Disrupting discourse

Chaos at Amnesty event, NIAC responds


Disrupting discourse
by Babak Talebi

On February 22, Amnesty International hosted a panel presentation and discussion titled, "Human Rights in Iran: How to Move Forward," in Beverly Hills, California. The event was disrupted by Mohammad Parvin’s MEHR-Iran organization, various monarchist factions, and members of the outlawed Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK); and was cancelled after the opening remarks.

The Amnesty event featured four Iran specialists (including National Iranian American Council President, Trita Parsi), and was organized to highlight Iran’s abysmal human rights record. Amnesty International organizers hoped to use this event to initiate talks with the Iranian-American community in Southern California about Iran’s human rights situation.

The MEHR-Iran, monarchist, and MEK groups in attendance rejected Amnesty International’s extended hand of cooperation, and instead embarrassed not only themselves, but the entire Iranian-American community. By setting back the efforts of one of the world’s premiere human rights groups, these radical Iranian Americans managed to do the Iranian government’s dirty work for them.

As an extension of our working relationship with Amnesty International—including NIAC’s own July 2007 conference, “Human Rights in Iran and US Policy Options,” held on Capitol Hill (transcript here)—Trita was invited to participate on the February 22 panel. In the days prior to the panel discussion, MEHR-Iran (a self-described Human Rights organization) demanded that Amnesty exclude NIAC from the event (a tactic they tried at NIAC’s July conference as well). Their belligerent harassment of Amnesty staff in July reached so high that Amnesty’s lawyers had to step in and put a stop to it.

Still, MEHR-Iran and its friends pressed on, intent on disrupting the efforts of a leading human rights organization. They organized a counter-event in the same building as the Amnesty event. This MEHR meeting became the breeding ground for their plans to demonstrate against and disrupt Amnesty’s panel.

An Iranian-American (and former Amnesty International board member) acted as the event’s moderator. His introductory remarks (in English) were met with a loud outcry from the Iranian oppositional groups, complaining in Persian that they do not understand English and demanding that he speak in Persian. Amnesty, an American organization whose events are always in English, had six staffers present, only one of whom spoke Persian. Similarly, the audience included dozens of non-Iranian guests that had come to learn about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.

When the audience settled down a bit, the moderator, continuing in English, reminded the audience that Amnesty was videotaping the event, and that no other recording of the event was permissible.

Chaos commenced.

Standing up and shouting in Persian, a producer with PARS TV demanded that, “on behalf of Iranian media outlets in Los Angeles,” Amnesty International must permit PARS TV to tape the event. As he finished, a few dozen people started shouting at the top of their lungs “Maarg bar Jomhoorieh Eslami” (Death to the Islamic Republic), very reminiscent of the “Death to America” chants we still hear in some quarters in Iran. People started marching around the room with placards held high, continuing to scream and yell. A few members of the audience started yelling back. One woman came to the front and insisted, “I drove two hours from Orange County to hear this talk; you are taking away my right to listen to this panel!”

Police officers, library staff, Amnesty’s own staff from DC, and about half of the audience in the 150-seat hall were all in shock, and were not able to control the demonstrators. It was obvious that the protesters only attended to disrupt the event—not to create meaningful dialogue. Amnesty International was forced to cancel the event.

With the announcement of the event’s cancellation, the most bizarre incident of the night erupted: Sparked by some of their own chants, the demonstrators started to scream at one another. Only minutes before, these groups were on the same side of the battle. Now bitter foes, the monarchists lined the room on one side, and MEK supporters lined the room on the other side. Profanities flew, as people chanted, screamed and yelled at each other. It was absolute chaos and an absolute embarrassment to the Iranian-American community living in California.

This incident illustrates the great frustration that legitimate human rights organizations have when working on Iranian human rights issues in the United States. Instead of being able to tap into the expertise and experience of the Iranian-American community, these organizations have learned to keep a healthy distance from our community—from the radicals still mired in the mindset and tactics of a bygone era.

