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This one is their battle
Stand up for youth and forget yourselves

June 20, 2003
The Iranian

Once again Iranian exiles and émigrés are bickering over political differences as watershed events unravel in Iran. The past week saw the most serious and extensive protests against the clerical regime and the Iranians who live in different parts of the free world have either fallen silent or started to debate political nuances amongst themselves.

What is important to remember is that despite possessing differences that cover the entire ideological palette of politics, from monarchists to Marxists, Iranians who live outside Iran all agree on one thing: the sanctity of human rights. This common denominator amongst all Iranian opposition groups is what needs to be stressed and defended in an international context.

Whether or not we want Reza Pahlavi or Rajavi or a secular Republic now is the time that Iranians abroad must unite under one cause: the protection of the human rights of those protesting in Iran. It is the duty of those Iranians who live in democracies to try their best to do what they can to protect the Iranians that have mustered enough courage to take to the streets in Iran and demand a regime change.

It is much too early to worry about what kind of government is to replace this one. The people in Iran, if free of fear or reprisals and bloodshed, themselves will decide that when the time comes. What the Iranians abroad can do for Iran is to press the governments of the nations in which they live to put pressure on the rulers in Iran to respect human rights. If the threat of strong-armed reprisal is removed those students who took to the streets yelling anti-regime slogans are themselves fully capable of deciding what they want.

Iranians, having gone through a revolution and many years of both secular and clerical dictatorships, know full well the difference between fascism and democracy. What they so badly need, from the international community and the United States and those Iranians abroad who can influence international opinion, is not to be told what kind of government to choose but for their very lives and persons to be protected while they go about achieving change.

Iranians living abroad are so busy finding fault with one another's political stances that they have lost sight of the very elementary need for not being beaten up when you express your thoughts. There will be plenty of time to argue politics when this regime falls. What is important is to first make the battleground safe for expression of differences. It is easy to sit in your California homes and email passionate criticism of this or that movement's agenda.

But this very right, that Iranians abroad possess, to differ with one another, is exactly what is needed in Iran. The right to speak ones mind without fear of being imprisoned or beaten up is the most basic first step to achieving democracy. This is a right with which all, regardless of political agenda or ideology, even those presently holding power, agree (at least in theory).. The implementation of this basic human right, then, should be the single unifying demand of all Iranians inside and outside the borders of Iran.

I asked friends who live in France and have French nationality why they did nothing to protest the comment made by their foreign minister that Iran was a democratic nation. They looked stunned as if they, in fact, as French who cared for their motherland, had a duty to voice their anger about France's repeated appeasement of the theocratic regime.

I listened to some exile radio stationn interview Iranians in Los Angeles who had gathered in support of the students and there was more criticism of the different political leanings than any outrage over the abuse of the human rights of Iranian students.

Iranians abroad should ask themselves now that our youth has brought hope back to the streets of Iran what is it that we can do for them? Can we tell these young people what future to choose from the comfort of safe havens abroad? Or must we instead use our collective influence abroad to help this movement?

Can we help the youth in Iran by arguing about politics amongst ourselves or should we find a common denominator that unites us enough so that we can be of use? Is that common denominator not our abhorrence of human rights abuses?

If yes, should we, then, not unite and demand our respective host nations and the international community as a whole to put pressure on the regime to avoid imprisonment and bloodshed? Is that not the best that Iranians abroad can do for the youth within our borders?

Iranians living in the free world should help provide the youth movement with an arena in which it can fight its own political battles. It is high time we stood up for the youth and forgot ourselves. This one is their battle.

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By Setareh Sabety




Book of the day

The Clash of Civilizations
The remaking of world order
By Samuel P. Huntington

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