To stay or not to stay

With the near passing of another summer, many Iranians are still hoping to buy a one way ticket to Iran. As the days, months, and years compile, hope becomes rather a longing for the optimist, and sadly, an illusion for the pessimist. As is the case with most social topics that arise in the Iranian diaspora, returning has evolved into a highly sensitive political act.

In the tradition of a typical Manichean mindset that is not particular to, but certainly characteristic of Iranians, two divergent, antethetical camps have emerged and stubbornly imbedded their views on the subject.

One camp considers returning to Iran under the current circumstances a betrayal of the resistance movement for it provides the international community with a particular misconception. The other camp, either out of principle or practical utility brandishes the argument that Iran has progressed and engagement with Iranian society by those living in the diaspora will not impede, but rather encourage further progress.

The general reaction throughout the Iranian diaspora to the most subtle hints of subversive activities within Iran serves as a testament to the yearning desire of Iranians to return to a free Iran.

Realistically, it is very unlikely that a change in the ruling establishment will occur in the near future. The United States is facing serious difficulties in completing its “campaigns of liberation” in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The Bush Administration will not risk creating an active and united Shiite opposition in both Iran and Iraq, further compounding the issue of guerrila warfare that is now impairing its efforts at “reconstruction”, or rather re-exploitation in Iraq-an offshooot of its economic dealings with Saddam Hussein in the 1980's.

Therefore, right now the resistance to the Iranian dictatorship must rely solely on its own actions. The tragic death of Zahra Kazemi is a case in point. While the resistance movement tried tirelessly to muster not only an international condemnation, but also a discontinuation of political relations with the Iranian regime, their efforts went largely uncompensated.

Granted, the rhetoric of condemnation was expressed by Canadian officials, but in the final analysis, Canada's department of foreign affairs expressed its satisfaction at the “arrest of five people in the beating death of the photojournalist”. In other words, case closed, let our respective states resume economic relations without the hassle of human rights issues.

Although setting a time value on the inevitable demise of the Islamic Regime would be unwise and somewhat ahistorical, one can safely bet the current Iranian political scene will remain as such for at least another few years. Therefore, Iranians will continue travelling to and from Iran.

Condemning Iranians who travel to Iran simply because they can no longer endure a complete detachment from their families does a disservice to the confessed aim of all resistance movements both inside and outside Iran; namely the pursuit of an environment in which human rights are sacrosanct.

There occurs an inherent contradiction and an overt hypocrisy when an individual or a group claims to be for human rights, while simultaneously condemning fellow Iranians for exercising a fundamental right. The right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state is explicitly expressed in article 13.1 of the UN human rights declaration.

A counter argument may be that of sacrificing immediate pleasures for long term goals. This proposition fails on both a social level, and technically. With what authority can one human being criticize another who behaves as a human should without implying divine judgement. Suffice it to say, Iran's experience with temporal divinity has not been pleasant.

On a technical level, if one accepts the concept that “human rights cannot be but universal, and any qualification added to it would only negate its essence, then any criticism of mobility rights would simply fail”. (Bagher-Zadeh)

Incidentally, performances carried out abroad by Iranian artists can also be justified, insofar as artists do have the right to move freely from one state to another. The argument would suit those who condemned Parissa's concert aptly. They choose to boycott an artists whose decision to engage with Iranians here in Ottawa instilled positive energy into our community, among other things.

On the other hand, the same people purchase produce from Iranian grocers here in Ottawa, thereby fulfiling their physiological needs. Have they forgotten that Iranian foods sold abroad are often the product of state-run or state-subsidized industry in Iran. Must we define the term hypocrisy.

The policy of isolation and will-imposition is characteristic of imperial powers. Throughout much of the early twentieth century, the British, applying the concept of white man's burden isolated and exploited great portions of Africa. Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on Cuba employing the same reasoning behind the British concept.

That is, while our primary goal is one of betterment of living conditions and a move towards democracy, we will resort to undemocratic, often inhumane methods. Therefore, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children was justified because the ends justify the means or as Madeleine Albright stated in a 1996 interview on 60 Minutes, “we think the price is worth it”.

The very sanctions that for decades have impaired human development in both Cuba and Iraq could have been imposed on Iran just as easily. Thusfar, Cuba has been able to thwart American aggression because particular to Cuba, the foundation of the state is the Cuban people. Therefore, instead of creating social political divisions in Cuba, the sanctions have further unified Cubans belonging to various sectors of the population.

Iraq, however, being governed by a brutal dictatorship was not able to cope with the sanctions because both the state, i.e. Saddam Hussein and a foreign power were deadset on harming Iraqis. The effects of this two-edged sword are self-evident.

Following from the above mentioned facts, the case can be made that without Iran's continual relations with European countries after the Revolution, it too could have become a target of U.S. sanctions resulting in the deaths of thousands of Iranians.

More imperatively, because the Reform movement in Iran has allowed an opening of social relations between Iranian citizens and the outside world, it has become a dubious task for the U.S. to brand Iran as a fundamentalist country because Iranians obviously embrace and in fact crave for U.S. popular culture and wish to model their political system on a Western democracy much like the one in place in America.

Since 9/11 the importance of maintaing congenial relations with Iranian citizens, as opposed to cordial relations with the Iranian state has become that much more important. Travel to and from Iran does just that, it allows ordinary Iranians to engage on a personal level with relatives and foreigners.

A dialogue occuring under these circumstances would be free of government censorship constraints, and therefore truthful. Iranians and non-Iranians who travel to and from Iran do not create the misconception that Iran is a free society, rather, they bring abroad a true account of the reality that an ordinary Iranian experiences.

Besides, if travel to undemocratic states were to be discontinued then world travel would have to be cut drastically because dozens of countries around the world are undemocratic. Such a policy would only benefit the states, not the various civilian populations.Iran will one day rejoin the international community as a progressive state.

Attempts at improving human rights conditions in Iran would go fruitless if those attempts are characterized by actions that are in contradiction with fundamental human rights principles . Those who call for isolationist policies towards Iran are in reality allowing the regime to butcher or oppress Iranians on a daily basis because the outside world would not be aware of the situation.

If one believes in common human decency, then surely, the weight of international opinion, supported by endless accounts of injustices in Iran will contribute to the demise of this decrepit dictatorship.

I detest what you say, but I would fight to the death your right to say it. — Voltaire

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