And it’s no wonder why.

The destructive and disruptive behavior exhibited by MEHR Iran, an isolated human rights organization, does not legitimize the cause. Instead, by stifling the ability of internationally recognized human rights organizations to function in our community, these groups are actually providing a cover and a service to the very same Iranian theocracy they profess to oppose.

The February 22 Amnesty event, though shameful and tragic for the Iranian oppositional groups involved, has revived our conviction that NIAC has to step up to the plate. We have to work twice as hard with organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—as well as with groups in our own community who legitimately work for human rights—to correct the wrongs of groups like MEHR-Iran, radical monarchists, and the MEK.

NIAC urges the Iranian American community to engage in the same kind of pluralistic discourse we all wish to institute inside Iran. We can, indeed, make a difference. First, however, it seems we have to institute these democratic values inside our own community here in America.

Babak Talebi is Director of Community Relations at the National Iranian American Council.


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Too much democracy

by Mehdi on

I think every culture or group of people has a specific capacity for democracy. This is because true democracy requires true education and understanding. You can't have a democracy in a group of barbarians. You will have no choice but to be tough and a bit on the totalitarian side. You don't have to be mean or unfair but you have to be tough and you have to be willing to harm a few for the sake of saving the future. If you don't have the heart to harm people for a just cause, or you are not sure of your cause or you think that any idiot should be given "freedom of speech" then you will not succeed in a more primitive group. I think this incident should be a lesson to any person or group who intends to improve conditions. We should realize that our people are not ready for a VERY democratic environment. So we need to adjust accordingly and not be afraid that some damage may be done. I think NIAC must keep its boundaries very clear and not allow the wild calls for "democracy" destroy it. Giving freedom to a bunch of barbarians is not a good thing to do - not even good for those barbarians.


Big Deal farrad02!

by Mansoor (not verified) on

FYI I have never left Iran since your Agha arived from Paris but you have lived in the US or don't know where for nearly thirty years and yet claim to know so much about the people and their culture.

Sorry Jaafar khan but you chose the wrong place for retirement.


To Mansoor: I am currently in Iran

by farrad02 on

Aghaye Mansour,

I may be Az Farang Bargashteh, but I do live in Iran now (for almost a year).

But your comments show that you have NOT seen Iran for sme time (may be a long time). And you think that admitting our shortcomings and confessing that the core problem is our own culture, somehow makes us traitors! No sir. If you had lived in Iran since the revolution and seen the treatmet of people against each other, son against father, sister against brother, neighbor against neighbor, then you would admit that the main issue is our people's culture (or lack there of)!



Proven to be irrelevant

by Anonymous347 (not verified) on

US, Britain, and other deciding foreign powers will do whatever suits their best interests regardless of what Iranian people think/want. They are not waiting for Iranian people's permission to do what they want. They are looking after their own interests and that is what they should do.

Iranian so called oppostion groups are irrelevant and they have proven to be irrelevant in the last 29 years.


aafarin MasoudA

by manesh on

Your baseless personal accusations notwithstanding, I am very happy you are involved in persianpac.org.  I took a quick look. The mission statement sounds wonderful.Good luck with it.  The more organizations,  the more people involved, the better.

You should be proud of your organization and identify yourself when you criticize NIAC.  Present yourself as an alternative instead of denying NIAC their right to be active in ways they find best.  You really can't be sure they are as evil and as canniving as you make them sound specially since you offer no direct evidence. All you know is they go about things in different ways than you, ways you obviousely do not approve.  But, learn to let them be.

Very proud of you involvement and best of luck.  




What's wrong with "backwards

by Britain lover (not verified) on

What's wrong with "backwards horseshoe"
or "na'el-e vaarooneh" zadan?

The master of the world's foreign policy, Great Britain has always used this method in its foreign policy and quite successfully so far.

What's wrong with that?


