Iran's civil society speaks up about US war with Iran


Iran's civil society speaks up about US war with Iran
by Ari Siletz

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has just released an opinion poll report of 35 of the most highly informed and well respected members of Iran’s civil society regarding an attack on Iran by the US and allies. Bottom line, there is unanimous agreement by these democracy advocates inside Iran that such an attack would devastate the fledgling Iranian civil society and greatly exacerbate the already abysmal human rights conditions in the country.

The polling interviews were conducted between January and June of 2011 and included well known Iranian human rights activists, and household names in writing, journalism poetry, filmmaking and other cultural leadership positions, in addition to lawyers, political opposition leaders and others with intellectual, artistic and political influence over the thinking of Iranians living inside Iran. The age range of the interviewees was 25-84.

Here are some highlights:

Tahmineh Milani, filmmaker:
“We must not forget that Iranians are nationalistic and will not give even one molecule of their soil to foreigners…I believe there is a probability that the Iranian government would use war to establish its own political power…The government can use the war as an excuse and delay people’s demands.”

Simin Behbehani, poet:
“Conditions for writers do not improve after a war. What a bad person would I need to be to wish a war, so that my [banned] books could be published. Even if I am buried under a ton of dirt and not even one line of my writings remain I would never agree to a war…”

Mohamad Ali Dadkhah, human rights lawyer:

“…Iranian society’s attitude towards anyone who would advocate war under the guise of human rights and democracy would be terribly negative.”

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, author:

“…in the case of a potential war between Iran and the US, I believe the relations between the two countries will be ruined forever.”

Mohammad Ali Sepanlou, poet:

“…[even] assuming that the country’s rule changes, it will be followed by civil war…”

Payam D. prominent journalist (name withheld for safety reasons):

“…among Iran’s ruling strata, there is a group that is deeply and wholeheartedly open to the idea of military action against Iran. It is evident that welcoming military action does not stem from their wish for improvement in civil society or human rights…Rather, military action against Iran from their perspective provides the excuse of an external threat…using these excuses the government will prepare the grounds for the oppression of political opposition, human rights defenders, and civil society activists.”

Kambozia Partovi, filmmaker:

“I have thought a lot about your question of “What would I do if a war breaks out?”and I think it’s clear that I will defend, because I care about my country and my people.”

Finally, to press an important message for we in the diaspora, here’s author Natasha  Amiri:

“I believe that we who live inside of Iran have a more accurate view of Iranian society…As a writer who hears outsiders’ criticism, I feel that their analysis is far from reality because they have no contact with the Iranian people.”

I may add that those in the diaspora that do have contact, have a smaller stake in the matter because they (and their children) live their lives under the laws and conditions of their host countries, always having the option of parachuting out.

For my part, I choose to listen to and follow our most informed intellects inside Iran. Listening to outside of Iran voices that even remotely, conditionally, indirectly, sadly with a sigh, angrily with a flag, passionately with calls for liberty, favor war with my country is like letting the casino blackjack dealer tell me whether to “hit” or “stand.” I may be stupid, but not that stupid.


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more from Ari Siletz

This is all good but.....

by Disenchanted on


      Those who may wish to start a war with Iran  could not care less about what Iranian intellectuals or Iranian people think. As every 5 year old kid knows no one cares about democracy and freedom the least of which are Zionists and neocons and their stooges MEK!

      The language that warmongers understand best is $$$ and the cost. With US struggling with nickle and dimes and oil price already at such high levels and Egypt free from the Pharaoh, it's hard to imagine "Democracy lovers" risk attacking iran which nowadays can do some good damage on its own.

      Help has to come from within. Iranian people perhaps deserve what they get unless they demand change and cut down on watching Western Satellites and attending extravagant parties underground and listening to rap music! The new generation does not seem to have the backbone of their fathers. They are lulled into parties and sex and having all kind of fun. Freedom requires sacrifice.

Ari Siletz

What you said, Farmarz

by Ari Siletz on

The Stockholm syndrome: "A real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express
empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors; sometimes to
the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered
irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who
essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of

This is what you began with, setting the topic sentence for whatever your essay (or comment) is supposed to provide supporting facts and analysis for. As I am uniformed about your debate format--it is non-standard--if you mean to prove something else, please start with a different topic sentence.

