Arrested Iranian counter protester says he doesn’t need police protection

Five Met police officers pinned Niyak Ghorbani to the ground this weekend and destroyed his sign before claiming he was arrested for assault


Footage of Niyak Ghorbani being arrested and pinned to the ground by multiple police officers for peacefully counter protesting an anti-Israel demonstration went viral on Saturday (Credit: social media / courtesy)

An Iranian activist who was violently arrested by the Metropolitan police for holding up a sign saying “Hamas is terrorist” at a pro-Palestinian demonstration on Saturday has told the JC he is prepared to be attacked, to “show British people the true face of the marches and the people behind it.”

A video of Niyak Ghorbani’s arrest showed him standing at the rally with a sign with the words “Don’t attack the law, Hamas is terrorist. UK added Hamas to the terrorist list Terrorism Act 2000 in March 2001” above his head.

Marchers could be seen pointing their fingers at him and shouting “shame on you”, before attempting to rip the sign out of his hands.

Ghorbani, 38, held on to it and a short scuffle broke out. Police officers then intervened and pulled the Iranian activist away from the crowd and down the street.

At least five police officers then pinned him to the ground for well over a minute, leaving a bleeding wound on his leg. One was filmed walking away while destroying Ghorbani’s legally permissable and accurate sign.

After the arrest, the Metropolitan police released a statement claiming that Ghorbani had been detained “after an altercation was ongoing, and officers intervened to prevent a breach of the peace. He was arrested for assault.” He had subsequently been “de-arrested”, the statement added.

Hundreds of social media users came to Ghorbani’s defence after footage of the incident was shared online, including X’s own Community Notes which read: “Clear videographic evidence of the encounter disproves the Met police statement. Mr Ghorbani was assaulted whilst exercising his right to peaceful lawful protest under article 11 of the Human Rights Act.”

He was released after officers reviewed footage of the incident.

Ghorbani, an IT professional born in Tehran, told the JC he demonstrates to “try and show British people the true face of the marches and the people behind it.

“The Iranians know who they are because [their principles] come from Islam, and Islam teaches that it is okay to lie to kafirs (non-Muslims) to achieve what you want.”

Modelling his activism and beliefs on Prince Reza Pahlavi, the exiled oldest son of the Shah of Iran, the 38-year-old said: “I do it for my country, my people, and an Iran free from the dictatorship of the Islamic Regime.

“I don’t try at all to fight with people at demonstrations, I just [attend] quietly with signs reminding them that Hamas is a terror organisation under UK law, and [for that] they fight me.”

Before this weekend, Ghorbani was already in the process of looking for a solicitor over a previous encounter in February after a police officer forcibly removed him from a Palestinian demonstration. He filed a report then with the Met but received no response.

He said: “Every time police try to move me away, they always say it’s for my safety, but I am not there to be safe. I told the officer that time, who was so angry and forceful with me, that I know they want to attack me, that’s what I want to show people so please don’t move me.”

Despite alerting the officer to the fact that many people attacking him were masked, which is illegal during protests, and that they were refusing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organisation, Ghorbani says he refused to listen.

Ghorbani claims he has been punched on a number of occasions by demonstrators. His Instagram account regularly shows him being cornered and threatened by masked – often young – people attempting to rip the posters out of his hands.

It is because of the violence and threats he faces each weekend that Ghorbani feels that he must go to these protests alone. “I must go by myself,” he says, “I can’t ask people to come with me when it can get dangerous.”

One such poster of his creation, which read, “Want peace? Call Yahya Sinwar” saw him allegedly reported to police for incitement. “People in the march were so mad with this one, they tried to have me banned from future marches,” he said.

“I have been called an idiot, fascist, racist, [Zionist apologist], and been told I ‘don’t know what Hamas has done for us; Hamas is our army, they are defending us’, but I always respond calmly. I say, ‘You are plotting every day to kill Jewish people in Israel and around the world, of course they [oppose] you, of course they must defend themselves against you.’

“I have recognised the Jews as deeply peace-loving individuals; they never chant radical slogans or resort to violence in their gatherings. I believe these behaviours stem from their past. Unity, love, and gratitude are their main attributes. I have received messages of affection and love from them [to the extent that] I consider being a Jew an inseparable part of my own heart and soul.”

Ghorbani came to the UK from Germany in 2021 through the invitation of a Jewish friend in the UK. He says he felt he had to leave Germany, his home of seven and a half years, after his activism there put his life in danger from at least one individual he suspected of being an agent of Iranian secret services.

For several months after arriving in the UK, Ghorbani’s activism was limited to online spaces, but he soon felt restless. “I cannot keep silent at home, I just can’t. I had to get out on the streets again,” he said.

His open criticism of the Islamic Regime has put the safety of his father and brother especially, who still live in Iran, at risk. His brother visited him in Germany twice, and after returning the second time was arrested and kept in jail in Tehran for a week, where he was questioned.

“The [Regime succeeded in] getting a lot of information out from my brother about me,” Ghorbani said. He also claims that due to his activism his brother was fired twice from his job at an oil company.

His father, now retired after a career within the Iranian government and himself an opponent of the Islamic Regime especially since the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, has also faced repercussions for his son’s activism.

He said: “They have had many problems because of me, which has caused them a lot of stress, so I [felt] it was safer for them if they have no contact with me at all, so that’s why I cut [ties with them].

As to why there are very few anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian demonstrations taking place within his own country of Iran, even since October 7, Ghorbani said: “Iranians have been saying for years that they not only have no enmity towards Israel, but they also consider Israelis as their friends, yet their voices have never been heard globally. Therefore, individuals like me who have the [opportunity] to convey these voices, are shouting it out loudly.

“Iranian people send messages of peace and friendship to the people of Israel every day, and I am glad to reflect a small part of that.”

Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, accusing the Met of failing to tackle “the mob” and inhibiting free speech. He said: “This shameful incident is the logical endpoint of consistently prioritising ‘community relations’ over even-handedly enforcing the law: the mob is emboldened and free speech is threatened.

“It’s a chilling inversion of what law enforcement is about. Two-tier policing must end.”

But in a lengthy response on LinkedIn, Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley criticised “armchair commentators”.

He said: “The reality is that policing is complex, challenging and can look messy. We expect officers to arrive on the scene quickly and act with limited information based on what they see.

“They don’t have the benefit of being able to watch a full incident unfold before deciding what to do, they have to be decisive and act quickly. And they do so in the glare of hundreds of people ready to film their every moment.

“There aren’t many professions where from the minute you arrive at an incident to the minute you leave, you are filmed and then critiqued by an army of armchair commentators.

“Yet this is what happens to our officers and they still come back to work the next day.”

He added that such criticism could dissuade new recruits from joining the force.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive