you or won't you?
Engaging John Kerry on Iran
April 20, 2004
Last week I attended the John Kerry rally
held in Philadelphia, PA, and was able to speak in dialogue with
him about Iran. Citing the fact that
over the past several months some Iranian exile groups have denounced Kerry's
agenda for Iran and endorsed President Bush for this year's election,
I took it
upon myself, as an Iranian-American
student, to raise the issue in front of John Kerry and demand of him to formally
lay out his position.
Now we must give Bush credit for the fact that he
has clearly defined his position on Iran. He clearly stated that
he will not engage in dialogue with
regime and his ultimate goal for Iran and the entire Middle East is Democracy.
Kerry had suggested he wanted to "engage the regime," and "build
bridges." Yet Senator Kerry has not yet
his position since
the recent hijacked Iranian elections, and most Iranians would reject the
idea of an American president befriending the tyrannical regime as many
Inspired by the jalied student protester Ahmad Batebi,
I made a T-shirt. Using my computer and Iron-on paper, I constructed
NO 'engagement' with the barbaric Islamic Republic of IRAN, bring
the regime's collapse, SUPPORT Iran's Student Revolt, SUPPORT Iranian
At the rally I stood straight ahead of the platform
where Kerry came out to speak. While everyone else held up a Kerry2004
sign or an inflatable
noodle, with a straight face I held up the shirt over my head, just
like Batebi. Looking around, left and right, the shirt stuck out
like a sore
at one point he stopped and stared at it. He was reading it! GREAT!
Maybe now he would address it in his speech.
His speech began and talked mostly on domestic issues.
At one point a group of people in the crowd started chanting simultaneously,
for every nation," demanding Kerry speak about the AIDS crisis worldwide.
Consequentially Kerry was obligated to discuss it. Later on in the
someone yelled out "What about social security?" Kerry then addressed
this as well.
At this point most people in the room had read my
shirt. The crowd kept turning back to read it. The Pennsylvania
Kerry on stage
had read it, and I know Kerry himself read it. So some people turned
to me, knowing I wanted him to address Iran, told me to just call
it out because
it seemed to be working for everyone else. But I couldn't do that.
It was too low class.
His speech ended, the rally was over, and people
started leaving. Kerry then went up to the crowd to sign autographs.
This was my
somehow wormed my way up through the thick crowd, and believe me
this was no easy
task. I got up to the front, inches away from Kerry. I held up
the shirt and our
dialogue went like this:
Me: "I could have yelled it out, but I'm
more civil then that."
Kerry looked at me, then bent his head over
close to me so he could better hear what I had to say over the
crowd noise. I
to his ear and
naturally cupped my hand between his ear and my mouth. The Secret
Service flipped out! "GET
YOUR HAND DOWN KID." I put my hand down and Kerry pulled up a little,
still looking at me
Me: "When are you going to address Iran!"
Kerry: "I already have. (Referring to his statement several months
ago back when the reformists were in secure power)"
Me: "Will you support Iranian free media? Will you support Iranian
exile groups? Will you support the American based Iranian opposition?
you support the
Kerry: "I think it should be done."
Me: "WILL IT be done?!"
Kerry: "It should be done."
Me: "YES, but WILL IT be done?"
Kerry (Unenthusiastically): "Well, I dunno, I have to get elected
Worried that a nuclear Iran's relationship with the United States
could go down the same road as Pakistan when they became a nuclear
power I asked: "What if Iran becomes a nuclear power, will you
then engage the regime?"
Kerry paused for a second, then looked at me dead
in the eye very seriously. "I think that's very dangerous."
I'm thinking DUH!
Me: "Yes, but if it happens, will you engage the
Kerry: "I'm not going to let that happen."
Me: "YES, but what if it DOES happen?!"
Kerry: "I'm won't LET IT happen."
At this point Kerry knows he cannot answer my questions anymore
in a clear thought out manner, and begins to drift away from
me to other
crowd wanting autographs.
Me: "What if Iran becomes a nuclear power under Bush's term?!"
Kerry doesn't answer me, he just ignores me at this point and
pretends he doesn't hear me drifting further and further away.
Me: "Senator! Senator! SENATOR!!!"
He continued to ignore me.
I never could get as close to him again as I did right then,
the crowd was just too packed. At one point I came somewhat close
same question I left off on again, but he again didn't answer and
went away quickly. Disappointed I stood in the same position
for a while
what just happened.
Then my Congressman Joe Hoeffel, who is currently
running for Senate, came out. I shook his hand and told him,
"Please tell Senator
Kerry this. I spoke with him earlier and he said he addressed the
issue of Iran. But this was before the Iranian government changed
parliamentary elections, which brought Iran back to a complete
hard-line regime without a hope of reform. Iranian-Americans
now don't want
a President that will engage the Islamic Republic of Iran. We
bring about its internal collapse."
At that point I was pretty
tired and frustrated. Hoeffel patted me on the shoulder as if
to say, relax,
and said, "Okay."
He then left but then Kerry's wife came out. Yes
the multi-millionaire Heinz Ketchup heiress. An immigrant to the
United States, Mrs.
Kerry had an accent and as I was soon to learn, didn't exactly
not that there's anything wrong with that.
Still frustrated and
tired, I looked at her and said: "Can you please just ask your
husband if he agrees with this?" (Holding up the shirt)
Kerry's wife: "I cannot understand that."
I looked at the shirt and I realized I was
holding it sideways. A little embarrassed, I held it
up again, the right way this time.
Me: "Can you please ask him if he agrees with this?"
She looks at the shirt, reads it, everyone around her reads it
too. Everyone is silent waiting to hear her response.
Kerry's wife: "I don't know what the word 'engagement' means."
Vaay vaay, daaram meemeeram. But it was okay.
Me: "It means to start dialogue with the regime, to start building
ties with the regime."
Kerry's wife: "I think the only engagement would be..."
I cut her off. Hey I was tired, maybe not the best move.
Me: "WILL he engage the regi..."
Kerry's wife cut me off: "Excuse
me, you asked me a question. I am answering it."
Me: "Sorry, go ahead."
Kerry's wife: "I think the only engagement will be to end the
regime, to collapse the regime."
Me: (shocked): "... Ok ... "
I walked away a few minutes later after everyone left
Wow that was the
most straightforward answer I heard all night. Too bad she's not
running and holds no power. There is no way to confirm that that's what Kerry's
actual policy is. In fact, from what I have concluded I think his
policy is far from that. I am very fearful of his agenda for Iran, more
now than ever.
However, I think the best thing that came out of
that whole experience, is that I stumped Kerry. He did not have
enough knowledge about the issue,
did not have a clear-cut position on Iran, therefore he did not have
tact to answer my questions and had to cowardly skip around them.
I ruined his
flawless performance that night, which is great, because I
got his attention on the issue, as well as about 20 other tightly-knit
politicians too. Now
Kerry will be more inclined to focus on Iran and lay out his
preparation, should someone else give him a similar line
of questioning in the future.
If all I did was get Kerry to go
that night and
look up Iranian free media sites to find out what us Iranians
are thinking and what we want, because of me -- the "Philly
shut up" -- then I accomplished my goal and made a difference.
The bottom line is, Iranian-American students get
out there. Be like Batebi. You can imprint an image that will stain
in the minds
so they will address our cause. Go to the rallies; be
those "AIDS medication worldwide people," making public
demonstrations to demand
attention. Tell Kerry what you want. Don't let an American
ally this country with the mullahs; otherwise hope for
Iran will be lost.
For more information on Kerry's Iran policy, merely go
to the google.com search engine and type in "Kerry Iran"
see the results. Here are some links concerning Kerry's
soft Iran position.
is what President Bush had to say to the Iranian people
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