Thank you would be nice

I asked a human rights activist in Iran if imprisonment was imminent. “I’m out of prison still, but I’m not doing so well with all this stress and emotionally. I suppose it will pass …” was the reply.

I wanted to write back and say thank you for all the courage and hardship. Then I thought I should share some thoughts here instead. Maybe we can get others to express their views as well.

No government on the planet deserves the blind allegiance of its citizens. All governments have a duty to serve the public and protect their natural born rights. Nothing can justify taking away the universal rights of any individual.

Now you may think that’s a bit too broad and extreme. But I think we Iranians have gotten used to living under authoritarian governments and being obedient to whatever regime that may be in power. We hear all this talk about democracy and freedom, but in reality the great majority of us can and do live very nicely without either.

And when a few brave individuals do stand up for their rights and speak out against oppression and criticize the government of the day, we brand them as crazy troublemakers who are only out to make a name for themselves.  

Most of us feel little sympathy for those women who challenge the fact that they are officially treated as second-class citizens under the laws of the Islamic Republic. We think writers who dare raise “sensitive” issues in Iran must be out of their mind. I mean, don’t they know they will be sent to prison? Haven’t they heard of Evin?

Never mind how we think of Bahais, Jews and other “undesirables”. If they publicize any official mistreatment and discrimination, we call them traitors and agents of foreign powers.

Then there is another set of people who actually think these human rights activists and critics are being funded by Western powers, namely the U.S., in order to destabilize the Iranian government. Or at least that their protest alone undermines the state in the face of possible foreign aggression.

How utterly disingenuous… How can we be so unappreciative of those who sacrifice so much  in order for the rest of us to have a better, freer life?

We are willing to question the integrity of individuals who work for freedom and equality, and yet we easily brush over wide-spread and systematic abuses by the Islamic Republic.

How hard is it to be against the Bush administration’s threats against Iran and at the same time condemn the execution of children? I for one am completely against any military attack on Iran, but at the same time I use every opportunity to publicize human rights abuses.

Change does not come about automatically. Governments do not improve their policies unless they come under public scrutiny. The Islamic Republic is not waiting to open the doors of freedom once the threat of war goes away. This theocracy is not giving away an inch unless WE demand it.

If the Campaign for One Million Signatures and other women’s groups do not put pressure on the politicians and lawmakers to get rid of discriminatory laws, we would remain in the dark ages forever.

If the Islamic Republic is embarrassed on the international scene for the way it treats its own citizens, well so be it. Should we give Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad and… medals of honor instead for imprisoning innocent people only because they are critical of the rigid ruling establishment, censorship or inequality? In many cases, public humiliation is the only way to prevent injustice and long-term imprisonment.

We should all be more sympathetic and supportive towards individuals who risk their lives or livelihood by challenging unjust laws or policies. If we are not willing to step forward ourselves, we should at least respect, honor and support those who do.

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Meet your Persian Love Today!