So You are !!

by masoudA on

Part of the Propaganda team mr. Manesh.  - with very little to contribute.   Regradless of what Talebi or Parsi havew said - fact remians that they have appeared in front of Congress, Senate, and Press - mis-representing me and millions of Iranian Americans like me.  

As for Organizing - you may be happy to know we are working on it.  It has not been easy - but it has started.  We already have 1000 REAL members and growing rapidly.   Feel free to check us out.   But let me make a prediction on you the Person mr. Manesh - your first inclination after cheking PPAC will be to attack it looool - as your job dictates !!





by manesh on

1- You said "Us is the board".  You don't mean the borad of NIAC.  You probably mean this bulletin board, iranian.com.  walking up to this blog, which someone else has put up and financed nearly alone since 1995, and posting something doesn't make you a member.  When you  work and support this board, sweep the floor after everyone is gone, not just USE it, makes you a member and then you can call yourself part of this board's "US".

2- This young man, Mr. Talebi, answered your questions earleir in his post Thu Mar 06, 2008 12:35 PM CST. He said they do not claim to speak for all iranians, just their members.  They publish their financing according to US laws.  He said they have 2000 paying members and 30,000 subscribers. Now, sounds like you simply not believe him because of your gut feelings. Fine. But don't represent your personal sentiments as facts and warnings.

3- Either out pf ignorance, hurt or malice, some people simply do  not allow any  Iranian organization to take root.  Then they cry it is all for the good of the people- 28 years and counting.  In one post they accuse NIAC of defending IRI.  In the next they say IRI is here to stay and get used to it.  This is "backwards horseshoe" (na'el-e vaarooneh).  Stop it.  Lead, follow or get out of the way.


Lets Not Make Things To Complicated

by MA (not verified) on

Things are never black and white but if you want to simplify things for sake of some clarity then I would recommend the following.

1. If you believe that US should have “unconditional” talks with IRI over its nuclear program, then you should support NIAC.

2. If you believe that the IRI needs to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (suspend its program and come clean in transparent way) before any agreements/deals are made, then NIAC may not be the organization you would want to support.

3. If you are against sanctions on Iran and believe that normalizing relations with IRI and trading with them is better in the long term in changing some of IRI’s polices, then NIAC may sound good to you.

4. If you believe that sanctions should remain in place and maybe even increase (divestment) until IRI changes elements of its foreign and domestic policies such as supporting terrorist groups (Freedom Fighters as some of our leftist bloggers may call them) and executing people for being rapped or gay, then you probably should not look to NIAC as source of inspiration.

5. If you believe that the international community should treat IRI as they treated government of South Africa during apartheid, then for sure you are going to have total different opinion then Trita and NIAC.

This is basically my opinion. What is bothersome to me is how some Iranian Americans go about expressing their views. Those people who disrupted the meeting look like a bunch of idiots to me. At same time I don’t think NIAC is completely innocent either. They seem to label people who disagree with them as crazy monarchist, MKO, Neocon, etc.. Maybe this is just the Irooni in us that we have to label organizations/people and put them in this camp or that camp.

I do have one question? What is up with goatees and NIAC?


Manesh !!

by masoudA on

Us is the embers of this board - as one member, I asked NIAC to tell us How many members they have ?  is that a problem for you ?   In case you don't know - as the President and staff of NIAC (the National Iranian American Council) these boys - Parsi and Talebi - are representing me, you and millions of other Iranians who live in USA, in hearings and testimonies in front of the Congress and Senate.   Are you OK with that ?  Do you think we must be allowed to ask NIAC about their financing and membership ?   Now - to let you and others like you to know what kind of harm this mis-representation can do - let me give you a real case;

Over a year ago - in their cat-mouse political game IRI is playing against USA and the world - Ahmadinejad's government announced they HAVE 20,000 OPERATIVES in USA !!!   A big threat on USA and a bluff at the expense of all the peaceful Iranians living in USA.  Iranians who have run away from the mullahs and their terrorist networks.   Now - it gets more interesting - a short tiem later - the Boy Parsi was in front of a USA Congressional hearing telling them a war wit Iran will have dire consequences on USA !!!   do you understand the problem MR. Manesh ?  Do you care ?  do you now know on whose behalf I am raising these concerns ? 

