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memri
October 3, 2018 No.
7695

France Raids, Freezes Assets Of Pro-Iran Pro-Hizbullah Zahra Center In Northern France; MEMRI Drew Attention To Center Beginning In 2010

On October 2, 2018, French police raided the pro-Iran pro-Hizbullah Centre Zahra France located in a suburb of the port city of Dunkerque.[1] The center's assets were frozen by Paris; also frozen were the assets of Iranian Intelligence Ministry's Directorate of Internal Security, Iranian Deputy Intelligence Minister in charge of operations Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, and Iranian diplomat in Vienna Assadollah Asadi. The same day, searches were carried out at the homes of 12 members of the center, and weapons were found.[2] The events followed a thwarted attack on a June 30, 2018 "Free Iran" rally held outside Paris by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).[3]


Yahia Gouasmi, Zahra Center founder, speaks to media outside the center following the police raid. Source: Times of Israel, October 2, 2018


Zahra Center head Tahiri Jamel speaks to media following the raid on the center. Source: Le Monde, October 2, 2018.


Israeli flag mat outside Zahra Center. Source: Times of Israel, October 2, 2018.

MEMRI has drawn attention to the Zahra Center in several reports, beginning in 2010. Below is the sequence of events that led to the freezing of assets and targeting of the Zahra Center, followed by excerpts of MEMRI reports on the Zahra Center's founder, the French Algerian Shi'ite Yahia Gouasmi, who also founded the Anti-Zionist Party in France, and a MEMRI TV clip of an address at the center by cleric Ali Talal.[4]

MEMRI will be releasing more on the Zahra Center soon.

Thwarted June 30 Attack On French Soil; French Authorities Target The Pro-Iranian Zahra Center

On October 2, the French government issued a communiqué announcing the freezing of the assets of top Iranian officials. The communique quoted three French government ministers on the need to dry up channels of terrorist financing in France and to prevent all forms of terrorism, whatever the source.

The communiqué stated: "An attack attempt was foiled in Villepinte [near Paris] on June 30. This act of extreme severity planned on our soil could not remain without response. By an October 2, 2018 order from the Minister of State, the Minister of the Interior, and the Minister of Economy and Finance... France has taken… preventative measures by freezing the assets of Iranian nationals Assadollah Asadi and [Iranian deputy minister of Intelligence in charge of operations] Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, as well as of the Directorate of Internal Security of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. In taking this decision, France reiterates its determination to fight terrorism, especially on its own soil.

"For [French Foreign Minister] Jean-Yves Le Drian, 'the foiled attack in Villepinte confirms the need for a demanding approach in our relations with Iran.' [Interior Minister] Gerard Collomb reaffirmed his 'determination to do everything possible to prevent any forms of terrorism, wherever it comes from.' [Economy and Finance Minister] Bruno Le Maire emphasized that 'we must dry up the terrorists' financing channels in order to put an end to their intolerable acts. We are acting firmly on the national level and we will continue to strengthen arrangements on the international level.'"[5]

According to reports, Iranian Deputy Intelligence Minister Saeid Hashemi Moghadam organized the thwarted attack on a June 30 rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) north of Paris; former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke at the rally. The same day, an Iranian man and his wife were arrested in the Woluwé suburbs of Brussels; they were found with half a kilogram of TATP explosive. Investigators said that an Iranian diplomat in Vienna, Assadolah Assadi, had provided them with the explosives in Luxembourg a few days previously. On October 2, the day the assets were frozen, an extensive raid was carried out in Grande-Synthe, near Dunkerque, in the north of France, in the homes of 11 French nationals and one Syrian national linked to the Zahra Centre, a pro-Iran Shi'ite Muslim association close to Hizbullah established in 2005. The search turned up several weapons.[6]

According to French daily Le Monde, "by targeting the Zahra Center, founded by Yahia Gouasmi, Tuesday's [October 2 search] operation tackles an influential branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran in France. An organization with a religious agenda but with very political commitments, the Zahra Center has, for nearly 10 years, been at the crossroads of the defense of Iranian interests in France and various extreme right networks, gathered under the banner of virulent 'anti-Zionism.'"[7]

MEMRI Draws Attention To Zahra Center Beginning In 2010

As early as 2010, MEMRI has been drawing attention to the Zahra Center. The following are examples:

In 2010, MEMRI translated statements by French comedian and convicted antisemite Dieudonné openly praising Gouasmi. Dieudonné said: "Political movements, like the anti-Zionist party, are developing all around Europe, and [the anti-Zionist party] was established in France by Yahia Gouasmi and me. Today it is developing in Belgium, and Switzerland, and everywhere... The combatants should wake up – obviously, combatants of peace, those who are attached to justice. We have turned into sheep, kittens, who are being fed with illusions and submissiveness. Now today, the kitten becomes a lion that is turning against the Zionists."

