Interview with Dr. Parvin

by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson - LA Times Staff Writer in July 22, 2000


1) How effective have Iranians outside Iran been in changing the government

in Iran since the revolution? Why or why not?

 Unfortunately, Iranian oppositions have not been so successful in their effort to make positive changes in Iran. They have been widely divided and mostly concerned about their own parties or groups "interest" and have not been able to attract people to take part in the political process and form an organized opposition.

 Iranian abroad, once mainly composed of militant students, financially supported by their parents, formed one of the most powerful students organizations called "Iranian Students Confederation", that had the ability to mobilize young people and bring together a wide range of political spectrum to oppose Shah. But, the bitter experience of the last two defeated revolutions in Iran, combined with the universal pessimism of the post cold war, has created a non-political environment in which the politics is not a major concern for the young Iranian and even American youth in general. Many of the two million Iranians leaving in the US are financially well off and don't have any intention of returning to Iran. So the Iranian opposition is mainly composed of some part time volunteers who although very anxious, do not have the adequate financial resources to put up a real and efficient fight. Obviously a weak opposition does not have a popular base in Iran and as such does not play a significant role in Iranian politics.

 In recent years, the Iranian opposition has become much more realistic and trying to appreciates its potential and explores its opportunities. Our own organization, Mehr Foundation, was formed based on the pressing need to come out of the Iranian circle and find sympathizers among freedom loving American people. We have also concentrated our effort on addressing the human rights issues in its most general way so that these concepts become institutionalized regardless of our ideological belief or forms of government or our economical system. 

 Unfortunately, we Iranian have done very little to directly inform the world community and obtain their support. Our activities in exposing the Islamic Republic of Iran have been mainly limited to contacting the head of the governments, Human Rights organizations or the Iranian circles. In the process, we have neglected our most powerful ally, the freedom loving community of the world. Islamic republic of Iran has done exactly the opposite. While engaging in terrorist activities inside and outside Iran, the IRI has tried very hard in recent years, to hide its ugly face by taking parts in various seminars ranging from women affairs to child care and trying to portray itself as the champion of civil society and the dialog between civilization.

 We need the support of the people of the world to force the IRI to observe the Human rights in Iran by pressuring their Governments and demanding that: 

 1.      The relations with the IRI must be contingent upon the complete stop of human right violations certified by the Human Rights Organizations and the UN Commission on HR.

2.      Provide support and help for bringing to justice those who committed crimes against humanity in Iran through the existing avenues such as International Criminal Court and Convention against Torture.

 Our symposium in May 20th was the first step towards such a policy and we see some very promising signs that it will be supported by other Iranian activists and oppositions.

 2) Why are radio stations, TV stations, and other groups reaching out in greater numbers now, as opposed to 10, 15 or 20 years ago? (for example, the radio show KRSI broadcasts to Iran, or NITV)

 The Radio and TV stations in the USA are formed to serve different purposes. Some of those newly formed are purely commercials and are even trying to de-politicize the Iranian community and in a way are diverting people's attention from the Islamic Regime abuses and make people even more passive in that sense. Some have kept a balance and in addition to advancing their own interests, have also given a voice to other views. Overall, it has been a good development and has encouraged people to participate in political and social debates.

 3) When did you come here? Did you plan to go back when you first came, and

how about now?

 I first came to the USA in 1977. I thought that was for good. But when the political turmoil in Iran started I naturally got involved.  I had a good position at USC and two months away from getting my Green Card when the 1979 revolution occurred. I left everything and went back to Iran.

 My second forced departure was in November 1982 after three amazing years during which all hopes for democracy in Iran were vanished. I went underground because of my political activities in general and especially my open political activities in Aria Mehr University of Technology in Tehran, and forced to come to exile again. We formed the Independent Centers of  Professors in Aria Mehr University that soon became a model and we managed to establish similar Centers with identical goals  in other Universities all over the country. We staged a wide spread strike to oppose the closure of the universities under the name of "Cultural Revolution" To break the strike, they forbid us from entering  into the University. But the strike went on. The Mojahedin uprising and the following policy of ultimate terror of the regime eventually broke our resistance. Some of our colleagues were arrested and executed some imprisoned and  some managed to leave the country. I was one of those lucky ones.

 Did I think of returning to Iran? Yes I did. Do I still think of it? Yes I do.

 4) What kind of government would you like to see in Iran? Would you move

back if it existed?

 I know that my ideal form of government does not have an immediate chance in Iran. So my goals are very long term. Right now, I have a very limited expectation of the government that would replace the IR. I would like to see a government coming out of a free election in which all parties, group, and people regardless of their political or religious affiliation can participate. As indicated in my last talk in Kannon-e Sokhan, during Q&A, I would like to see a government that will allow me to oppose its policies and advocate my ideas without fear of persecution, imprisonment, torture and execution.

Of course, this is far from a real "free election".  Just as an example, the economical hardship and illitracy do not even allow a large number of Iranian to participate in any political process including elections. In a society that has not practiced democracy for centuries because of the tyronical rulers, it will take more than a change government to bring about democracy. It needs a change of culture.

 Would I go back? I have become a little wiser now. I will somehow test the ground and then, yes, I will move back!

 5) What bothers you most about the current regime? (Are you pro-Shah,

pro-Islamic revolution or something else?)

 Everything about the current regime bothers me. They have ruined a country that has

all the necessary background and potential to be a modern one. They have forced their backward ideology to a nation that does not comply with it and as result they have tried to eliminate all oppositions. Their barbaric rules and ideas are not compatible with the universally accepted human rights concepts. And regardless of how their most dedicated reformers try to interpret their religious belief, they regard the human rights only as long as it does not violate the Islamic laws.

 Islamic regime has shown us once again that how destructive, the interference of religion and state could be. Having governed based on the Islamic laws, they have tried in the last 21 years to interfere in every aspect of people's life and try to shape it to their liking. They have imprisoned, tortured, and killed thousands and thousands and have not succeeded.

 Under the pressure, mainly economical, one of the regime's faction has come to the realization that it is not possible to survive like this and is trying to make some changes to save the system. They want to portray a democratic face while making minimum changes, to calm down the people and meanwhile satisfy the conditions of the Western governments to obtain their support. What will be sacrificed here will be the human rights of millions who want a secular democratic government.

 I am obviously not a pro Shah or a pro Islamic. There were days that you would say you were left, right, socialist, communist or . and you would define yourself. Nowadays the meaning of all these terms have drastically changed. So, I don't like to be identified just with a not well-understood term. I would like to be judged by what I do. But if you insist, I would regard myself as a humanist who believe in social justice and democracy in all its political, social, and economical forms.

Mohammad Parvin, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at the California State University, and Founding Director of the

Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR)

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