Conference in Washington DC and the Speech given in
Remembrance of the 1988 Massacre
Speech delivered by Founding Director of MEHR, Mohammad Parvin
The massacre of thousands of political prisoners is the most horrible crime committed by the Islamic regime of Iran (IRI). It was not the first one neither was it the last. It has been going since 1979. We are not gathering here to mourn the victims of this massacre but to find out how we can expose and stop these crimes. After all, as human rights activists, this is our main task.
As far as Iran is concerned, I believe we have not had much success. And when I say “we” I mean both Iranian and international human rights organizations. I will try to explain this, hoping that by defining the problem and highlighting the obstacles we may be able to find a solution.
Iranian people have been experiencing the terror of the IRI right after its inception in 1979. They have not been able to dress, speak, write, vote, pray, dance, love, laugh, and live the way they want, and they have paid with their lives, hundreds and thousands of lives, for not giving up these basic rights.
They are still using every opportunity to show their hatred for the system of terror of IRI.
They know that the act of terrorism and all atrocities committed by this regime is not the arbitrary act of the hard liners of the regime. These are the norms of the regime and laws that everyone abides by, including the current president, Mr. Khatami. Most of the people know this, they have shown that they no longer have any faith in the so-called reformists within the Islamic Regime, and they want a secular democratic system.
There is a serious struggle for a free secular regime in Iran and I would like to examine this situation briefly. The Iranian struggle for freedom and democracy is a non-violent struggle to challenge the authority of the regime through demonstrations, strikes. They have also started to refrain from participating in all the elections called for by the regime. Non violence struggle for freedom and democracy is the essence of the freedom movement in Iran. It is a civil disobedience movement that proves the illegitimacy of the Islamic regime. If this movement becomes organized, form its own independent networks, and be able to mobilize millions to disobey this regime, then the end of the regime will be very close. It is a huge task but it has to be done and can be done.
course, there is a wide spread belief that that the fall of a
regime should not be the concern of a human rights organization.
However, I believe if the human rights violations are written
into the constitution of a regime and is institutionalized, as
is in Iran, then any serious concern abut human rights would
directly targets the regime and its existence. Therefore, to
stop human rights in Iran we must change its constitution and
eliminate all un-elected positions of those who rule the
Unfortunately, the Islamic Regime is not the only obstacle
against the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom and
democracy. Outside of Iran, Iranians face interest-driven
governments, lobby groups with shady funding, and media that
lack honest reporting. These individuals and groups legitimize
the Iranians’ oppressors.
of exposing the human rights violation in Iran and applying all
the possible pressure on the Islamic Regime to stop the
violation of Human rights, western governments and media driven
by “interest” factor have deliberately ignored horrible
situation of the Iranian people.
By doing so, they have deprived us of the help of the
freedom loving people of the world who have not been informed
about the real situation in Iran, simply don’t know what is
happening there, and we don’t have the means and resources to
example, very few non-Iranians know about the massacre of
thousands of political prisoners that occurred during the summer
of 1988. With the exception of Amnesty International that
published a report soon after this massacre, you can hardly find
any articles or reports published in the Western media.
ago, MEHR, in consultation with other Iranian groups all around
the world, announced the September 1 as the Memorial Day for the
victims of this massacre. Last year, we proposed this day as a
Universal Memorial Day for the victims of the massacre to the
Southern Regional Conference of the Amnesty International. This
resolution was later approved at the Annual General Meeting of
AI in Atlanta. A million thanks to Amnesty for making this
you heard a word about this event in Western media?
This and many other horrible crimes of the Islamic regime
are completely ignored. Of course, they don’t miss any
opportunity to legitimize this system of terror for their own
As we are
witnessing these days, there has been an orchestrated effort by
the European Union leading by UK, France, and Germany to
manipulate the signing of the Atomic Energy protocol and
legitimize the current regime in Iran. The conditions that
European governments and US State Department have outlined for
the re-establishment of relation and removing sanction on the
regime of Iran, do not include the observation of human rights.
