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Exclusive: The Voice of Iranian Dissent

January 15th, 2014 - 6:19 pm

I’ve received what follows from Iran, via Banafsheh Zand, who has written at PJ Media on several occasions.  As you will see, it’s an open letter from one of the bravest men of our time, Heshmat Tabarzadi, a fighter for the freedom of the Iranian people who has repeatedly put his life on the line in that worthy cause.  Heshmat was one of the central figures in the Iranian student movement, and then joined the Green Movement that was cheated out of its electoral victory in 2009.  Along with other Green leaders, Heshmat was subsequently arrested, convicted by a “Revolutionary Tribunal,” and locked away.

As he writes, he was recently paroled halfway through his 8-year sentence.  I rather suspect that the regime hoped he would take the opportunity to flee the country, but he won’t do that.  Like the Green leaders Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi, Heshmat is one of the most respected figures in contemporary Iran, and, so far at least, the regime prefers to keep them locked away rather than killing them, probably hoping they will die in prison.

Today, January 15th, they arrested him again and he is incarcerated.  It behooves any one who really cares about human rights to keep his name in front of the civilized world, to condemn his imprisonment, and to call for his release so that he can publicly and freely promote his cause, in which the civilized world purports to believe.

Moreover, like many prisoners of conscience before him, Heshmat reminds us that no reliable partnership can be forged with a regime that treats its citizens in such an appalling way, that treats a woman as worth half a man, and that has actually increased the tempo of executions since the elections of June, 2012, that brought the so-called “moderate” Hassan Rouhani to the presidency.

Read it all.  Carefully.  His is an important voice.  Would that our leaders paid careful attention to him and his brave words and actions.

Here is the text of his letter:

The major world powers namely 5+1 are trying hard to engage the government of Iran to join the rest of the international community, by taking advantage of the recent “Flexibilities” that have been shown by the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, and as implemented by President Hassan Rouhani.

Indeed, we have arrived at a significant and historic juncture. However, without a cautious and comprehensive effort moving forward, the road ahead towards a mutually beneficial and peaceful outcome will remain uncertain and elusive. Ever since the election of President Rouhani, the number of executions in Iran has nevertheless increased substantially (nearly 400 executions since he took office). Keeping in mind that Iran already held the second highest record of executions after China (1st in the world as a percentage of the population), this represents an urgent human rights crisis.

In addition, the Iranian government has hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including those such as Mr. Mir Hussein Mousavi, Mrs. Zahra Rahnavard and Mr. Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest since 2010, without any legal or court proceedings. The majority of Iranian political prisoners are sentenced solely due to the exercise of their rights to express their opinion or for peaceful assembly.

The legitimacy of any ruling power is measured by its practice of observing and respecting the rights of its own people. In what follows, I briefly give an account of my personal experience living in Iran, which is not an isolated case. Hundreds of fellow Iranian political activists are experiencing a similar situation. Indeed, the lack of basic human rights and freedom in Iran reflects poorly on the prospect for the effective and peaceful resolution of the issues of the Iranian government with the international community. One cannot be addressed in the absence of the other.

My name is Heshmat Tabarzadi. I am an Iranian secular democrat human rights activist. I have been arrested several times on charges related to my activities, most recently after the green movement and the disputed election results of 2009. In October 2010, I was sentenced to eight years in prison, convicted of five charges of “insulting the Leader,” “insulting the President,” “propaganda against the system,” “gathering and colluding with intent to harm the state security,” and “disturbing public order.” I had already spent seven years of my life in prison, nearly three years of it in solitary confinement for my activities as a student leader. Additionally I have spent another 4 years of my latest verdict and still have four more years remaining. I have spent part of every year of my life in prison since 1999 and while imprisoned I have been tortured on several different occasions. Meanwhile my different publications have been shut down, I have been denied the right to peaceful participation in two secular democratic and human rights organizations, and I have been prohibited from any social activities for 10 years.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
i heard all this defeatism in the 80s about the Soviet Empire. Wrong and shameful then, wrong and shameful now.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately the courage of Mr. Tabarzadi holds no import with the coward who occupies The Oval Office. We here in Israel know that the Iranian people long for freedom and continue to risk their lives for a chance at a better future.
The greatest tragedy in todays MIddle East has a name- Obama. He has stood by as countless Syrians have been butchered. He will stand by when we are forced to go to war.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/176375#.UtfbxCiUAy4
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bravery and honor. Amazing to witness.

