Dear Friends of the Iranian People,
Ashraf Salam ,
Iran is a vitally important country to the world for many economic, geographic and security reasons. Its written culture is seven thousand years old; it has a large and youthful population, with almost two-thirds of Iranians under the age of 30.
What has transpired in the country in recent weeks is home-grown - the brave Iranian people should be applauded for trying to establish good governance. The momentum for change, for greater freedom, is rising and cannot be stopped for much longer.
The international community must consider with great care its role in the future of Iran. Western governments should look for ways to be supportive without attempting to co-opt this movement to revolt by many Iranians into their own agendas.
Democracy will come to Iran; it will come not because of international agendas, but because the people of Iran want it and are prepared to sacrifice for it. From all indications, even if the regime survives a few more months or longer, its legitimacy among the Iranian people is finished, mostly by its corruption and three decades of savage brutality to its own people.
1999 '18 tir' Protests
Ten years ago this week, Iranians rose against corruption, injustice, brutality and the absence of basic freedoms. Their raw courage resulted in the deaths of seventeen students. The seventeen were martyrs to the cause of a greater Iran, just as dear Neda Soltan and the other recent victims are so today.
This year, thousands of us are here--and in other national capitals-- protesting against the continuing oppression of the Iranian people--this time after a fraudulent presidential election, which claimed that Ahmadinejad had won re-election by a landslide. A landslide or a landfall? There have been almost four weeks of defiance. Ballot stuffing in favour of the incumbent, as the world now knows, was done on a massive scale with millions of regime-marked ballots.
Oppression of dissent during the past thirty years has been continuous. Attempts to establish the rule of law, respect for all, multiparty democracy and even limited reforms are seen a direct challenge to the ayatollahs' authority.
Two days ago, thousands of Iranians, a broad cross-section of the population poured into the streets of Tehran. They chanted such things as “Down with the dictator,” and “God is great” as they walked along Revolution Street. “Tell the world what is happening here,” one student urged. “This is our revolution. We will not give up.” Asked what he wanted, he said, “We want democracy.”
Police and Basij militia members ran down the streets as night fell. A middle-aged woman ran through the crowd with her coat covered in blood. Two men held a huge arrangement of yellow and purple flowers on green leaves in honour of those killed last month and in 1999.
A 55-year-old woman on the streets in support of the marchers said: “This is Iran. We are all together.” The security forces fortunately did not fire on protesters.
Many people made the V-sign for victory with their hands. The crowds remained mostly peaceful even as they watched and sometimes tried to stop, police and militia members beating unarmed men and women.
"Illegitimate" Election and Government
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council certified the election, but the opposition continues to assert that the vote and the result are invalid. It has refused to concede, which has served to keep the conflict from fading.
On July 4th, an important group of religious leaders termed the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate. This was a public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical community. The statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a major setback for the government and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The government has attempted to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy now rendered bizarre. With its statement, the association of clerics is firmly on the side of the reformers. Khamenei is no Khomeini; he has been losing his Supreme-Leader-above-partisanship aura in the past month.
Roles for Friends of Iranians
Other than verbal condemnation, the international community has thus far failed to offer substantive assistance to the people of Iran, who aspire to the basic human dignity prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, over several decades, many democratic governments have sought to appease the ayatollahs in part by failing openly to support Iranian opposition to their regime.
Many of us believe our respective governments should show leadership by firmly siding with the people of Iran.
Why should not all rule of law governments take these steps:
- Urge a new presidential election with independent monitoring;
- Challenge the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad at the global governance level if no new election is held;
- Adopt the European Union’s position in reducing political and diplomatic relations with Ahmadinejad's regime;
- Impose trade sanctions except for urgent medical requirements and freeze regime bank accounts held abroad;
- Urge the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court to initiate charges against Ahmadinejad and Khamenei for crimes against humanity in accordance with Article 5 of the Rome Statute;
- De-list immediately the PMOI by following the example of 27 EU countries and recognize the group as a legitimate opposition to the Tehran regime. The PMOI and no doubt other opposition communities seek a nuclear-weapons-free Iran and equal rights for women and minority ethnocultural communities and religions, separation of church and state, instituting the rule of law and establishing independent judges, representative democracy and good relations with Iran's neighbours and the world.
- Publish a national stamp in memory of ‘Neda,’ who was killed by a regime sniper, as a symbolic gesture of support for the Iranian people's peaceful resistance against tyranny and all those killed by regime violence;
Such actions are needed by the US, Canada and all rule-of-law nations in support of the Iranian people. We stand on guard for our nation best when we defend our national values, such as the rule of law and human dignity with entrenched rights and freedoms, the same ones Iranians are seeking.