MEMRI's 2011 two-part review of Islamist websites in Europe featured a 2009 photo of Gouasmi, then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Dieudonné. The MEMRI report states: "The [Sunni Tawhid] website presents a photo (see below) taken during Dieudonné's November 2009 visit to Iran, of Dieudonné with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and with Shi'ite activist Yahia Ghouasmi, who is head of the Shi'ite Federation in France and of an anti-Zionist party, and director of the pro-Shi'ite anti-Zionist Zahra Center."[8]

A 2014 MEMRI report on Dieudonné and his promotion of a humor-based antisemitic subculture noted Gouasmi was president of the French Shi'ite Federation, founder of the Shi'ite Zahra Center, and a Shi'ite activist heading the pro-Iran Anti-Zionist party on French soil.[9]

MEMRI TV Clip: Shi'ite Cleric Ali Talal Speaks About "Accursed, Criminal And Arrogant Zionists" At Zahra Center

Earlier this year, MEMRI TV released a clip of cleric Ali Talal speaking at the Zahra Center in April and May 2018, referring to the "accursed, criminal, and arrogant Zionists" and stating that "we won't rest" until Zionism is removed from all the land." He added that the Zionists are "the source of all disputes." The full transcript of the clip is below.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Shi'ite Cleric Ali Talal, April 29: "In light of the steadfastness we are witnessing, especially in recent days, when we hear the arrogance or tyranny and the arrogance of America and its satellites like France, Britain, and their helpers from amongst the traitorous and powerless Arabs, we must salute the leader of that country [Syria, i.e. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad], and thank him for his steadfastness. We shall stand by his side, until we uproot Zionism from its very roots, Allah willing.

[...]

"Allah willing, we will all continue united, until we uproot Zionism from its very roots. We pray for Allah to get us all to that day soon. To the accursed, criminal, and arrogant Zionists we say: We won't rest until we see your removal from the land in its entirety. [...]"

May 15: "All of us who are anti-Zionist must accept one another until we finish them and rid the world of them, and until the downtrodden will be relieved of them. Then we will sit down to discuss our disputes, if we have any left. I'm telling you that there will be no disputes left, because those arrogant Zionists are the source of all disputes. Those accursed [Zionists] do not want humanity to live at all."

 

[1] Timesofisrael.com/french-police-raid-islamic-center-founded-by-hezbollah-supporter, October 2, 2018.

[2] Lemonde.fr/societe/article/2018/10/02/perquisitions-au-siege-d-une-association-musulmane-a-grande-synthe-dans-le-nord_5363171_3224.html?, October 2, 2018.

[3] Lemonde.fr/societe/article/2018/10/02/perquisitions-au-siege-d-une-association-musulmane-a-grande-synthe-dans-le-nord_5363171_3224.html?, October 2, 2018; FT.com/content/d149d3a8-c64e-11e8-ba8f-ee390057b8c9, October 2, 2018; Foxnews.com/world/belgian-couple-arrested-in-plot-to-bomb-iranian-opposition-event-attended-by-giuliani-gingrich , July 2, 2018; Jpost.com/Middle-East/Tens-of-thousands-demand-Iran-regime-change-at-mass-exile-rally-in-Paris-561218, June 30, 2018.

[4] Timesofisrael.com/french-police-raid-islamic-center-founded-by-hezbollah-supporter/, October 2, 2018.

[5] Diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/politique-etrangere-de-la-france/defense-et-securite/actualites-et-evenements-lies-a-la-defense-et-la-securite/2018/article/communique-de-presse-conjoint-de-gerard-collomb-jean-yves-le-drian-et-bruno-le, October 2, 2018.

[6] Lemonde.fr/societe/article/2018/10/02/perquisitions-au-siege-d-une-association-musulmane-a-grande-synthe-dans-le-nord_5363171_3224.html?, October 2, 2018.

[7] Lemonde.fr/societe/article/2018/10/02/perquisitions-au-siege-d-une-association-musulmane-a-grande-synthe-dans-le-nord_5363171_3224.html?, October 2, 2018.

[8] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 657, Islamist Websites in Europe – A General Review Part 2: Sites and Forums in French, January 24, 2011.

[9] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1055, French Comedian Dieudonné Promotes New Humor-Based Antisemitic Subculture, January 16, 2014.