In Isfahan, Iran, an 80 year old woman stood defiantly in her doorway. Twenty baton-wielding Basij men arrived on motorcycles and threatened to enter her house in pursuit of a group of young demonstrators. Instead of running with fear or turning her back on the demonstrators, this woman looked the pursuers straight in the eye and said “You will not get past me.”
Stories of extraordinary bravery and nonviolent defiance to aggression and injustice have slowly but consistently found their way over the Alborz Mountains and across rivers and oceans. They have found their way into the hearts and minds of people across the globe who have been captivated for the past week by this most unlikely of uprisings.
Iranians in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tabriz have flooded the streets demanding their voices be heard. We see and are inspired by their movement. We have also witnessed the reality of violent suppression and carry a heavy sorrow for the tragically lost lives.
Yet, unfortunately, in the U.S. the loudest voices framing the discussion about Iran come from right wing conservatives who historically have repeated attempts to demonize and dominate Iran. The voices of solidarity from progressives and social justice activists who support the right of self-determination for Iran have not been raised as forcefully, if at all.
It is right to support President Obama’s position to let the Iranian people determine their own future, if that support is part of a larger and louder campaign for justice. This support does not minimize the need for international solidarity.
The Iranian regime must be held responsible for the severe violations of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR upholds the right of all people to self-determination, to freedom of expression, to received and impart information, to freedom of assembly, and to vote in elections which guarantee the free expression of the will of the voters. The Iranian regime has continually violated these rights since the election and must be held accountable.
The leadership of Iran, and by this we mean the people on the streets, have lived the last week consistent with the principles of non-violent resistance in response to a coup.
Where are the voices of social justice and human rights activists in the U.S.? Where are our civil rights leaders and the leaders of nonviolent resistance? As the Iranians have stood side by side, and continue to do so, many on the left have come up with excuse after excuse as to why they remain silent.
Social justice activists must stand with Iranian activists now in order to prevent an ideological and dangerous intervention. Social justice activists must insist that the international community call for an immediate cessation against all human rights violations in Iran. Our commitment to freedom and self-determination cannot wane. Otherwise, we may have to ask ourselves, when we look back on these weeks, what did our silence say?
Whether you believe the election was a fraud is beside the point. What is happening today is a popular movement that deserves the solidarity of all people of good will. The state apparatus in Iran continues to withhold information and refuses to carry any burden of proof. They intend to prevail by smothering the resistance.
What is needed now by all supporters of the rule of law, social justice and human rights in the United States is strong support for the Obama administration’s current position. Otherwise a dangerous void is created in the conversation about Iran in which the same people who sang, “Bomb, bomb Iran” are positioning themselves to be seen as the liberators of the very people they threatened to attack. We can support the administration’s position at present while urging the international community to condemn the violence used against civilians in Iran.
Over the past few years many groups and organizations have led campaigns against US intervention and war on Iran. Yet, the people who lead, donated to and supported much of this work have been too quiet in the last week, allowing conservatives to beat the drums of invasion louder than ever.
A woman at a prayer service for a fallen child said to one of the few remaining journalists in Iran, “I’m scared that all the blood shed for this cause may be wasted.”
The movement for rule of law in Iran deserves our solidarity. To those that continue to fight for their rights in the face of the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity, “We stand with you!”
Those of us that live over the mountains and across the oceans from Iran cannot show the bravery of the 80 year old woman in Isfahan, refusing to allow the Basij to beat innocent protesters. But, like the brave, Iranian woman we can scream from the top of our lungs to those who are trying to usurp this movement for conservative causes “You are not getting past us!”
Bitta Mostofi is an Iranian-American immigration and civil rights attorney who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Quigley is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and can be reached at email@example.com.