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 a clerical regime and his ultimate goal for Iran and the entire Middle East is Democracy.
Previously Kerry had suggested he wanted to “engage the regime,” and “build bridges.” Yet Senator Kerry has not yet re-evaluated 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 European nations have.
Inspired by the jalied student protester Ahmad Batebi, I made a T-shirt. Using my computer and Iron-on paper, I constructed a shirt, which basically said “Senator Kerry!!! NO 'engagement' with the barbaric Islamic Republic of IRAN, bring the regime's collapse, SUPPORT Iran's Student Revolt, SUPPORT Iranian exile groups…”
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 plastic 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 thumb, and 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, “Medication for every nation,” demanding Kerry speak about the AIDS crisis worldwide. Consequentially Kerry was obligated to discuss it. Later on in the speech 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 politicians standing behind 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 chance! I 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 went close 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? Will you support the student revolt?”
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 first”
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 regime?”
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 parts of the 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 to him and asked the 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 reflecting on 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 in the recent hijacked 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 want a President who will 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 have a perfect vocabulary, 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 actual 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 enough tact to answer my questions and had to cowardly skip around them.
I ruined his otherwise 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 updated position, in preparation, should someone else give him a similar line of questioning in the future.
If all I did was get Kerry to go on his computer 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 Iranian Madman who wouldn't 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 of these politicians so they will address our cause. Go to the rallies; be like those “AIDS medication worldwide people,” making public demonstrations to demand attention. Tell Kerry what you want. Don't let an American president 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” and “Iran Kerry” and see the results. Here are some links concerning Kerry's soft Iran position.