Feb. 27, 2021
Social Media Activist
Shirin Najafi, who also goes by the name Soodabeh Khorsand, is well known because she worked with Ruhollah Zam, who was executed in December 2020, on the Amad News Telegram channel. After the arrest of Ruhollah Zam, who founded Amad News, Najafi took part in a number of interviews with Persian language television and media networks about her arrest and legal. After not being heard from for quite some time, in December 2020, the Iranian judiciary announced that Najafi had been imprisoned in Iran.
There is no information available about Najafi’s previous professional background. However, she reportedly sought asylum in Ankara, Turkey in 2013.
Shirin Najafi began her work with Ruhollah Zam and the Amad News Telegram channel in 2017.
BBC Persian reported on the connection between Najafi and Zam, quoting Babak Ejlali, another key figure behind the Amad News network: “Babak Ejlali, one of the founders of Amad News, said that he was suspicious about her [Shirin Najafi] work with Amad News. Ejlali said that he wanted to carry out an investigation but Ruhollah Zam called his investigation into Najafi ‘nosey’ and asked him to stop asking questions about her.”
According to Ejlali’s account, Shirin Najafi was one of Ruhollah Zam’s most trusted confidantes and colleagues.
According to BBC Persian, Najafi encouraged Zam to travel to Iraq, where he was subsequently arrested as part of an operation carried out by the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC]. The BBC Persian article report said: “Individuals close to Ruhollah Zam also said that Shirin Najafi sent photos to Zam of stacks of €500 banknotes that she claimed to have received from the office of Ayatollah Sistani [a prominent Iraqi Shia cleric of Iranian origin who does not support the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founding principle of the Guardianship of the Jurist], saying that he should go to Iraq in person to negotiate the launch of a television network backed by Ayatollah Sistani.”
Ruhollah Zam was arrested in Baghdad on October 14, 2019. Two days later, Najafi said in an interview with Iran International that the last time that she had spoken to Zam was on the phone on the night before the news of his arrest was announced. In the interview, Najafi said: “There weren’t many Amad News admins and I used to publish news on the channel in the mornings, Iranian time. On Monday morning, when I was about to publish news on the Amad News Telegram channel, I saw that an announcement had already been published that stated that important news was going to be released shortly. I thought to myself that it must be Mr. Zam who was going to publish the news, but then I realized that I no longer had administrator access to the channel and that I had been kicked off the channel. It seemed very strange to me but then my friends contacted me and informed me that Iranian television channels were reporting that Ruhollah Zam had been arrested.”
However, in the interview Najafi went on to say: “When Zam said to me that he wanted to go Iraq, I was shocked. I said to him, ‘Don’t go, I’ll go to Iraq instead of you,’ but Zam insisted. ‘No I, myself have to go to Iraq personally because I want to have a meeting with them and I want to make a series of speeches.”
After being imprisoned for one year and one month and after several separate court hearings, Ruhollah Zam was sentenced to death. His execution was carried out on December 12, 2020.
On January 5, 2021, Gholam Hossein Esmaili, the spokesperson for the Judiciary of Iran, later said in response to a question by journalists about Shirin Najafi that she was in Iran and that a sentence had been issued in her legal case. “The aforementioned woman has been arrested and convicted as part of the same legal case,” he said. “However, as the verdict is currently being referred to the Court of Appeals and as the sentence has not yet been finalized, I cannot give any further details on this specific case.”
So far no further information has been made public about Shirin Najafi’s legal case.
Journalism Is Not A Crime cannot confirm or deny that the arrests of Shirin Najafi and Ruhollah Zam are connected.