London/Tehran, 2 June 2014 – On the eve of the Syrian elections, activists from the anonymous Iranian campaign group Naame Shaam  today staged a mock ‘election rally’ – in front of the Iranian embassy in London – to highlight the role of Iran in fuelling the ongoing Syrian conflict. Naame Shaam (نامه شام), or “Letters from Syria”, is a group of Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese activists and citizen-journalists who work to raise awareness about the Iranian regime’s policies and involvement in Syria.
During the silent protest outside the embassy, the group – known for wearing white masks during public actions – mocked the upcoming elections by calling for Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to be designated as President of Syria, and Syria’s current President, Bashar al-Assad, as his deputy. 
“Naame Shaam calls on the Iranian regime to end its massive military and economic support of al-Assad and pull out all of its Sepah Pasdaran, Hezbollah Lebanon and Iraqi fighters from Syria. Without Iranian military and financial support, the Assad regime would collapse within minutes,” said Ali Rahimi, a spokesperson for Naame Shaam.
In power since 2000, Al-Assad is running for a third term at these controversial elections, despite widespread opposition and the country being in a state of war. During the protest in London, activists held mock ‘elections posters’ promoting Gen. Soleimani as President of Syria and al-Assad as his deputy. The protest featured puppets to convey the “shadow puppet master” role of Gen. Soleimani in the Syrian conflict.
According to Naame Shaam, Gen. Soleimani, the chief of Sepah Qods, a division of Sepah Pasdaran (Iran’s Revolutionary Guards), fully controls the armed forces of the Assad regime, as well as its policies and economy. Sepah Pasdaran’s foot soldiers, Hezbollah Lebanon and Iraqi militias, have been fighting all major battles in Syria. Gen. Soleimani is the de facto ruler of the Syrian areas officially under the control of the Assad regime.
“On the eve of the Syrian election, we are also appealing to the US and the European Union to also focus on human rights abuses in Iran and the Iranian regime’s role in Syria during the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran”, added Rahimi.
Hossein Amir, another Naame Shaam spokesperson, said: “It is understandable that Russia and China have no interest in linking human rights and the war in Syria with the Iran nuclear negotiations. China and Russia are themselves known for gross human rights abuses. Russia has been selling arms to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and has been blocking UN Security Council resolutions on Syria.”
“The US and the EU should however tell Iranian negotiators during the ongoing nuclear talks that there will be no lifting of economic sanctions if the human rights situation in Iran does not significantly improve. Syria has become akin to Iran’s Vietnam and it’s in Iran’s interest to end its interference in Syria,” he added
In addition to spending billions of dollars on its nuclear programme since 1979, the war in Syria has been economically bleeding Iran since March 2011. 
According to Syrian opposition leader, Burhan Ghalioun, Iran has spent around 14 billion dollars since 2011 to fund the economy of the Syrian regime in order to prevent it from collapsing.  The figure does not include paying for Russian arms and funding all Sepah Pasdaran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias operations in Syria, nor does does it include compensations for the killed fighters, support for their families and medical treatment for injured combatants.
For further questions:
Please contact Naame Shaam’s spokesperson Hossein Amir at [email protected].
Notes for editors:
Videos and high-resolution photographs of the protest can be downloaded for free on Naame Shaam’s website: http://www.naameshaam.org/en/
The action is part of a wider campaign that started a week ago. See:
– Rational of the ‘election campaign’, the ‘election programme’ and bio of Gen Qassem Soleimani:http://www.naameshaam.org/en/
– ‘Official’ video of the Syria ‘election campaign’ of Gen Qassem Soleimani: http://www.naameshaam.org/en/
– Posters of the ‘election campaign’ of Gen Qassem Soleimani: http://www.naameshaam.org/en/
 Naame Shaam (نامه شام), or “Letters from Syria”, is a group of Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese activists and citizen-journalists who work to raise awareness about the Iranian regime’s policies and involvement in Syria. In addition to protests and campaigns, the group monitors and debunks the pro-Syrian regime propaganda coming from the Iranian regime and its media. It also reports and comments on major events in Syria from an independent Iranian perspective, in both Persian and English. There are no other Iranian media outlets that do this. For more details about Naame Shaam, please see our website at www.naameshaam.org.
 Sepah Pasdaran commander Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani made a humiliating and revealing remark about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on May 4, 2014. He said al-Assad is “fighting this war [in Syria] as our deputy”, implying that the Iranian regime is the one in charge in Syria. Hamedani, who oversees Sepah Pasdaran’s operations in Syria, also threatened to send more Iranian fighters to Syria, saying 130,000 trained Basij fighters are “ready to be deployed” there if the war escalates further. See: http://www.naameshaam.org/en/
In September 2012, Brig. Gen. Hamedani acknowledged that members of Sepah Quds force were in Syria to “assist and train” Bashar al-Assad’s regime (see: http://online.wsj.com/news/
In April 2014, another prominent Iranian general admitted that Sepah Pasdaran played an important role in setting up a Syrian paramilitary militia known as the National Defence Forces, which was modeled on the Iranian Basij (see http://www.naameshaam.org/en/
 The Iranian nuclear program has cost more than 100 billions of dollars since 1979, according to two US think tanks.It has also led to tough international economic sanctions which have crippled Iran’s economy. See: http://www.csmonitor.com/