You have made other statements since then, but without a topic sentence for me to know what you are trying to show, I am helpless to know what you mean.


Or It Could Mean

by Faramarz on

"I would rather be dead than seeing a war (which is worse than being dead)"


You took my points in a different direction than what they were intended by dissecting words and sentences without looking at the totality of the point. In other words, you tried to push back on my overall points by nitpicking on a sentence here and a sentence there.

I never said that the civil society is parroting the Regime. Some of them acquiescence to the Regime. And how could one believe a poll in Iran today with people's names attached to it. They are not stupid you know.

As for the hostage situation, don't we read on a daily basis about people who are picked up and are not allowed to leave the country? If that's not hostage taking, what is it?

But to get back on track with the main points of my reply and as my father used to tell me, "what don't you read back to me what I said!"

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

In the report summary it says:

"The interviewees unanimously expressed their grave concern that a
military conflict would exacerbate the human rights situation and
provide a pretext for the full militarization of the Iranian state, all
the while increasing civil and political repression. "

In the report, no one said please ignore the war issue and focus on more important problems. If the most informed opposition leaders are gravely concerned about a war, that's our lead as to what to focus on--not necessarily exclusive of other human rights issues.

Here is the link to the report summary again. 

Ari Siletz

Behbehani's statement

by Ari Siletz on

"Even if I am buried under a ton of dirt and not even one line of my writings remain I would never agree to a war.”

It means, please don't promote war with Iran for my sake. As in, I won't let you misue my name or the names of other imprisoned or killed opposition to promote war with Iran for your own reasons.  


Ari, Metaphorically Speaking

by Faramarz on

and please don't analyze my sentences in the absence of an overall context but rather as a general observation.

Doesn't Simin Behbahani's statement from the above say the same thing?


"Even if I am buried under a ton of dirt and not even one line of my writings remain I would never agree to a war”

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

You state:

"...the hostages will accept their captors words that if a rescue is made, they will be killed..."

Do you believe the above statements by our leading opposition thinkers to be a parroting of IRI positions?

Soosan Khamoum: Going to Shomal is no indicator of civic freedom. The opposition is certainly captive, though emphatically not hostages. Their captors have not made demands in return for their freedom. The Stockholm syndrome diagnosis is incorrect from the very assumption that they are hostages.  It is like looking at sick human and saying, "it's probably cat leukemia!"


Thank You Soosan Khanoom!

by Faramarz on

For helping me prove my point. You are a god-send! And your attitude towards the situation in Iran is what I called passive empathy.

What hostage situation? Everything is just fine! People are going to Shomal! So what’s all this noise about political prisoners and ribbons and doing our share?

The quotation from Simin Behbahani about reform was another good one. I thought that we crossed that bridge 2 years ago and the boys are under house-arrest today. Reform, what reform?

And finally, I was expecting a comment about Necons/Bibi/AIPAC anytime. Thanks for not disappointing!

It all follows the script. I didn’t mean to set you up. But you just walked right into it!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

The problem

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


with war is that the ones "helping" us are not friends. The Americans at best are like Khaleh Kherse I hope you know the story. If you don't here is the summary:

A man was friends with a bear. The bear loved him very much. One day the man was napping and a fly was buzzing around his head. The bear wanted to get rid of the fly. No matter what she did the fly did not go. The bear got a huge boulder and smashed it on the head of the man. Took out the fly and smashed the brians of the man in the process.

Americans are good at bombing. Now assuming they are our friends. And that is a big assumption. They may take out the mullahs and half of Iran with it. 

I am not at all sure the Americans are friends specially NeoCon gang. Bernie plan is to  split Iran up to bits. A while ago the NeoCon spokesman Simorgh started talking about separating Khuzistan. I have not heard much from him since. 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

A great example of Stockholm Syndrome

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


was in the story of "Narnge 'o Torange". Where the Pari accepted the Div as their protectors. They started acting like them and becoming like them. It is very interesting and in a way story of post Islam Iran.

Soosan Khanoom


by Soosan Khanoom on

Do not exaggerate things to make war look innocent and do not sugar coat war ..... Which War? Are you asking Neocons to help? How can you then call yourself Iranian?  you must be joking !    

