On Thursday, March 7, 2013, the Center for Culture and Security at The Institute of World Politics and the Confederation of Iranian Students co-hosted a conference on democratic transition in Iran, at which the The National Iran Council was introduced.
Speakers included Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Prince Reza Pahlavi (the last crown prince of the former Imperial State of Iran), Amir Abbas Fakhravar (Research Fellow at Institute of World Politics, award winning writer and jailed dissident), and several Interim Committee members of the National Council of Iran, including: Cina Dabestani (Moderator), Riza Pirzadeh, Nazila Golestan, Shahin Nejad, and Amir Golalipour. In addition, MAJ Malcolm Warbrick read a statement from Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) sent a video message, which was played at the conference.
Although I am not able to be with you today in person, I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts with you on the United States' policy toward the Iranian regime and the people of Iran.
These days, we hear a lot about the Iranian regime. We hear about the regime's nuclear weapons program and the threat that it poses to the United States and our allies. We hear about the regime's direct support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and their destabilizing influence in the region. We hear about assassinations and attempts the regime has orchestrated on foreign soil. We also hear the regime's threats--usually from President Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei--against the United States and our allies. We hear a great deal about the actions and policies of the regime, because they are cause for great concern.
But all the discussion about the regime in Tehran should not be allowed to simultaneously drown out the important voice and aspirations of the Iranian people. We know the regime poses a threat to the United States, but we also know it has been oppressing its own people since it took power in 1979. The U.S. Department of State has documented the regime's horrific human rights record. The Iranian media remains censored, Iranian journalists remain jailed, and the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, movement, and religion remain severely restricted.
Yet in spite of the oppression the Iranian people face, in the summer of 2009, millions of Iranians joined together--they stood up, voted for new leadership, and demanded greater freedom. And the world watched as the regime carried out its brutal response, spilling the blood of its own citizens. But the people of Iran were not dissuaded. As we saw again in 2011, protestors throughout Iran staged rallies in support of the Arab Spring, knowing that the regime would once again crack down-arresting, torturing, and prosecuting protesters and critics for their dissent.
As the next Iranian presidential election approaches, I have no doubt the Iranian people will remind the world once again of their hunger for freedom. We know that the Green Movement remains active--and we know that the Iranian regime fears them, as it is reportedly taking steps to prevent protests surrounding the upcoming June 2013 election.
Today, it remains incumbent upon the United States to stand with the Iranian people who are making great sacrifices to bring democracy to their country. The Iranian people have many allies on Capitol Hill who believe the Green Movement's efforts in 2009 represented only a beginning, and we will continue to push the Obama Administration to stand with the Iranian people. I admire you for your passion and dedication to bringing democracy to Iran, and I wish you well in your efforts.
Above: Juliana Pilon, Director of IWP's Center for Culture and Security, introducing the event.
Above: Rep Trent. Franks (R-AZ)
Above: Amir Fakhravar, Secretary General of the Confederation of Iranian Students, President of the Iranian Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C., and Research Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at the Center for the Study of Culture and Security at The Institute of World Politics.
Above: Prince Reza Pahlavi giving the keynote address.
Above: MAJ Malcolm Warbrick, Legislative Assistant for Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), reading statement from the Senator.
Above: Cina Dabestan moderating the panel introducing The National Iran Council.