Paris gathering provides voice for Iranian dissidents

newspaperBy Babak Dadvand

An unparalleled gathering of Iranians from around the world will take place on June 13th in Paris, consisting of more than 300 different associations, organizations and committees from the Iranian Diaspora. In the past this annual event has drawn an audience of more than 100,000, and this year’s gathering is expected to be even larger. I will be in attendance at this event, joining thousands of other Iranians who believe the future of Iran is not a nuclear theocracy, but a secular and progressive democracy.

The event will give voice to the Iranian opposition’s view on various issues relating to the present situation in Iran. This includes a present analysis of the status of the Iranian regime, the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, and prospects for change in Iran. The focus will be on the fight against fundamentalism in Iran and the Middle East as a whole, and the event will present the opposition’s policy suggestions to the international community, particularly in the wake of the forthcoming nuclear deal with Iran.

Given the lack of free speech in Iran, and the climate of fear and repression, it is impossible for common Iranians to express their desires and aspirations and their disillusionment with the regime. Our communities will serve as a lifeline to the Iranian people and their true aspirations for democratic change.

The timing of this convention is significant as it comes in the wake of what could be a turning point for the Middle East. The talks surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the situation in Syria, have garnered much interest, but little in the way of practical change. As the region’s conflicts become more volatile, policy makers will seek a true long term solution – one that does not involve currying favor with mullahs in Iran and a butcher in Syria. There is a simple solution to this problem: embrace the democratic, secular opposition, and support Iranians who want true change in Iran.

The nuclear negotiations with the Iranian regime have been cast as a significant victory, by both the United States and the Iranian government, yet little has actually changed on the ground. The Iranian regime has long pursued a strategy of pursuing talks and negotiation just in order to maintain, in President Rouhani’s words, “a calm environment” for illicit nuclear advancement. Thus we believe the emerging deal is no different than any from the past ten years, and will ultimately fall apart.

Our communities will outline our alternative vision for a modern and progressive Iran, one that will address the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people, while assuaging the concerns of the global community in regards to peace and security.

As we gather to discuss and coordinate our efforts, our communities from throughout the world will remain steadfast in our commitment to true democratic change, as outlined by the 10 point plan of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This platform includes the abolition of the death penalty, the end of torture and imprisonment of political prisoners and the recognition of equal rights for women, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.  The victims of course include four Americans held hostage in Iran whose plight was addressed during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing at the initiative of Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). More importantly for policymakers, it calls for a nuclear-free Iran and a new chapter of normalization with the West, based on the common interests and ideals of democratic, secular republics.

It is time for policymakers to bring a new party to the negotiation table, one that can offer a true long term solution to the problems posed by the theocratic regime in Iran. The June 13 gathering in Paris will demonstrate our capacity to organize our communities, and echo the true aspirations of the people of Iran, who continue to suffer under the repression of this regime.

Babak Dadvand is president of the Organization of Iranian American Communities (www.oiacus.org).