A non-governmental organization (NGO) affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) continues to spread the regime's radical ideology within Iran and throughout the region, according to a new Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report.
The Arts and Media Owj Organization promotes content sympathetic to the IRGC, focusing its work on influencing Iran's film and television industries. It also produces computer games, books, documentaries, and children's videos.
Hostility towards Israel and the U.S. are at the core of Owj's activities, reflecting the Iranian regime's worldview, the Meir Amit report said. For example, Owj helped finance the 2013 "Death to America" media competition in Tehran. And the organization frequently hosts Holocaust denial events.
In light of recent protests against the regime, the Owj seeks to sway Iranian public opinion in favor of more hardline elements and the country's military expansion throughout the region.
Beyond Iran, the Owj is increasingly targeting populations in Syria and Iraq to enhance the Islamic Republic's soft power presence in these countries. The Iranian NGO also hosts events and activities commemorating IRGC fighters killed in Syria and Iraq.
These activities "make the Owj Organization into a leading player in the intensive hearts and minds campaign waged by the Islamic Republic internally and regionally," writes the report's author, Raz Zimmt.
In February, the Owj's director boasted that his organization receives IRGC funding and logistical support. The director also received significant praise from senior Iranian officials, including Iran's foreign minister, the IRGC's commander, and Qassem Soleimani — the head of the IRGC's Qods Force.
Last month, Aleppo's governor praised Owj's efforts in Syria after the group established a children's center in the city that hosts cultural events. These efforts are in line with Iran's goals of entrenching its military, economic, and social presence in neighboring countries.
Steven Emerson is executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He was a correspondent for CNN and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. Read more reports from Steve Emerson — Click Here Now.
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