Hostage ? Hostage my foot... People are still vacationing in shomal  .....

I love what Simin said here ... now go and take a note  

Simin Behbehani, poet:
“Conditions for writers do not improve after a war. What a bad person would I need to be to wish a war, so that my [banned] books could be published. Even if I am buried under a ton of dirt and not even one line of my writings remain I would never agree to a war…”

We need to reform our mentality that has prevented us from accepting to be a democratic country regardless of poltics....only a reform movement can help that ......... otherwise   keep changing the khar's paaloon ........  


Poets, writers, and who else now :-)

by Raoul1955 on

Didn't Iranians learn from the mistakes of the past? 
When it comes to the real life situations, one should totally ignore the views of  the so-called intellectuals, writers, actors, liberals, scientists, poets [LOL], and the lefties.  :-)
Well, even the Left Coast liberals haven't learned from history that there is ONLY one way to deal with the savages: Brute force!

BTW, Didn't the US drop two juicy A-bombs on Japan, and later occupy it?  Decades later the Japanese are doing much better than the Iranians!  Perhaps, just perhaps,...


Not at all Ari

by Faramarz on

I pointed to the passive empathy and the acceptance of the abuse as the norm because what could happen tomorrow might be worse than what is taking place right now.

Or, in a hostage situation, the hostages will accept their captors words that if a rescue is made, they will be killed, but they are still alive now and there is hope that they may live to see another day if the demands are met. So they accept their condition as normal and the perceived threat as the real danger. How's that?


Anahid Hojjati

Ari, whatever we call it, It is wrong

by Anahid Hojjati on

Call it Stockholm or whatever, it is wrong to focus most of energy on preventing foreign attack while inside brutality is the problem faced by people, and there is no if, when and but about the brutality of IRI and the killings, rapes and impriosnment.

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

One step at a time. You dismissed the above thinkers  with a diagnosis of Stockholm's syndrome. I replied that the diagnosis does not apply because no one in the group has ever shown sympathy for the regime. Have we closed that debate?

Soosan Khanoom

Excellent blog Ari .. Thank you

by Soosan Khanoom on



Bruce Springsteen - War





Dead Poets Society!

by Faramarz on

A civil society six feet under or in the solitary confinement at Evin is of no use.


There is also passive empathy which one can witness on this site as well by folks who are saying that the threat of force being used against this Regime tomorrow is worse than the reality of detention, rape and killing that’s taking place today. Therefore by acquiescence to the Regime activities, one is actually accepting the abuse as norm and an action against it as unwanted.

But let me get back to my point.

When in comes to military action against the Regime, there are 2 parallel tracks.

On the first track, one looks at the military action as the means to achieve human rights and restore human dignity to the Iranians. In that regard, we should only listen to the opposition inside Iran and be ready to help them if they ask for it. In other words, when the tanks are on the streets and the Regime is using artillery against the Iranians, we should be able to entertain ideas such as no-fly-zone, monetary and military assistance to stop the slaughter.

The second track has to do with the international community and the threat that it sees in the Regime either by their nuclear activities or interfering in their neighbors’ affairs or just threats against the flow of oil or commerce in the Persian Gulf. In that situation, the Iranian people don’t have much to say and the US and the international community will do what they need to do to protect their allies and interests.

There are overlaps in these 2 tracks and at some point the 2 can become one.

And as for the comment that one of the participants made, “If there is an attack, the relationship between Iran and US will be harmed forever”, I will point to the relationship between US and Japan (post Hiroshima), US and Germany (post WW2), US and Vietnam and few other examples.

Iranians have recovered from atrocities by Alexander, Mohammad, Changiz, Teymoor and a few others. They will get over Obama too if it’s managed right.  

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

What an amazing conversation of Iran-based activist thinkers in your link!

Favorite word: "living options." These thinkers and activists are close enough to feel which option has a pulse and which is dead cold or fantasy.

Regarding usefulness of outside Iran human rights activity, with the right transformations in frames of reference one can agree with both sides of the debate without paradox. For example, we on the outside can work to prevent a US war (perhaps the biggest human rights threat--directly or by causing increased internal repression), while they continue their self-contained evolution towards a strong resistance movement. 