And if there is any reference to it, it is vague and does not
state any specific demand. Of course, they are very specific on
other conditions which are:
- AlQade members in Iran must be returned
- New protocol for the inspection of Atomic energy sites must be signed.
- Iran must participate in the rebuilding effort of Iraq as a guarantee of non-interference in Iraq situation.
There are a few other similar conditions but nothing about the human rights in Iran. They are silent about it, and even if they say something to save their face, they are just hollow words and gestures. Although we strongly believe that the IRI must comply with these conditions, we don’t believe the Islamic regime should be accepted with open arms and be legitimized before human rights abuses have stopped in Iran. Regardless of how many of these types of treaties they sign, this regime is still a terrorist regime that has terrorized our people for the last twenty five years and is not worthy of recognition.
Some of the US media have been always considered the Islamic regime as the best alternative for the US (meaning corporate American and specially oil companies!) in Iran. They use every occasion to justify the r-establishment of the relation with this regime arguing that this regime can be reformed. As an example, let’s just read LA Time editorial on October 11 and see how it manipulates the winning of the Nobel Prize by Mrs. Ebadi to advocate its own cause:
“Ebadi's prize should encourage
reformers and supporters of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
in their struggle to loosen the grip of fundamentalist clerics.
Statements like the peace prize committee's bring cheer to the
moderates without demonizing opponents. Lumping a government
into “axis of evil” forces reformers into the camp of their
foes, lest they be considered traitors.
The international human rights organizations and specially Amnesty International have put up a great effort to expose and stop the atrocities in Iran. Amnesty International has issued a record number of urgent actions in defense of Iranians political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. Amnesty has created a very informative web page about Iran and has been supportive of other HR activities about Iran including MEHR’s efforts. Unfortunately, due to the limitation of mandate of HR organizations in countering the Iranian regime and also due to some possible illusions about the nature of the current regime in Iran and the role and the effect of its so-called “reformist” faction, all these efforts have not been so affective in stopping the HR violations in Iran. The reason is obvious: As long as the Islamic Regime of Iran is in power, the human rights violation will not stop. It will be a good idea if human rights organizations take a more realistic look at power structure in Iran and IRI’s constitution so that they can adopt a better strategy to stop human rights violations.
Of course, as I indicated, the limitation of current mandates/ missions of human rights organizations do not allow drawing such conclusion, no matter how true they are. Although HR organizations have been witnessing the atrocities of this regime for 25 years and know that these atrocities are written into the constitution of this regime and therefore are lawful acts, they still follow their routine in a very mechanical way.
rights groups keep writing to the Supreme leader and president
of the Regime and ask them to show mercy to their victims and
urge their members to follow suits. We have always promoted
these activities. These types of appeals, depending on the
international situation have occasionally been helpful here and
there, but have failed to achieve any tangible results in terms
of slowing down the human rights violations. The limitation of
this type of approach combined with some illusions about the
possibility of reform within the Islamic Regime manifested in
the tactics that are employed raises questions about the
positions of human rights organizations on a number of other
issues and especially separation of religion and state.
Of course, it goes without saying that I very much respect the
international HR organizations and specially Amnesty, and admire
the excellent work that they have done to advance the human
right issues all around the world. I am a proud member of
Amnesty since I was a college student and my critical approach
is only to help further advance the mission of my organization
and other similar organizations.
Let’s now see what is the cause of all these illusions. The big “”NO”” that our people said to the Islamic Regime by voting for Khatami seems not to be appreciated as such by many including H.R. groups. The propaganda machine of big powers and big corporation portrayed the election results as a victory for democracy in Iran and that, Khatami with a mandate of 20 million votes will change the course of the country and will gradually bring about freedom and democracy. The western media never mention that 234 candidates out of 238 were eliminated by an un-elected group of clergies and that Khatami was one of the four selected. They didn’t tell the people of the world that the supreme leader, Khamenie, one of the most hated among the leaders of this regime openly favored Nategh Noori, one of the four selected candidates and that was why people voted for Khatami, a relatively known figure, just to say NO to him. The question that I always ask those who call this an election is that would you tolerate this in your own country as an acceptable election? If only Vatican-approved priests were allowed to run for the U.S. presidency, would anyone in their right mind call this an election and call the United States a democracy?