Best wishes if you are with Iran and Iranians - and if you happen to be just part of the IRI propaganda machine - just know the end is near.   Here is a photo for your viewing pleasure - a photo of others involved in the iRI propaganda machine - people whose function is to hold a sign or a flag for $10/day.   Not too different from People who will make posts on internet forums, for extra $500/month or to keep student or teachers grants,....... we have many of them here buddy. 



A dose of reality not conspiracy theory

by Daee Jaan Napoleon (not verified) on

Whatever you guys need to know about NIAC is on their Website.

Some of you guys are still stuck in 1979. You should have realized by now that the advantages of this regime/system for the world (specially the free so called democratic western world)outweighs its disadvantages, otherwise it would not last even a year, let alone thirty years. So, Get it through your thick skulls and swallow this fact that Islamic Republic of Iran is here to stay.

No matter how much you guys jump up and down and tear yourselves apart, there ain't absolutely nothing you could do about it. The whole world has acknowledged the Islamic Republic, why can't you?

I believe the gist of all NIAC's activities is to make life under/with the Islamic Republic more tolerable for all Iranians inside and outside and we should all appreciate their efforts and be grateful to them for that, in the absence of any other organized, influential and meaningful activity.


@ MasoudA

by manesh on

1- Who is "us"? Is "us" all the people who are not members of NIAC? Could you clarify who you mean by "us"? ? I bet most Iranians, yourself included, perhaps, do not support any organizations.  You are not involved beyond telling others how to be involved. In that case, you are not an "us" in any sense of the word.  You are an "I".

2- an "I" has no power to demand anything in our world or dare anyone to to do anything because an "I" is powerless.  

3- I supported NIAC witha small donation once.  I don't want my name  released.  It's not up to you or NIAC to publicize my name.  

Supprt them or not.  But, stop with the posturing and daring.  


I dare NIAC

by masoudA on

To tell us how many members they have and give us their names ?!!!   but I assure you - they won't.   They can't.   First because they don't have many members - and secondly, those who are their members are not very proud to publicize it. 



Who attended Ahmadinejad

by mbv (not verified) on

Who attended Ahmadinejad Eftariyeh (Lunch) in NYC?
by Any one else (not verified) on Thu Mar 06, 2008 04:29 PM CST

Wonder who was present when there was an Eftariyeh (Late Lunch) that was present with Ahmadinejad in New York City when he was there?

What for? He is the Champion of Human Rights? Why would any Iranian-American Organization be there?

We just want to know who was attending that Efftariyeh with Ahmadi Jan!

Will you do us the honores to tell us?


It's like talking to a wall

by manesh on

Seems like no matter how it is explained, another donkey walks in again and says "NIAC is betraying us".

Let me put in another way:

Politically, the average Iranian, inside or outside Iran, doesn't have a star in seven skies.  As constituents, the average Iranian is worthless because they are not a bloc.  You/we have nothing for anyone to steal from us, betray us for, pull the wool over our eyes for.  Politically, we are personas non gratas. There.  Digest that first.

Any organization that can give any of us any voice is welcome.   


Naazokbin, You don't get it.

by HD (not verified) on


You don't get it.

I am not defending NIAC, just trying to explain what motivates them and at the same time causes so much confusion regarding their motives in the Iranian-American community and in the eyes of American policy folks. There are real contradictions there and Trita is now stuck in the middle of it. All I am saying is they may have good intentions but its very hard to juggle both sides of the fence.


History somehow repeats

by Daee Jaan Napoleon (not verified) on

History somehow repeats itself.

Trita, Vali Nasr, Mehdi Khalaj, and alike are the future statesmen of Iran. They're being prepped/trained to fill in the high ranking government positions in Iran once the US and Britain manage to mellow down the Islamic Republic.