The conversation/debate is refreshing because you see how inside Iran they are using their chess pieces to actually play chess, whereas--when it comes to offering solutions for Iran--we in the diaspora typically use those chess pieces to play checkers with.


Now that we are completely off topic...

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

 I wonder when and if JJ is going to introduce "one user_ID per one user rule" (with provisions set in place to cater for all our attention deficiency syndrome) to this site?

With that said, I am off to Fred's blog now, I need money :)

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

desideratum.anthropomorphized anonymous000

Piggy-backing on Ari Siletz’s blog – hope it doesn’t ...

by desideratum.anthropomorph... on

take away from the content. In case it needs specific admission, yes, these sample minds in the conversation linked to below speak for themselves, elite or not. But their voices rarely reach the diaspora land. *** A March in Tehran “We are like episodes of Lost for the Western onlooker – only images, hard to resist,” he said in a nonchalant tone as if stating the obvious. “Yes,” I thought but didn’t say, “or a library of foreign material, selectively translated into easy-to-digest platitudes and poured into sensational pages of memoirs written in the West and for the West – a genre that first animates you and then, moves scrupulously to slice up your individual and social experience, all the while as it makes sure all the traces of agency are sifted and discarded so what’s left is remunerative material for a graphic illustration of victims of injustice and tyranny all doomed to anger, hate and despair.”... //


All we hear from different

by vildemose on

All we hear from different oppositions in diaspora is 'what' we need to do; whether it's 'regime change' or 'evolution through reform'.  What I don't hear is the 'why'. I don't hear any opposition group talking about tangible and concrete benefits of getting rid of the regime or it's reform...what's in it for the average joe?? Why should they put their necks on the line?? The opposition has not connected viscerally to the real needs of the silent majority of the malecontent.

Khomeini was a master at spelling out the benefits of the product he was offering in tangible ways. He knew how to relate emotionally and directly to what was first and foremost on people's mind: basic economic security; basic bread and butter issues and prosperity. I don't hear that kind of talk from any of the so-called opposition group.

Ari Siletz

There is no is symptom of the Stockholm syndrome.

by Ari Siletz on

Faramarz,, your Stockholm syndrome arguement falls apart on scrutiny. You define the syndrome as:
"A real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors." Nowhere have the above democracy advocates shown "empathy" and "positive feelings" towards the IRI.   

Further, your Stockholm syndrome misdiagnosis equates an anti-war position with sympathy to the regime. Wrong again!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Honestly if USA wants to do it they should do it themselves. Israel is not going to overthrow IRI. They will just make them mad. MEK is a joke and will get slaughtered. Then ask for bombing support and still not get anywhere. 

Unless there is an internal uprising and MEK will not help. In fact having either Israel or MEK will discourage it. Because people will be more against either Israel or MEK than IRI. I don't know what is the solution but I do know what is not: Israel or MEK.

Mash Ghasem


by Mash Ghasem on

MM jan, I really don't mean to be negative, or over critical about anyone group or movement. But as far the concluding paragraph in your comment, the movement from 2009 has been largely squandered. And if we're going to revive a movement inside or outside of Iran, by nature it ought to be a rainbow of all. Yours truly for such a revival, EHYA as they say in farsi.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


may only speak for themselves. No one may speak for anyone else. I don't care if they are civil society or not. A week ago I spoke to my congressman about Iran. The first thing I told them was "I speak for myself and just that". 

Until we get that in our heads we are not going to get anywhere. Ph.D. ; writer; artist does not matter. They do not get to speak for anyone else. A sample of 35 people not randomly chosen is not representative. Specially because they are not the ones suffering. I put absolutely no value in this poll whatsoever. I said in another thread that it is impossible to get a poll or Iranians. The only way is to have a random sample of Iranians in Iran. Because of fear of IRI this is impossible.