Unfortunately, seeking freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assemblage, freedom to exercise principled dissent...seeking freedom and democracy from our current leaders... We can't get those here ourselves.

The cabal sicced the IRS on our principled dissenters. It has their propaganda machine slander them daily. They spy on reporters and citizens and world leaders. They arrested and jailed a man they knew was innocent. They took away our healthcare. And, they have a pen and a phone... And a Constitution shredder.

Sadly, we are more likely to take sides against those seeking freedom and democracy...our totalitarian cabal doesn't believe in either concept.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (27)
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I flatly refuse to call upon Oberfuehrer (Supreme Leader) Khamanei to do anything other than drop dead, for barbarism can only be expected from such an excuse for a man. Why bother asking for mercy from a man who celebrates torture and dedicates his life to genocide?

I remain unconvinced that secular Iranians are any improvement over the devout. The Iranian regime is supported by a trinity. The first part of the trinity are a class of thugs the government uses to fight its wars abroad and brutalize dissidents at home. They strongly support the regime precisely because they are complicit in its atrocities. The second part of the trinity are foreign collaborators who will sell the Iranian people down the river in exchange for lucrative contracts with the government. Siemens is the most well known, but there are many others.

The third part of the trinity are Iranian nationalists. Yes, Iranian nationalists. They constitute a powerful segment of Iranian society that wholeheartedly approves of the regime precisely because the present regime provides a flag of convenience for their extremely chauvinistic nationalism.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is common for Iranians to blame the 1953 coup squarely upon the United States, as if no Iranian ever had anything to do with it. They act as though Ayatollah Kashani never existed. They act as though Ayatollah Behbahani never existed. They act as though General Zahedi never existed. They blithely ignore the fact that the coup happened after – and only after – the CIA had pulled the plug on funding it. It is far from forgivable how Kermit Roosevelt gloated about – and inflated – his role.

The United States was involved in many coups in many countries. For instance, America's complicity in the 1964 coup in Brazil was far deeper – with President Johnson up to his eyeballs micromanaging the whole thing – than anything that happened in Iran, yet Brazilians take responsibility for their coup while America gets blamed for overthrowing Mossadegh. The reason is clear – Brazilian politics is run by mature adults as opposed to a childish political culture in Iran. One gets the feeling that Iranians would rather blame Allah – or America – for their problems rather than themselves.

Yet, the humiliation Iranians feel is real. It doesn't originate from the events of 1953, but rather from the events of 1941. Iran had taken the side of the Axis – just look at the Tehran train station sometime – and had been humiliated with overwhelming defeat. Then came the postwar crisis, when it became clear that Iran was unable to evict Soviet troops on its own.

Reza Shah had been far from popular. His dress code sought to replicate the reforms of Peter the Great and the Meiji Restoration, while his educational reforms attempted to turn theology into a Lutheran-style state religion. His reforms, intended to revitalize a fading empire, met stiff resistance. Yet, Nazism struck a chord in Iran. Its hatred of Jews, its worship of strength, its opposition to the hated Russians, and its lionization of Aryans (and who is more “Aryan” than Iranians?) meant that Reza Shah was far from alone in his admiration for the Nazis.

Mohammed Reza Shah was too much his father's son. He admired the United States but for the wrong reasons. He admired American power and might, but lacked any appreciation for the American freedoms which make the United States strong. For example, it is appalling to discover that he tried to crack down upon traditional Iranian bread and replace it with “American-style” factory-made bread.

Yet, would a Mossadegh dictatorship have been an improvement? It would be tempting to think that he would have been better than the Shah – and he may well have been – but much of Mossadegh's opposition came from men who opposed his attempt to rule by decree. The essential problem was the authoritarian nature of Iranian society, which meant that Iranians expected anyone who ruled over them to be a dictator, regardless of the title he used.

When the revolution of 1979 came, Iran sought to avenge all of its previous humiliations from the past two centuries – and there were many. Iranians deliberately embraced the most Nazi-like ideology available to them – something that could blend Nazism with Islam, something endorsed by none other than Ali Shariati, something that would become known as “velayat-e faqih”. Iranians treated Mr. Ruhollah Khomeini as if he were a living deity, at the very least as if he were the living gate to the will of the Twelfth Imam. Iranians gleefully replaced one tyranny with another, one patriarchal strongman with another, and one set of paranoid fantasies with another. The Tehran mob got what it wanted.