A lot of ministers and high ranking government officials of the Shah had also been trained and educated in the US and Britain.

They gave up on the Shah's government (same time as the U.S. and Britain did) and fled Iran long before the Shah himself did.



by Mansoor (not verified) on

Thank god that you are in the US of A farrod02. Imagine if you were caught in the heat of the troubles in Iran and would not have been allowed to leave the country for the last 30 years. Now we woudn't have had the benefit of having such a civilized commnetator on this side. Now the poor illiterate people of Iran should lean so much from yu and Mr Talebi - let me see, we had an expression for your kind:

Jaafar khane az Farang Bargashte



Thank you Mr Talebi

by Basiji (not verified) on


- promoting the ideals of the Islamic Regime of Iran under the guise of Human Rights and without caring for the real victims of that regime - the people of Iran!

- being such a vocal apologist of the Islamic Regime of Iran,

- aiding the fear-mongers among us to stir-up the fear of war so that the Islamic Regime of Iran can maintain its victim image,

I can think of many more things for which we Basijis should be grateful to you but the scope if this post is rather limited.

I wish you all the success in your lobbying activities for and on behalf of the Islamic Regime and please don't pay any attention to Hassan Daioleslam. He is a Mujahed.

Finally thank you for not replying to this post.

ps - I hope I have kept this comment civil enough to merit publication. yes?

Darius Kadivar

Thank You Mr. Talebi

by Darius Kadivar on

I had not read your previous email. Thanks for your response. I will contact Trita in due course.

Thank you for your time.



to "Any & Most of Us"

by Ali (not verified) on

:) Why is it so difficult for people to understand that simple fact? NIAC does NOT have to nor can it, take any political position about the regime in Iran or any other governments or political parties. It is just not its function.

Now, you might have a conversation with Babak Talebi or Trita Parsi at a private party or something, and they each might tell you their personal opinions about the I.R, their ideal government for the future of Iran or whatever, but when they represent NIAC they can not make such statements. So, stop pushing them to declare the position of NIAC about these things! The evaluation of NIAC can only be based on its activities within its mandate.


error: aafarin Jamshid

by manesh on

I mistook farrad02 for jamshid


aafarin farrad02

by manesh on

Pain is the operative word here.

When you hear somebody demand every organization must have "death to IRI" emblazoned  on their buisness cards, what you are hearing is their pain in having to accept the fact that the filthy mullahs OWN Iran now. They rather not recognize that and not deal with the pain that it brings them.  Never mind that it stops us from fighting the mullahs.  That's OK with them so long as they can talk tough.

Same with Mosadeghis: they will not grant that they were beaten in  a political game and they lost.  It's too painful for them to come to  terms with that.  So, they spend every minute of their political lives,  55 year and counting, expecting a formal apology.  It aint happening.

Let's build new organizations and move on.  


Re: Manesh

by jamshid on

What we need is unity among nikaan, but how? I think one reason this is not happening is that we focus too much on the past which takes us to our pains, sensitivities and paralysis.

The only way is to focus on the future which takes us to our hopes, our creativities and a desire for action.

For example take a Shahi and a Mosadeghi. Deep inside, they are not in love with "cheshmo abrooye" Shah or Mosadegh. They both want the same thing when it comes to the bottom line, a secular progressive Iran where they can all live prosperously and in peace.

But then when they meet, they focus on the past, on the pain and on the differences. Their excuse for not focusing on the future is that "oh, but we should not set aside the past, it is our duty not to forget..." Each side has its reasons. Then again and again they touch the same subjects that only results in hurting each other, and in turn in forgetting about the future.

Ok baba, we learnt enough already. Let's move on now.

The same is true among all other political groups. Based on my experience, the only ones who are not like this are the "roostaayis" who live in Iran's remote dehaats. Their attitude is healthier and more productive that our intellectuals.


@ farrad02

by manesh on

you are on to something farrad02 but when you mention cultural revolution it reminds me of chairman Mao.

