Ahmad Batebi, an iconic figure of Iranian dissidence, has appeared on a list of human rights activists who oppose the historic nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, as well as in an ad produced by Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, an offshoot project of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Batebi gained much attention as the face of the student protest movement in 1999 when he was featured on the cover of The Economist brandishing the bloodied t-shirt of a fellow student. When the famous photo was taken, he was warning other students on the now famous date of 18 Tir that the police were shooting at the crowd. Some have come so far as to call Batebi “the Che Guevara of Iran”, as his image is often invoked to represent dissidence inside the country.
Following the 18 Tir protests, Batebi was imprisoned and sentenced to death. After international outcry his sentence was commuted to 15 years in prison. Batebi escaped from Iran in 2008 while on temporary medical leave from prison. He sought asylum in the United States, and has been living in Washington, DC, since.
Batebi has caused a stir on social media recently by openly denouncing the nuclear deal signed on July 14 between Iran and the P5+1. He has since removed his Twitter posts criticizing the deal, and subsequently deleted related posts on his Facebook wall, which came with many responses criticizing his actions and cooperation with AIPAC.
In the letter, those opposing the deal call for a refocus on Iran's human rights abuses and its support of terrorism in the Middle East. They fault the deal for forgetting these aspects of the Iranian government, and for enabling and strengthening them to continue with these practices. The group demands more pressure on the regime and calls out “western apologists and appeasers” for doing a disservice to the Iranian people.
Below is a tweet by Batebi sharing a link to the statement of which he is a signatory, questioning whether $150 billion is the amount of money belonging to the Iranian government to be unfrozen if sanctions are lifted on Iran:
In Iranian Dissidents statement about Iran Deal, I personally believe their bank balance is less than $150 billion http://t.co/Am5EgOXVBP
— Ahmad Batebi (@abatebi) August 15, 2015
While the link to the letter remains on his Twitter page, the link to the AIPAC ad has since been removed. Below is a tweet by journalist Golnaz Esfandiari with a link to Batebi's original tweet, which he has since deleted, blasting the deal and linking to the video:
Criticism of Batebi's actions has been heavy since many see the alternative to the deal as war and hostility between Iran and the United States. One Twitter user slammed Batebi for formerly being opposed to hostility between Iran and the US:
— Patrick H. O'Neil (@upspatrick) August 16, 2015
Batebi's actions have resulted in many spats between those who support the deal and those who are against it.
— Ariane M. Tabatabai (@ArianeTabatabai) August 15, 2015
— Hooman Majd (@hmajd) August 15, 2015
On Batebi's Facebook page, many aggressive posts and comments have been deleted since the video was released on August 13. A particularly damning comment on Batebi's wall accuses Batebi of being connected to Maryam Rajavi, the president of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a dissident Iranian group that has faced allegations of terrorism and militant action against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its supporters.
حیفه ب شما میگن انسان
واقعا از شما دیگه گذشته از بس خودفروشی و وطن فروشی کردید دیگه جز پوست و گوشت و خونتون شده
چهارنفر از دارو دسته هی رجوی هم دور و برت و میگیرن فکر می کنید چه خبره
سر هیچ و پوچ سربرآوردید و برا خودتون کاروبار خودفروشی و وطن فروشی راه انداختید
همین داعش میگه من همین وحشی هستم که هستم
اما امثال تو مثل کفتار صفت می مونن
It is too bad that they call you a human. Really, this has become a norm for you, and it is now part of you to sell yourself and your country. A few people from the Rajavi gang are around you and you think something is going on and you are selling yourself and your country based on this. ISIS admits that they are uncivilized but people like you are like hyenas.
One journalist, however, has been vocal in calling out the back and forths on social media, even going as far as to say Batebi's involvement will not have much political impact.
فكر نكنم بحث و جدل هاى طرفين بر سر شركت احمد باطبى در آگهى تلويزيونى لابى اسراييل (اِيپٓك AIPAC) بر ضد توافق، به جايى برسه. #بيخيال.
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) August 17, 2015
I don't think that the arguments and discussions surrounding Ahmad Batebi's television appearance in the Israeli lobbies (AIPAC) ad against the deal will get anywhere #ForgetAboutIt