As an American who is living openly in freedom, I feel utterly unqualified to address the Iranian people. After all, I don’t have to fear that the Basij will arrest me and torture me and rape me in Evin Prison. I don’t have to fear that I will be beaten or murdered for attending or organizing a demonstration on February 11, 2010, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran, or any other day. I don’t have to fear that my phone is being tapped, my email is being watched. If I leave Iran, I don’t have to fear that my family will be endangered by my speaking out. I am also not subjected to the innumerable and unjust restrictions and cruelties which are inflicted on Iranian women in name of radical Shi’ite Islam.
My American friends and I are greatly concerned about the media blackout being imposed by the regime. We know that it means Iranian democrats are being tortured, imprisoned, and murdered. According to my friend Mr. Mehdi Khalaji, 4,000 political prisoners have been arrested since last June. I am greatly concerned about Mr. Khalaji’s father Ayatollah Mohammad Khalaji, who is now free on bail but subject to re-arrest by these murderers at any moment.
I felt helpless and sickened when the regime murdered two young men last Thursday, Arash Rahmanipour, 19, and Mohammad Ali Reza Zandani. I am greatly concerned about the 9-65 people currently on death row whose lives are in immediate danger of being murdered.
I am also greatly concerned about the fate of the Bahai minority in Iran, especially the seven Bahai leaders who were imprisoned in 2008 and are currently threatened with death. I was horrified to read that Bahai marriages are not recognized in Iran and married Bahai women are treated as prostitutes. I was saddened that Bahais are deprived of the right to attend Iranian universities. In addition, the regime also shut down a private Bahai university. More attention needs to be paid to the plight of the Bahais who are persecuted because they are not recognized as a protected people under Shi’ite Islam. My friend Amir Nasiri is absolutely right when he emphasizes that Iranian democrats need to show their concern for Iranian ethnic and religious minorities.
Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to protect you when you go out to demonstrate from being injured, imprisoned, tortured, or killed by murderers who have no respect for the sanctity of human life. I will not be there when you are being shot and beaten by these murderers, and I cannot block their bullets from hitting you.
In fact, I cannot even promise you that you will have the support of the leaders of the free world. The sad truth is that the leaders of the free world refuse to stand by the Iranian people because they do not care about your suffering. They also prefer to profit by business deals with the Iranian regime than to stand by the Iranian people’s quest for basic human freedom and dignity.
As an American, I feel deeply ashamed by the actions of President Obama. I feel that he does not represent me because he does not stand by the ideals of universal human freedom and dignity. He believes instead in appeasing dictators worldwide and negotiating with mass murderers. He does not care if Iran gets a nuclear weapon because he thinks it will only threaten the Jews, not the West and America as it actually will.
But I can promise you that when you go out to demonstrate, I will stand by you in every way possible. I will be gathering information on the protests from every source possible and sharing it with everyone. I will be notifying everyone in my network of American friends of what is really going on in Iran. I will be speaking out for you and supporting your hopes and dreams for freedom.
I will be doing this because I believe that as Martin Luther King Jr once said,”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I genuinely believe that even if I have freedom of speech here in the great land of America, I am not truly free as long as human beings in any part of the world are not free. I believe that your problem is my problem, that your issue is my issue, that your oppression is my oppression.
As a Jew, I am repulsed by the way that this regime is waging war on Israel and the Jews and denying the Shoah, the genocide against my people in Europe. At the same time, I know from my own conversations with Iranians both inside and outside Iran that this regime does not represent the Iranian people. I know that many Iranians inside and outside Iran share my moral revulsion at this regime’s anti-Semitism and support Israel and the Jews. These conversations lead me to believe that a secular, democratic Iran will be a friend to Israel and the Jews.
I believe that peaceful regime change is the only answer to the oppression in Iran. No compromise with this regime is possible, and there is no reason to salvage a regime which is based on totalitarian Islamist oppression. The problem is not simply a matter of Ayatollah Khameini or President Ahmadinejad. The problem lies with the nature of the Islamic regime itself. The regime is based upon a brutal and distorted version of Shi’ite Islam under which Shi’ite clerics have absolute power over their fellow Iranians. This regime’s theology violates centuries of Shi’ite belief and practice according to which clerics should not be allowed to participate in government since the disappearance of the 12th Imam.
The answer to this regime is not a new election under this regime’s auspices. Any election under this regime is inherently illegal because the regime subjects candidates to ideological screening before they can run for office. This regime subjects candidates to an ideological litmus test which is totally unacceptable. The only answer to this regime is to remove it entirely. The system should be eliminated so that clerics no longer hold absolute power over the lives of Iranians. The system of secular democracy should be based on separating religion and state and ensuring the equality of all Iranians regardless of sex, religion, or ethnicity.
I also want to tell me how much you have inspired me by your courage. I have read about students who have boycotted their final exams to protest the imprisonment of their classmates. I have read about students who have gone to the Intelligence Ministry to find their arrested friends and who have themselves been arrested. I have seen horrifying photos of people who are being beaten because they dare to defend others who are being assaulted by the Basij-SS thugs. I have seen the videos in which strangers during demonstrations immediately provide emergency first aid to injured fellow protestors. I have seen how people risk their lives to take pictures and videos of demonstrators being attacked and murdered by Basij thugs and share them with the West. These innumerable acts of solidarity have helped to define the humanity and courage which characterizes your movement.
I am inspired by the way that you have taken every holiday as an opportunity to protest against this regime. You have taken the holy day of Ashura as a chance to show your outrage at the brutality of murderers who act like the killers of your martyred Imams Hussein and Ali. You have taken Al Quds Day and turned it from an anti-Semitic regime demonstration into a show for the Iranian people’s freedom. You have turned Students Day from an anti-American regime propaganda into a chance for Iranian students to show their own yearning for liberty. You turned the funeral of the late Ayatollah Montazeri into a demonstration against this evil regime. And just recently young Muslims joined with Zoroastrians on January 30, 2010, in a Zoroastrian holiday in an anti-regime demonstration.
I do not know how many people will be killed and injured on February 11, 2010, during demonstrations against radical Shi’ite Islam on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. I do not know how many people will participate in demonstrations in different cities in Iran or how many people will be arrested. And I do not know whether these protests will be the beginning of the end for this totalitarian regime in Iran or merely another step on the road toward freedom.
But based upon your ability to take every holiday and turn it into an anti-regime demonstration, I believe that your victory in the struggle against this totalitarian regime is inevitable. I believe it is only a matter of time before you remove this regime from power and begin the difficult but wonderful process of building a free and democratic society based on separation of religion and state. And I believe that you are capable of removing this regime on your own even in the absence of support from Western governments.