Although the government calls itself “The Islamic Republic of Iran”, its religion has never been Islam. Its religion has always been anti-Americanism, to the extent that it denounced “American Islam”. Not only was a long term program of genocide against all things American declared, but being American was declared as antithetical to being Muslim – thus illustrating how its version of Islam is neither a universal religion nor a monotheistic one. The Iranian government treats God not with reverence, but rather as a puppet who will say whatever its supreme leader wants.

Yet, as vile as Iran's present regime is, it would be difficult to imagine the Iranian people desiring anything truly better. The Iranian government's superstition seems to reflect the ignorance of its people. I would love to be proven wrong on this. Yet I keep hearing about Iran as a nation – and that is precisely the problem. Iran is an empire, a land with many peoples, a land with many languages – not just Farsi. Far from being ashamed of being an empire, Iran should embrace its diversity of languages, cultures, and religions. To call Iran a nation, as if it were a Farsi-speaking monolith, is precisely the kind of thinking that led to the establishment of velayat-e faqih in the first place.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in being part an empire so long as it is an empire of liberty rather than an empire
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
[continuation of the previous essay]

There is nothing to be ashamed of in being part an empire so long as it is an empire of liberty rather than an empire of tyranny. Ever since 1795, when Tehran became Iran's capital, Iran has been beset by one defeat after another, one catastrophe after another, one humiliation after another. Nashq-e Jahan is justifiably something that Iranians can be proud of – an achievement of Safavid architecture and Safavid Islam. It would seem that the natural place for Iran's capital would be Isfahan – Isfahan, with the biggest public square in the world.

Although American sympathies will be with Iranians who seek freedom, it would be a sad indictment of the Iranian people if they don't own a revolution that not only overthrows the Iranian government, but overthrows the idolatry at the heart of its cult of personality. Iranian freedom should belong to Iranians, fought for by Iranians, achieved by Iranians. Long live Iran Azad!
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
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31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
The easiest (but not that easy) way to be rid of the "dictators in Iran that parade as religious" is simply to smuggle into Iran and effectively distribute to the entire population millions of: AK47s, Glocks, and various handguns and tons of ammo...The Iranian "people" would do the rest in a couple of days...

The real problem is that the executive branch of the USA has had, since 1979, as its top number 1 must have top priority to: "keep the dictators in Iran, that parade as religious, in power at all cost"...Iran stirs up wars/terrorism and insures American weapons sales continue.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Tabarzadi writes of his extensive past imprisonments by the Khomeini-ist regime, his recent parole upon the requirement that he would make no further political comments, his violation of that fascistic requirement, the regime's subsequent order to him to return to prison and his courageous declaration: "I have chosen not to report to prison and instead am engaging in civil disobedience".

Compare with all the self-congratulation by Occupy types and MSM talking heads about their own "courage" in speaking out about inequality, "march to war" by congressmen who support sanctions, etc.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is wishful thinking in the extreme. And it's how we got into 2 pointless wars in that Islamic dump. They all hate America. May be there are a few young people who are tired of backward Islamic stupidity (but I repeat myself), but they are few and will never get in power. Caring about the Middle East in general and Iran in particular is a waste of time. If Israel decides they've had enough, theylll have our support, but not our military. We aren't going to war again and pretending otherwise is neocon tomfoolery.And Obama knows this above all else. Rattle the sabre all you want, on this one thing the embarrassment in the Oval Office is not only correct but has the American people on his side.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
I did not sign in properly and so my comment is showing up as Anonymous HOWEVER this is Banafsheh Zand.

