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Bamdadkhabar report of the two-day conference “Young Iranian Activists Seeking Democracy” in Washington DC


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FAIR-DC-Conference-Panel1Bamdadkhabar: A two-day conference “Young Iranian Activists Seeking Democracy” was held on Saturday and Sunday (March 9th and 10th, 2013) at the Courtyard Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia.

At this conference, a group of young activists in North America held workshops and discussion panels to express their point of views on the political issues of the day. The first workshop was held on Saturday and lasted six hours. During this session, Hassan Shariatmadari, a political activist who lives in Germany, talked about the idea of ​​”free election” as the central theme for the unity of all opposition groups. Crossing barriers and potential solutions were discussed during this workshop.

Day one

First Panel: How can US help the Iranian people?

After the workshop, the first public discussion panel was held. The subject was “How can US help the people of Iran?” Kianoush Sanjari was the moderator for this panel and the speakers included Shahriar Ahi, Maryam Memarsadeghi and Mohsen Sazegara. Memarsadeghi, the director of Tavaana (E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society) mentioned that the opposition groups should be more exclusive in demanding US for sanctions aiming not only the nuclear program, but also the human rights issues in Iran. She also criticized the lack of transparency in what the opposition stands for, saying that “they seem to have swallowed the anti-American taboo of the Islamic Republic.”

Dr. Ahi, a political activist living in Sweden, expressed that he is against any military action on Iran, saying that any military attack could destroy the democratic movement that has started. He asked the United States for imposing wise sanctions against Islamic regime of  Iran in a way that they don’t act as “a mullet to hit” but like “a surgical knife to cut”. He also mentioned that Iranians could take advantage of the experience that America has in democracy. Civil institutions in the US were claimed to be helpful in assisting the Iranians.

ویدئو: پنل نخست همایش «فعالان جوان ایران در جستجوی دموکراسی»

Dr. Sazegara, third speaker on this panel also noted that the Iranian government is advertising against the US government, introducing is as a single state with a single conspiracy. He denied this fact, saying “America is a democratic country; the government’s decision is a small part of the whole decision-making system and public institutions play important roles in this.” He emphasized on the distinction between the government and public institutions in US, noting that the opposition groups can reach out to the universities and research centers, asking for ideological and technical help. He talked about internet filtering problem in Iran as an example of how US companies and institutions could provide technical assistance. Sazegara also emphasized that the right for any government change in Iran belongs solely to the people of Iran. However, he mentioned that changing the regime’s behavior, especially on human rights, could be achieved by the help of international community.

Panel II: The impact of sanctions on the Iranian government and people

The second panel started at 6 pm on Saturday. The moderator for this panel was AmirHossein Etemadi and the speakers were Mojtaba Vahedi and Aram Hesami and the subject was ” The impact of sanctions on the Iranian government and people”.

Vahedi who is a former advisor to Mehdi Karoubi (a presidential candidate and a front runner opposition) discussed the role of sanction in the economy of Iran. He mentioned that the sanctions had some impact on the Iranian government; however, the main reason for bad economic conditions has been the inefficiency and lack of proper management in the government itself. He said that the sanctions have lowered the income from selling oil to the world and as a result, the Iranian government cannot fund the repression against the opposition as much as before. Mojtaba Vahedi emphasized that he would support anything that overthrows the Islamic Republic regime.

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Dr. Hesami, another speaker on this panel is a professor of political sciences at Montgomery College in Maryland. He talked about “two-way theory”, saying that the Islamic Republic will have to come to a deal with the West. It’s just the matter of time, whether the sanctions be lifted in the short run or the long run. He said that the nuclear program is going to be a lose-lose situation for Ali Khamenei (the Supreme Leader of Iran). Dr. Hesami said that once the deal is reached, Khamenei has to explain to his followers why he did not accept the conditions sooner. This professor of political sciences approved Vahedi’s statement about the sanctions associated with drug shortages, saying that India (as one of the largest drug manufacturers), is in a great political and commercial relationship with Iran. 

Day Two

Civil Resistance Workshop – Panel Discussion centered around the opposition convergence

The second day of the conference was held on Sunday March 10th. Mohsen Sazegara was the moderator for this workshop. Common experiences in authoritarian states and the past experience of the Iranian opposition green movement were discussed in this workshop. This session lasted for several hours and speeches were given by Mehdi Arabshahi, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, Abbas Hakimzadeh, and Masoud Safiri about the convergence of opposition groups.

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Ms. Davoodi mentioned that opposition groups never took action in turning the idea of “free election” to reality. Elsewhere in her remarks, she also said that the Iranian opposition expects women to follow men and does not consider women’s rights in practice.

Safiri who is a journalist talked about the issue of media in Iran, noting that the opposition does not have a good understanding of the audience. He said a world-wide satellite channel could be very beneficial but required proper financial and technical support.

Arabshahi, a former member of Tahkim-Vahdat (a student political organization in Iran) mentioned that the opposition groups somehow have turned in to political parties and as a result, have lost their public popularity and influencing factors. He said that these oppositions groups should start thinking about unity and convergence.

Alireza Kiani, the panel moderator asked Hakimzadeh about the role of Iranian students living outside Iran. In response, reminded students that these activities should be considered as political activities with potential impacts. He discussed that any unity among the opposition groups should be formed with regard to the political situation inside Iran and perhaps the right time has not come yet.


Translated by: A. Bonakdar

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