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The art of remembering
An Open Letter to Secretary Rice

Mohammad Kamaali
May 13, 2007

Dear Secretary Rice,

There was news that you are visiting an art gallery in Washington where Iranian artists are exhibiting their works. I'm sure the Iranian people would've welcomed this visit, had it not been in the context of the current hostilities of your government towards Iran.

Cultural exchange programmes are one of the best ways to build closer relationships between the ordinary people of our two countries. But you, you are no ordinary citizen. You represent a government which has a history in my country. Our problems with you did not start in an art gallery and will not end there.

The memory of your interventions in my country is still too fresh among Iranians, young and old. We remember how you overthrow the democratically elected government of Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. We remember how you supported the Shah unconditionally when he was brutally oppressing his people. We remember how you encouraged, funded and equipped Saddam's regime in the 80s to attack Iran. The children of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who died during eight years of that war know exactly what you've done. The victims of the chemical weapons supplied by you and your European 'allies' to Saddam still live amongst us; every once in a while some of them die, and for us old wounds open. We remember the day USS Vincennes shot Iran Air flight 655 in the Persian Gulf killing all its 290 passengers. To this day you have not even accepted responsibility for it nor have you apologised.

Dear Ms. Rice,

Today your actions speak louder than your words. When ten Iranian diplomats were massacred by the Taliban in 1998, your government was in negotiations with the Taliban about the pipeline routes to carry oil and natural gas out of Turkmenistan; something you finally managed to secure after the military invasion of 2001. Iranians hear on daily basis news of your support for other terrorist groups such as MEK and Jundullah operating from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

You answered Iran's help in getting rid of the Taliban by branding it as part of ‘Axis of evil'. You ignored Iran's offer in 2003 for resolving all outstanding issues in return for security guarantees and the way you lied your own nation and the rest of the world into an illegal pre-emptive war against Iraq, means there is now too much distrust towards anything that you say for Iranians to even imagine you as a well-wisher.

Iranian business men and women do not see your push for further economic sanctions against their country as a sign of good will! You are trying to isolate Iran on the pretext of its insistence on exercising an inalienable right protected by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; to which it remains a signatory. You know too well how sanctions affect the poorest and the most vulnerable parts of our society; after-all half a million Iraqi children died as a result of the same arrangement against Iraq.

Human rights activists and NGOs inside Iran cannot but scream against your outright interventionist attitude towards our internal affairs. Your claims of financial and moral support for them only jeopardises their hard-earned reputation and ruins the significant achievements they have made so far. The way you and your colleagues now casually threaten Iran with further sanctions and the way you say 'all options' including military are on the table, not only shows your lack of respect for my country’s sovereignty but it also strengthens the hand of the hardliners inside Iran. You do not seem to be interested in the delicate dynamics of long-term reforms in Iran by Iranians themselves. This is only further evidence of your semi-official policy of regime change which is by the way ILLEGAL under the UN Charter.

Dear Secretary Rice,

The problem is when you have too much power you begin to think with your muscles. You are like a wounded bull in the china-shop that is Middle East. Whatever you touch, wherever you intervene, something is broken, something is ruined. Perhaps at some point you have to STOP and think of a way out without inflicting much more damage to yourself and those around you.

Until you learn to respect other peoples' right of self-determination and until you abandon your language of intervention, force and threats against my country, no number of visits to art galleries will solve our problems. Comment

Mohammad Kamaali is a founding member of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII).

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