Politics & Policy

All Eyes On Iran

In pursuit of freedom.

As July 8 approaches, Iranians all over the world are preparing to display–as they do each year during this week–their hatred for the mullahs dominating Iran. This year, the annual demonstrations mark the fifth anniversary of the brutal university massacres of 1999. That was the year President Khatami showed his true colors, abandoning both his promised reforms and the people who voted for him. What started out as a reaction to the utter brutality of the fossilized establishment by young Iranian students has turned into a freedom movement the world should acknowledge and encourage. And yet, no Western politico has embraced the annual protest, a sign of a people’s love for freedom, human rights, and democracy, within the confines of a tyrannical, dangerous regime.

On June 17, Hassan Abassi, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Center for Doctrinaire Affairs of National Security Outside Iran’s Borders stated: “We [Islamic Republic of Iran] have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of the Anglo-Saxon civilization.” But the West (particularly the E.U.) continues to depend on the dangerously inadequate foreign policy of, say, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary. Straw was expected to become transport secretary after the 2001 election, but wound up as foreign secretary instead and was immediately forced to face the 9/11 attacks and subsequent war on terror. As the architect of a policy of dialogue and engagement with terror-sponsoring Iran, Straw fails to realize that in the eyes of the mullahs, dialogue, engagement, and forgiveness mean weakness. In the wake of Abbassi’s threat–and the recent parading around of captured British sailors on Iranian television–you’d think Straw and the like would have learned that. But when Iran refused to promptly return the naval equipment to Britain, Straw fought more with Tories and Liberal Democrats than with the mullahs.

Meanwhile, Iranians have done their part to break the mullah’s stranglehold, telling their stories when they can (see here and here, for instance). And when demonstrators in cities and towns and villages throughout Iran make their voices heard on July 8, Iranians and freedom lovers in some 32 cities outside Iran will demonstrate in solidarity with them.

Inside Iran, that is no routine–or safe–endeavor. Reports indicate that the regime has banned July 8 gatherings. Plans for mobilizing thousands more troops and foreign mercenaries in order to quash any popular action or uprising have been in the works for months now. Reports from sources inside the regime’s revolutionary guards and ministry of information say orders have been given to use lethal force against anyone opposing the Islamic state’s directives. Checkpoints have reportedly been created in Iranian cities and militiamen have been ordered to search cars and arrest “suspicious-looking” residents under various charges in order to create a climate of fear. Residential satellite dishes and receivers have been confiscated. Rumors of a sweetheart economic deal the mullahs made with Castro to jam radio and TV programming by dissidents are running rampant. (The fact that Iran’s foreign minister was in Cuba last week certainly has helped that rumor along.)

With or without the West, the Iranian people are determined to fight this tyranny, as they have demonstrated before, and will demonstrate again this week. There is, of course, no sensible reason for freedom-loving countries such as the U.S. not to support their struggle.

Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a native of Iran, is an activist and writer. Elio Bonazzi is an Italian-born political scientist. Husband and wife, they are based in New York.


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