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Saba Farzan is a German – Iranian journalist and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, a foreign policy think tank based in London. She writes for major German, Austrian and Swiss newspapers as well as The Wall Street Journal, Standpoint Magazine, The Australian, The Commentator and Huffington Post. Her area of expertise is Iran’s civil society, US Iran and Middle East policy, German and European Iran and Middle East policy as well as integration and immigration in Europe. She graduated from the University of Bayreuth, Bavaria with a Master’s degree in Theater Studies, American Literature and Sociology with research stays in at the Kurt Weill Foundation in New York and Yale University. A native of Teheran she immigrated in her early childhood to the Southwest of Germany and currently resides in Berlin. What you will read below is my interview with her about recent closure of Canadian Embassy in Iran and the future prospects of Iranian democratic movement.
۱٫ First of all thank you for participating in this interview. Would you tell me a little about your recent activities about Iran issues such as writings, conferences, etc?
It is a great privilege to participate in this interview, many thanks for your very good questions. Just recently I delivered a talk in the Northeast of Germany on Iran and Israel – there I spoke about the history, present and future prospect for Iranian – Israeli relations. There’s strong bond between the Iranian people and the Jewish people and signs are already visible once Iran turns into a democracy it will be a peaceful, economic and political partner of the Jewish democratic state. And before I joined a conference in the UK where a variety of academics and journalists debated the freedom and diversity in Europe threatened by Islamism. An issue related to Iran as well when we see that the Iranian regime is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
۲٫ What’s your idea about recent closure of Canadian embassy in Iran? As you know some ones said this kind of works will just hurt people and not the government, what do you think about these kinds of arguments?
I wholeheartedly support this move by the Canadian government and with it the end of diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime. And I disagree that it’ll hurt the Iranian people. The Iranian people have sadly never benefitted from diplomatic relations with the free world as the regime has always abused those relations for its own purpose. When a dictatorship doesn’t represent the people of that country then there’s in my view no need to engage in diplomacy with it. And not only that as diplomacy can harm the cause of democracy in those countries severely – therefore I strongly believe that Europe should follow this path as well and fully cut its diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime. This is the 21st century and we have multiple means of modern communication to engage with the Iranian people and make their voices heard visibly. Still running an embassy in Iran doesn’t count as engagement with the Iranian civil society.
۳٫ In general what do you think of political sanctions? Do you find them useful in order to put Iran’s government under the pressure?
Yes, I believe that both political and economic sanctions are strong policy tools at our disposal. And already sanctions are putting the Islamic Republic under pressure – this is a path that should continue. Iran can proof as a second South Africa where sanctions had a significant impact in ending the apartheid regime – historically these two cases are especially interesting to compare as Iran is ruled by an apartheid regime as well. Another major factor that speaks for sanctions is that it can solve conflicts in a peaceful way. This goes back to the political philosophy of US President Woodrow Wilson who established this analysis that sanctions can prevent war. This applies to Iran as well – especially when we look at the lifeline of the Iranian regime: it’s oil and gas industry. The peaceful solution to this conflict lies in hitting this industry with tough sanctions and let the Iranian regime run out of money.
۴٫ In your opinion do you think that Iranians, who leave out side of Iran, can play any significant role in helping to close Iran’s embassy by the West in all around the world? Will these kinds of works come to a proper end?
I believe with all my heart and mind that Iranians outside of Iran not only can, but must play a crucial role in ending this dictatorship. Iranians like me enjoy all the freedoms as part of the democratic world that our homeland has denied us and so many of our fellow Iranians inside the country who raised their democratic voices so boldly. Supporting them in their cause for liberty goes beyond highlighting human rights violations – at this point everyone knows how terrible this regime is, but the question remains: how can we end it peacefully and with the strongest support? I believe that this can be done through sanctions, diplomatic boycott and engaging Iran’s civil society such as worker’s unions, students, women’s rights groups, religious minorities and many more social groups. Those Iranians outside the country who still argue that this kind of support means negotiating with the Iranian regime as well still haven’t learned from history and beyond that are damaging the cause of liberty for our fellow Iranians.
۵٫ What’s your idea about the future of Iranian democratic movement? In your opinion what’s the role of the West in helping people to establish democracy in Iran?
The democratic aspirations of Iran’s young generation are still visible and vibrant and in my view there’s a strong linkage between turning those aspirations into reality very soon and policy measures the international community takes. Of course I’d like to see more leadership in promoting liberty for Iran by the United States, Europe and other democratic nations – especially after the 2009 freedom movement has been let down mostly by President Obama and other world leaders. In a totalitarian dictatorship support from the outside plays a significant role to end that tyranny. And I do see a stronger willingness in supporting Iranian democrats now then ever before as the world community is rightly fed up with the Iranian regime and its lies and betrayal about the nuclear program as well as its interference in Syria. Though this process has luckily begun it can and must speed up soon – the nuclear conflict must come to an end very soon and all these young democratic voices in Iran are young now and they deserve to be free and prosperous now, not in a decade or so. I don’t want to glorify Iran’s civil society, but it is in terms of education, secularism and democratic potential a very advanced one. Many challenges are ahead for Iranian democrats – mainly how this society will cope with the tragedy of such a long lasting and brutal dictatorship, but I’m observing many strong signs that Iran is on a good path to join the democratic and civilized world at peace with itself and the rest of the world after the end of the Islamic Republic.