football giant Johan Cruyff.

Given how much anti-Israelism/anti-Semitism there is among some sections of the British media, as well as among many football fans, McClaren has this week emerged as somewhat of a spokesperson to counter this.

Yesterday in “The Big Interview” feature in The Times of London sports section, McClaren said:

“Tel Aviv was beautiful. Modern, but with history, too. Mediterranean. Multicultural, fantastic restaurants, great beach, the job looked interesting.

“My wife Kathryn didn’t want to go [at first], but two of my boys came over and had a great time and said ‘Go mum, go.’ She came over for a week and was blown away by it. She ended up returning three or four times.”

“I visited the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Nazareth at Christmas — fascinating. I saw the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s got that feeling of spirituality, whatever your beliefs. It’s the epicentre of three religions and all of them believe God will descend in that one spot. And they call Tel Aviv a country within a country because it’s different to the rest of Israel… I could be an ambassador for the Israeli Tourist Board.”


Among other recent football dispatches:

* Stars of David: The story of Israel’s first national soccer team (October 7, 2017)

* Palestinian girls’ soccer defies the odds in a conservative society (October 5, 2017)

-- Tom Gross



Iran: Anatomy of a National Revolt
By Amir Taheri
Asharq Al-Awsat
January 14, 2018

With its flames declining after days of high blaze, the “events” that shook Iran in December and early January are still attracting a tsunami of comment, speculation and, as always in such cases, misrepresentation.

The first question is what should we call what happened.

The term “events” is too anodyne and the term “revolution” too hyperbolic to do the job. The Khomeinist leadership in Tehran started by using the term “disturbances” (eghteshashat) as if we were dealing with a stampede in a bazaar or a crowd crash in a Spanish bullfight arena.

When it became clear that “disturbances” in some 100 cities couldn’t be dismissed in so cavalier a manner, the Khomeinist authorities went for their fallback position of blaming foreign conspirators for the whole thing.

Thus, state propaganda gave us the term “conspiracy” (to-teheh) with a colorful cast of characters supposedly involved. These included US President Donald Trump, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the Barzani clique in Iraqi Kurdistan, a brother-in- law of Saddam Hussein, a cousin of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a retired CIA spook converted to the “wrong kind of Islam”.

Within days, however, the Khomeinist tune had become laughable.

How could such a disparate cast of characters put so many angry Iranians on the streets? And how could such big chunks of the Khomeinist establishment itself express sympathy with the protesters rather than shower them with abuse in the manner he mullahs have used since time immemorial?

No, the term “conspiracy” wouldn’t do either.

The Khomeinist propaganda barons then turned to the term “sedition” (fitnah) which has several advantages as far as they are concerned. To start with this is a theological term that denotes a major schism in which the established version of the faith of is challenged by a rival narrative backed by the sword.

Thus, the Khomeinist message was the protesters were directly attacking Islam. News outlets controlled by Islamic Security even put out footage and print reportages with photos claiming that the protesters were burning mosques and hussainiehs. The subtext was that Iranian protesters were like the Syrians who had risen against Bashar al-Assad with the sole aim of: destroy holy shrines and tombs.

However, the term “sedition” didn’t stick either. In fact, one remarkable feature of the protests was that, for the first time in Iranian contemporary history, there was no religious undertone in any of the slogans and speeches made by protest leaders. What we witnessed in Iran was a political movement with political aims.

The next attempt to misrepresent the “events” was to brand them as “economic”. Some former Obama administration officials and Khomeinist lobbyists in the US and Europe tried the gimmick to claim that the Khomeinist regime remains politically popular but faces popular anger because of economic sanctions that have made life difficult for most Iranians. When it became clear that most of the slogans were political that term, too, became redundant. In any case, the whole thing was based on a misreading of Marx’s division of reality into “economic infrastructure” and “political superstructure.”

Many Iranians, including some within the regime, implicitly agree that the mullahs took over a fairly prosperous country four decades ago and turned it into a poor house where up to five million suffer from chronic hunger and a further 25 million are housed in slums unfit for human habitation. And, yet, they know that the nation’s economic woes are a result of the regime’s reckless policies at home and abroad.

Thus, what we witnessed was a national political revolt against the status quo.

The term national does not mean that the whole of Iran or even a majority were involved. The revolt was national because it cut across class, regional ethnic and religious divides. In some places, for example Isfahan, the richest local families were marching alongside the poorest of the city with middle class and lower middle class people also on side. In Arak, an industrial city, workers and their industrialist employers marched shoulder to shoulder to indicate they were fed up with the Khomeinist system.

The revolt also skirted the generation gap, bringing together people of all ages. To be sure, most protesters were young; and over 90 percent of the 3,000 or so arrested by Islamic Security are aged below 30. But who could forget the scenes in which men and women in their 80s led the marches in Mash’had, Tabriz , Shiraz and Kerman?

The national revolt also cut across the gender gap by bringing together almost as many women as men. In many places, even smaller towns, women assumed leadership or revived the memory of Pasionaria with their fiery speeches.

While the Khomeinist set-up includes a few thousand clerics it certainly does not represent the whole of the Shi’ite clergy; this is why many mullah and students of theology joined the revolt, emphasizing its national character. It is interesting that none of the top or even middle –ranking mullahs of Qom, Mash’had or Najaf came out in support of the regime by condemning the national revolt. The regime had to find its defenders among a few hundred mullahs on government payroll.

Because the revolt took place in every one of 31 provinces it brought together all of the nation’s 18 ethnic communities

The revolt was national for another reason: no political party or group or known political personality played a major role in it. Almost all parties, including virtually all those who had supported Khomeini in 1978-79 joined the revolt, at least verbally, as did an amazing roster of former top officials and apologists of the Khomeinist system. Of the 290 members of the Islamic Majlis, the ersatz parliament, at least 60 made some noise in support of the revolt. Also remarkable was the reluctance of the military elite, especially in the regular army, to stand against the national revolt, at least in its early stages.

What happened was unprecedented in Iran’s contemporary history.

It was a truly national revolt against the established order. It didn’t offer a clear alternative but helped clear the air by puncturing the Khomeinist regime’s claim of invincibility. Even a year ago few would admit that the Khomeinist system was overthrowable. Now many, including some of the regime’s lobbyists abroad, publicly do so.

In 1989, Ali Khamenei had this to say to a session of the Assembly of Experts that hastily named him “Supreme Guide”: “One must shed tears of blood for Islamic ummah if I am considered worthy of becoming its leader.”

I don’t think crying tears of blood is the only option. A soberer option is to close the chapter of Khomeinism, Supreme-Guidism and related nonsensical notions by allowing the Iranian nation to reshape its life in a rational manner.

The national revolt was about the change that may be delayed but won’t be denied.


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.