Therefore this is a waste of time and money. All it tells you is what these people want. No more or less and we must not kid ourselves. Just for the record I oppose war but do not claim to speak for other people.



by MM on

You may be correct to assume that the activists with the spot-light on them may not call for any attack on Iran.  But, the nameless Iranian activists (see reference below) are calling for the unification of the opposition/Greens (or whatever color) and for the Diaspora to look for leaders with vision to stand against the despotism if the IRI:


Concluding remark:

"The time has come for the Green Movement outside the country to put aside its endless discussions, personality issues, perhaps egos, and certainly fears and begin to address in a serious manner (and quickly) the issues we Greens inside the country have included in this manifesto. We need their leadership, given the conditions here, in order to prepare the Green Movement for its struggle against despotism. If this fails to materialize, we Greens, inside and outside the country, will hold responsibility for losing the great social capital gained in 2009 and playing a part in the social, political, and economic break-down of our motherland being overseen by Khamenei and this Islamic government."


Faramarz: It's a "Civil Society syndrome"

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

in my humble opinion.

I think the people like behbahani, dowlatabadi etc mean what they say. So do I when we say that we are opposed to a military invasion of Iran in any shape or form.

 What is absolutely unclear from this blog and others I read here is the opinion of the "uncivil" section of our society. The silent majority. The workers who are being laid off daily, not able to feed, cloth or even put a roof over the head of their family, and are sent to evin if they dare to demand their basic human rights. The opinion of unemployed. The opinion of balooch living in absolute abject poverty. The opinion of Kurdish folks being bombed out of their houses by the islamist regime as we debate this. The opinion of the parents whose kids have been murdered by the regime. That was the point of Mash Ghassem's comment, I believe... 

What is laid bare in front of you here is the fundamental weakness of the green movement. The inherent reformist nature of this movement. It explains to you why Greens brough millions onto the streets, yet failed to organise a single co ordinated industrial action to back the demonstrators and weaken the regime during those cruicial days of post election 

What I say goes well beyond the topic of this blog, and I stop here as I do not wish to de rail the debate, and as I agree with what was said in the blog.

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks for the excellent point Faramarz

by Anahid Hojjati on

I just wonder. War with Us is not certain but the fact that IRI brutally kills people and imprisons them is certain, so why our dear intellectuals focus on war with US?

Few days ago, in the letter that "Jamal Abdi" from NIAC wrote, he noted that if MEK is delisted we will go back to the abyss of terrorism of years after revolution. So Mr. Abdi does not call it abyss of "ekhtenagh" and he ignores the fact that thousands of people were executed, impriosned and tens of thousands probably left for political reasons.  Instead he focuses on terrorism that had couple hundred killed. Indeed , as Faramarz noted, this is an example of Stockholm Syndrome.


people and their opinion

by afshinazad on

Who are among Iranian would choose war?

Those who support war because ,

1)  they don't see any future.

 2) tired of this regime and cleric

3) nation is divided and there is no unity against regime

4) once you are hopeless you have no choice but seek for external help

5) We Iranian, either don't care or don't have the courage or support IRI, or constantly blame each other and living with past and no vision and we don't tolerate each other, seems democracy is not for order to avoid any war, we Iranian must make a decision and unite and work together to topple the regime, otherwise every day we are going to hear this drum bit of war and IRI regime will use this against our people.War could be useful if war is coordinated from inside by the people against regime and with help of American.



Stockholm Syndrome

by Faramarz on


"A real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors; sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness."

The participants in these polls are hostages that will be executed for treason if they express even much milder opposition to the Regime, let alone a call for a military action. So the results are not a surprise. And even if they asked the participants the next question, "what should the West do to help your cause?" they might have answered "lift the sanctions and start a dialogue to promote reforms!"

Also, a war has a very broad definition. It could be anything from a small skirmish in the Persian Gulf to an all out invasion, which is highly unlikely given the experience in Iraq and the incompetence of those who executed it after the initial success.

I do however agree with Shifteh and others that the Regime, once boxed-in, would not mind a minor skirmish with the West as a distraction to get the people in the streets or execute the political prisoners as it did in the 80's. The only problem is that the Regime may decide when to start such an act but, they won't be able to choose when to end it and the scope of that engagement. The response form the West will be overwhelming.

Then there is the nuclear bomb issue. That's a true red-line and the Regime, I believe, will not go anywhere near it, because they know that the US will lower the boom very quickly.

Finally, the situation in Libya and Syria will influence how the West will choose to deal with the Regime in Iran and that’s why you see the fear in their actions.