I am secular. I do not believe that religion belongs in government.
As a child I discovered the history of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossedeqh, and he has guided all my political beliefs. He understood democracy in its purest state. He wanted freedom for his people, and he devoted his life to this cause. He took no money for his service to his country.
It's more than a week now since the ten year anniversary of 18 Tir. I spent the beginning of the week in Los Angeles, working to organize our members there for a Thursday protest. That night after the demonstration at the Federal Building on Wilshire, I drove back up to the Bay Area to help get ready for the Friday protest there.
The last few weeks have been exhausting for most of us who have been paying attention to the news coming out of Iran. But what has made our work here even more difficult is the back biting and bickering that has become commonplace among many of the activists working in protest of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Iranian press in Los Angeles has never been particularly kind to me. When I first arrived in the U.S. I represented a student movement that many of them were leary of. I came to the U.S. believing that I could do more work to help my country from here, then I could have from inside. I was from the student movement that stood up to the government during the protests of 18 Tir. I was one of the leaders of the first openly secular student group in Iran at that time, I spent time in jail as a result of my work, and when I came to the U.S. I had no interest in joining any other group inside or outside of Iran.
That proved problematic in how I was accepted into the Iranian-American Community in Los Angeles. After a brief honeymoon period, they realized that I was independant. I didn't choose sides, but instead stood strong as a representative of the secular, democratic student movement of 18 Tir. I took a stand against the old guard that had been in LA since the 1979 Revolution, and that stand has cost me dearly over the years. I have no regrets for my actions, but since they have published so many stories that spread lies so proposterous that even I have to laugh at them, I wanted to take the opportunity to set the record straight once an for all.
I'm not on the inside when it comes to the groups in LA. Some of my friends from the past have taken sides with the elitests within the community, and it has tainted their politics, in my opinion. I have no regrets for having stayed strong in the simplicity of my own political beliefs, and I welcome others to join me in our own brand of protest against the Islamic Republic that does not seek a return to past, but instead looks to a future that is non-violent, secular, and democratic.
Despite what I have read about myself in the Iranian press from Los Angeles, I do not drive a Mercedes. I live a very simple life as a student who came to this country with nothing. I have always believed that profiting from my work in the student movement would be against my beliefs, and therefore, have rarely had much money with which to do my political work. I've been fortunate to have talented members of the International Alliance of Iranian Students, a group I founded after I left Iran. Our members have volunteered countless hours to posting on our website, writing articles, setting up Facebook groups, sending news feeds via Twitter, designing banners and posters and flyers, showing up at rallies and demonstrations in London, Zurich, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many other cities all over the world. They, like me, have done it all for the good of Iran, for the future, and for freedom for our country.
I do believe that most Iranians outside of Iran want something similar for our country, but the fighting between us has to stop. When we put our personal agendas before the good of the people who are still within the Islamic Republic's borders, we miss the point entirely.
We cannot forget the suffering of the political prisoners who remain in Iranian jails. We must remember the face of Neda Agha Soltan in the final moments of her life when she looked at the camera in disbelief as her life slipped away. We must continue to share with the world the images of young Iranians like Sohrab Aarabi, taken from his parents too soon.
I am sickened and saddened by the loss of young lives in Iran. But I believe that we can survive. We must protest, we must use the media available to us, and we must stop fighting among ourselves.
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