Nothing has bothered me more in life than knowing that a wonderful country like Iran is filled with Iranians!  However, I also believe there are many good (nik) Iranians. 

What we need is a unity among nikaan.  


NIAC & MR. PARSI Support Islamic Regime of Iran or Deny?

by Any & Most of Us (not verified) on

Let us settle this deal with Mr. Parsi and NIAC once and for all for all to see;

Mr. Parsi you and NIAC's activities are in Support of Islamic republic Mullah's regime or you and NIAC are in favor of regime change of Mullah's replaced with a free Democratic and Secular Government?

Please be articulate in your answer. Most of us wish for a free, Democratic and secular regime that is picked by fair elections monitored by UN and other Watchdog Agencies.

Where do you and your group stands?

Fair enough?


We don't deserve anything better than IRI!

by farrad02 on

Let's face it. Behavior like you have described here shows again that the root of all of Iran's problems are only one thing! The Iranian People! The lack of civility and political and social maturity is the root of all our ills! Just look at the way we drive!  Every Iranian is a little dictator. It starts from within our families and homes and like a vicious cycle this uncivility is passed from one generation to the next.   And unless we have a massive re-education effort which will show results a couple of generations later, no progress will be made in Iran or anywhere for that matter, unless we change from within!  Once the re-education is done, then better regimes and political systems will magically come topower in Iran!

So, right now, we don't deserve anything better than the Islamic Republic for our ruling regime and Ahmadinejad as President.

(از سرمون هم زیاده).



Who Is Paranoid?

by Naazokbin (not verified) on

HD, you wrote:

"Trita has worked on the Hill, knows the US policy circles inside out and trita is motivated more by US policy makers on Iran and trying to get US policy makers to understand the nuances of Iranian politics and regional dynamics."

Trita Parsi's BIGGEST probleam is that he does not know Iran or perhaps for some reasons he is trying to ignore the real issues Iranians are dealing with.

Nuances? Iranians who live in the U.S. or other countries and oppose the regime in Tehran are not paranoid, they saw what the mullahs did to Iran and Iranians and they didn't like a bit!

Why is it when Iranians criticize the Mullahs and their supporters they are called all kinds of names?

THINK beofre you write!


And do not confuse Reza Pahlavi with Reza Pahlavi's followers

by manesh on

While I adore Reza Pahlavi and his family, I can not get along with his followers, or "monarchists".  They are absolutists, both in their campaigns and their vision of a government.

And one more thing: 

This misguided prerequisite that one must denounce IRI in every waking moment is simply childish.   While nearly everyone FEELS the same way about IRI injustices, it doesn't have to be SAID morning, noon and night.  Besides, different organizations fill different roles.  Not everyone has to be militant revolutionaries. Some people may want to oppose the system from within Some may want to apply gentle, continuous pressure through legal channels, etc.  To demand unequivical denouncements of IRI every minute is, in a way,  to settle for IRI forever.  I give you an example:

If, before revolution, every Mullah, everyday, had said "marg bar shah",  there would have been no revolution in Iran.   All of them would be jailed or escape abroad.  They all FELT "marg bar shah" every moment of everyday, as we can look back now, but they didn't say it.  They would've been stupid to say it all the time, right? Then why is it a requirement for us to say it all the time? Isn't this stupid? They mingled, organized, and were ready when a few hudred from outsaide said it was time.  That's when they said what they felt.

Again, this abolutism of everyone say MARG BAR IRI is counterproductive.  


Re: Mahasti LOL, As long as

by bird flu (not verified) on

Re: Mahasti

LOL, As long as Trita and NIAC have fans of such high "calibre of intellect", noone in the 'real political circle will take Trita seriously just as his relic of a mentor, Brezinski is not.

Your disputation amount to: He is the darling of the Media, he has authored a book published by Yale (George Bush went to Yale), He is a STAR...Talk about silly hyperbole leading to vacuous slogans.

Keep your servile attitude up and follow the herd, simpleton!