I had the pleasure of speaking at the Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto today, in regards to the human rights violations conducted by the Islamic Regime, and what Canadians can do to help the situation. I had the honour of being part of a series of speeches in Iran, which included renowned speakers such as the Israeli Embassador Her Excellency Miriam Ziv, the Honourable Irwin Cotler and Hershell Ezrin, a renowned political analyst. Below is the text of my speech.
Good afternoon everyone, it is a real pleasure to be here, thank you for having me here today.
Today I would like to speak to you about Iran, in particular the brutal government, the Islamic Regime that has been in power for the past 31 years and the systematic human rights violations committed by them.
I would also like to suggest some ways in which as Canadians we may be able to do help the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
First I would like to give a brief background history on Iran for those of you who might not be very familiar with Iran. Prior to 1979 Iran was a Monarchy headed by the Pahlavi Family. In 1979 there was a revolution by the people in the hopes of bringing freedom and democracy to Iran. Unfortunately the Islamic Government that came to power was anything but democratic.
The Islamic Regime changed our national flag, brought the Sharia Law which was and still is extremely discriminatory against women and started a crack down on anyone they deemed to be against the Islamic Regime.
Universities were shut down to undergo a “cultural revolution” many dissidents who had been active during the revolution and in the over throw of the Shah were thrown into prison because they were deemed to be against the Regime. Between 1979 to 1981 thousands of political prisoners were executed. In the summer of 1988 10,000 political prisoners were executed summarily, after having three (3) minute “trials.” I should note that in 1988 Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist leader of today was the Prime Minister of Iran, holding a very key and powerful position, yet he didn’t do anything to try to stop the executions. He did not condemn it and to this day he has never even acknowledged that those executions took place.
The crackdown on dissidents, systematic persecution and rule of force has continued for the past 31 years and has been carried out by the entire regime, both hardliners and the reformists.
That brings us to past year and the events that have taken place since the presidential [s]elections. I refer to it as a selection rather than an election because out of 400 possible candidates, only four (4) with an impeccable record of loyalty to the Islamic Regime and the Supreme Leader were handpicked to run for presidency. These individuals were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohsen Rezaee.
The international community referred to this [s]election as fraudulent and unfair, and i t was, but not because Ahmadinejad won. Because presidential candidates are handpicked by the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader. Out of 400 candidates they usually pick 3 or 4. These individuals have to have a history of loyalty to the Regime. We will never see a secular candidate or anyone who might be even slightly against the Regime be chosen to run for presidency.
After the selections the brave Iranian people took to the streets in numbers we had never seen before. Many were dissatisfied with the [s]elections, while many more had not voted, had not taken part in the [s]elections and were dissatisfied with the entire Regime. A young girl named Neda Agha-Soltan was shot during the protests by Regime Agents. While reformists tried to link her name to the reform movement it eventually became apparent that she had not taken part in the [s]elections and she had not voted. She did not support any of the candidates.
After the June [s]elections in Iran we all saw the brutal face of the Islamic Regime. We saw peaceful protestors being attacked, beaten and even shot on the streets by Islamic Regime Agents. Finally the international community started seeing what the Iranian people have been faced with for the past 31 years.
Although the nationwide protests started under the pretence of dissatisfaction with the [s]elections, the movement started to become very radical very quickly. While at first people were chanting slogans such as “where is my vote?” this changed quickly and soon people started chanting slogans such as “death to the Islamic Regime, death to Khamenei, death to the Guardian Council, Mousavi is an excuse the entire Regime targeted” and the most popular slogan which was “freedom, independence, Iranian Republic.” By chanting this slogan Iranian people declared their demand for a secular government rather than an Islamic government.
One major reason why Iranians want Regime change is because of the systematic human rights violations they have been subjected to for the past 31 years, and that brings us to the current state of human rights in Iran.
Human Rights violations conducted by the Regime are way too many to count, but just to give an overview Bahai’s, Christians and Jews are persecuted on a systematic basis because of their religious views. Kurds, Turks and Balouchi’s are persecuted because of their ethnicity, women are subjected to persecution on a regular basis as well as students, teachers, journalists, activists doctors, writers and anyone else who might speak up against the Regime.
There are also thousands of political prisoners in Iran, many of whom have been in prison for many years. We don’t have the exact numbers and names of many of these political prisoners, because a lot of this is done secretly. There are many secret prisons which we don’t have any information about because they’re secret; we just know that they exist. It is also very difficult to obtain news from smaller prisoners who are in smaller cities, so it is difficult to get an exact number of how many prisoners there are and what their names are.
One of the areas I focus on is the persecution of the Kurdish people by the Islamic Regime. The Kurdish community has always been very vocal against the Islamic Regime, and as a result the Regime persecutes the Kurds on a systematic basis.
We see Kurdish activists, students, teachers, journalists and workers be arrested on a regular basis, be tortured and raped in order to obtain confessions and then either be sentenced to long prison terms or execution.
Since November of last year atleast 7 Kurdish political prisoners have been executed by the Regime. Five very well known Kurdish political activists were executed on May 9th at the notorious Evin Prison. Their lawyers and families were not informed of the executions until after it had been carried out. Almost a month later and the families still have not been able to obtain the bodies of their loved ones.
There are at least 16 other Kurdish activists who are currently facing executions. One of them, a young student activist named Habibollah Latifi is set to be executed this coming Monday.
I should note that these individuals are tried in mock “trials,” without the presence of a lawyer, behind closed doors and after having been tortured in order to obtain false confessions from them.
The situation is very similar for other activists in Iran. People are arrested without cause, tortured and raped in order to break them and to obtain confessions, they are forced to go through mock trials without the presence of a defence lawyers and are either sentenced to lengthy prison terms or execution. Some are lucky enough to receive shorter sentences, however having been subjected to brutal rape and torture it is very difficult for them to lead an ordinary life once released. Some of them even commit suicide because they can’t deal with what happened to them while in prison. There are also those prisoners who die under torture or commit suicide because of torture.
In terms of what we can do to help:
First any change that is going to happen has to happen from inside Iran, and I don’t mean from the reformists or any fraction of the Regime, but from the Iranian people, and we’ve seen that happen, we have seen the people come out in millions and demand change. What we can do is to be the voice of people inside Iran.
Another concept we need to consider is the fact that focusing on human rights alone is not enough. if we want to help create real change, and to protect the rights of all political prisoners, all ethnic and religious minorities, all women and the Iranian people as a whole, we must also focus on Regime change.
Once we realize this concept, then there are lots of things we can do.
• We can contact our elected representatives, many of whom are open to hearing from us about issues that concern us. They are the policy makers and they are the ones that can introduce bills that can help the pro-democracy movement in Iran. Writing and speaking to them is one of the most useful things we can do.
• We can also inform and mobilize our own community, we can write on blogs, facebook and twitter. We can write about the issues, we can disseminate the news that is coming out of Iran through activists, and that is one way to make sure the voices of activists in Iran are heard.
• We can also join various campaigns, sign petition and take part in protests. These are things that are more symbolic and will let the Iranian people know that there are people outside Iran who know what is going on, care and do support the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
As long as our activities has a clear goal, and as long as that goal is complete Regime change, I believe we will be successful.
There was also a question and answer section of this event which lasted about 45 minutes. I would like to thank everyone who perticipated for their interest in this issue.