Unfortunately, the lack of participation of Iranians in the
activities of international organizations never helped to
improve this situation and this illusion still exists. We
Iranians should take a lot of blame in this regard.
issue of concern is that international HR organizations are
usually reluctant to take a position about the separation of
religion and state. I believe religious ideology like all other
ideologies must not be used for governing for two main reasons.
First, the religious rules are rigid and cannot be changed. Second, the attempts of some people to change the religious rules have created different interpretations and many controversies. So, the religious laws have both elements of rigidity and ambiguity. Ambiguous rigid rules cannot become universally accepted and therefore are in conflict with universal concepts of democracy and human rights. I believe, it is quite important that this issue to be addressed by the HR organization. Unfortunately, Human Rights Organizations seem to be reluctant to take position where the issues at hands are somehow related to religion. It appears at times that this sort of conservatism may have theoretical basis in cultural relativism. An issue that I don’t have time to discuss here.
Fortunately, these are the issues that are recognized by AI and
have been addressed in recent conferences. It is for all human
rights activists to become engaged in a constructive dialog with
HR Groups and push them for a more radical and truly universal
approach towards human rights abuses in the world in general and
Iran in particular.
All international HR groups argue that since they are not
political, they cannot take stand against the governments. There
is a practical contradiction in this statement. Islamic Regime
of Iran abuses the human rights on a daily bases. It arrests
innocent people, torture them, and kill them. And all these are
written in their law. When you tell them not to kill, not to
torture and you expose them for doing so, you are opposing the
constitution of the regime. There is nothing more political than
To help the international HR groups to have a better
understanding of the power structure in Iran and the nature of
different factions of the regime, we should take part in their
activities, and have a constant dialog on these issues. We have
to expose the true nature of the so-called elections in Iran and
try to get coverage in the media. Something that we failed to do
regarding the last elections and it had a disastrous effect. It
legitimized the system of terror and made it more difficult for
us to raise the human rights violation issues.
Now, it is time to go back to our initial concern about the role
of the Iranians abroad in exposing and stopping the human rights
violation in Iran. To be heard by the world community and to be
reckoned by the interest driven western governments, the
Iranians should become a power. A large number of Iranians
living abroad and specially in the US, make it possible to form
a strong voting block that votes only based on the issue of
human rights in Iran. By doing so, we will put ourselves in a
position that the world will listen to us and we can get help
from the freedom loving people of the world.
By utilizing this help and using the power of our own
votes, we can stop the help of the western governments to the
regime of Iran and therefore help the Iranian struggle inside
Iran for freedom and democracy.
After twenty-five years, human rights organizations should
accept the hard and bitter reality that appealing to the leaders
of the Islamic regime to show merci to their victims has yielded
very limited results and must be complemented by other actions,
actions that would involve pressuring and persuading the western
government that all relations with the Islamic regime should be
contingent upon the observation of human rights in Iran.
Is this in contradiction with the mandates of the HR
organizations, if we say no help should be given to a regime
that has been violating the human rights of its people on a
systematic basis from the day of its inception?
If we don’t do this, we may always stay at the stage of exposing
HR violations and will never be able to stop them. Let’s assume
that the whole world knows about the atrocities of the Islamic
regime. What do we want from them? Are we going to ask them to
write letters to the Supreme leader and beg him to save the life
of the victims, or we going to urge them to stop their
government from helping this regime, or both?
I believe, unless we explore all the possibilities including bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Islamic Regime, we will never be able to reduce the human right violations in Iran, let alone stop it.
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