Bugw24, apparently you did not read the article or choose not to want to grasp the nature of this piece which is nothing more than open support for the self-determinent movement of the people of Iran for liberation from the Khomeinists. No one but no one is talking about war and if you paid attention, you would realize that it is this administration that is inching America closer to war on Iran, because THAT is where Mr. Obama's arrogance and lack of qualification (and Mr. Biden's corruption on this issue) will lead. The Neo-con whine is a tired one and it washes no more.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
i heard all this defeatism in the 80s about the Soviet Empire. Wrong and shameful then, wrong and shameful now.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's the truth, not defeatism. America is not going to war with Iran. Period, end of story, no, nay, never. We're done playing this global grand game nonsense. Let them kill each other. We had every right to find and kill Bin Laden. The rest of it-nation building, surges, looking for those hearts yearning to be free-are fool's errands. Petreaus, with these insane rules of engagement, was more worried about banging the houswives of Florida than his men. Gates held on to his secrets for the tell all book instead of resigning when faced with fecklessness of the President. This gives me no pleasure; I lsot a dear friend and several neighbors on 9/11. But I see no point to any more of this. It's done nothing but pile up debt(much of it borrowed from China and the Saudis) and got wondeful soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as many of your former intel colleagues killed and maimed. And they still hate us. Let's step off for a while and worry about us. Israel can take care of itself. These people's culture makes any more scuh efforts pointkess. Islam is insane; let's leve them to their filth for a while and see if they gorw up from their mental disease of a religion.
And we could stop them from emigrating here and profile and focus our efforsts on our enemies isntead of ourselves. Instead we'll get more Tsarnaevs (who did everyhting short of taking out ads on the Fenway scoreboard to announce their intentiions, perhaps they interrupted diversity workshops at the FBI)allowed to run free while we ask little old ladies to strip i airports.

Just a sample of what both of the last 2 Presidents have done to those who are there fighting in these wars. God bless Greg Buckley's family, and bring these brave men and women home-

http://www.wnd.com/2013/11/u-s-marine-predicted-own-brutal-murder-by-ally/
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's your truth and NOT reality.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bugw24, Your comments are more emotional than rational and more false meme and faulty conjecture than truth, my friend. We feel your pain and loss and sympathize, however to do nothing while hoping this Evil will stay away from our neighborhoods is the true fools errand. Evil will, in time, prevail if good men and women do not risk all to oppose it.
Michael Ledeen is right. We must support and stand with allies like Heshmat Tabarzadi. If we do not, one by one this Evil will consume all of us.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
We've had 12 years of wars fought stupildy gettting good men killed. We've fought wars with rules of engagement that got great people killed, we've had no realistic endpoint and even the moron in chief right now is too scared to shut it all down(though he can see there is no public support anywhere for American military action from anyone spare Mr. Ledeen's fevered neocon mind). And at the same time our security apparatus is aimed scattershot at all of us at every turn instead of focused on those who will do us harm. PC nonsense prevents us from profiling them nor excluding them. Yes, I am emotional.If you aren't furious you aren't paying attention. And you think Americans will go for more of that because a few well-spoken Iranian Chabbanis are pleasantly Westernish over a cup of coffee? This is like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" crazytown.Only place any crazier is the enitre Islamic Middle East asylum.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are other ways to stand up to this Evil besides sending US military men and women to physically fight and kill. But make no mistake, if this Evil is allowed to take root and spread, it will eventually be in our neighborhoods, kidnapping our children, torturing and killing them. You can scream all you want in frustration at the madness of these demons and the stupidity of our response but it will make no difference. Either find a means to stop it or eventually lose everything including our lives.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for posting this Mr. Ledeen. I have shared it with friends. Obama and Kerry are both guilty of magical thinking on Iran as they chase their vision of legacy. I fear their legacy will be further repression of dissidents by a regime
the are legitimizing in the short run and war and ruin in the long run.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Iranians should not expect anything else from Mr. Obama, except negligence! President Obama had betrayed your issue and the issue of the Syrian people as well. President Obama has betrayed the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. He wants to deal with the mullahs' regime only by all peaceful options which simply is reflect the typical Obama realpolitik. He wants events to end up resolving with the regimes that are a key part of the axis of evil.
In Washington, the capital of the world's only Superpower, only thanks for the great efforts of "the American Democratic Revolutionary, Dr. Michael Ledeen" who keeps the constant pressure on an fanatic terrorist regime. For a long time urging the United States to support the democratic revolution in Iran in order to help them to remove that key part of the axis of evil.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Today, you can make a difference, tomorrow may be too late.

For America, it IS tomorrow.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
People in this country are more concerned with gay marriage. It is all that matters to the left. It is as abortion was 25 years ago.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is just like the human rights struggle in the Soviet Union, led by people like Andrei Sakharov and Nathan Sharansky. Where is the worldwide leadership to support genuine human rights movements today? Does Amnesty International still exist, or has it been co-opted?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Amnesty International is thoroughly useless. In Canada parliamentarians formed an "Iranian Political Prisoner Global Advocacy Project.” (Canadian parliamentarians were paired with imprisoned Iranian dissidents to raise awareness -- but there appears to be very little info on the "Advocacy Project". They don't appear to have a website -- or I can't find it using Google search.)
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
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