OIAC Virtual Event

OIAC Nationwide Virtual Conference Supports

Organization of Iranian American Communities Nationwide Virtual Conference
Written by OIAC

Regime Change by Iranians
Calls for Snapback of UN Sanctions

On Thursday, May 21, 2020, Iranian-American communities from across the U.S. held their first-ever virtual conference, entitled “Iran: Global Threat, Domestic Repression, Prospects for Change.” There were over 1,000 points simultaneously linked together on ZOOM from some 40 states. In each point, one or more members or associates of the Iranian American communities were connected during this 90-minute event.

The open-ended conversation focused on the ongoing efforts to improve US-Iran relations and support the creation of a free and democratic Iran. With several of the speakers making stirring speeches and emphatically stating their commitment to human rights, the virtual conference inspired all who took part to redouble their efforts to liberate the Iranian people.

Several former U.S. officials addressed the event: the first U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge; former New Jersey Democratic senator, Robert Torricelli; and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Kenneth Blackwell.

An impressive lineup of representatives and leaders of the Iranian-American communities spoke briefly on various aspects of the Iranian situation and what U.S. policymakers should take away from it. Moderator Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad, an OIAC Advisory Board member, explained that the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) was “as eager as ever and proud” to continue its efforts for a free Iran, and in the current circumstances would do so “in person or virtually.”

Secretary Ridge lauded all those standing for freedom in Iran. “The more the world learns of the commitment, the passion, and the courage of the freedom fighters of Iran, the more and more the world embraces their cause as its own. And that’s very, very important.” Ridge reminded everyone of the gospel song “We Shall Overcome,” saying, “’Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.’ And then the next stanza begins with ‘We walk hand in hand.’” Quoting from the lyrics of the song, Secretary Ridge highlighted the desire of the Iranian people who are demanding to “be free to go forward. We’re not going back to the monarchy. We’re going to reject this repressive theocracy and we’ll be free.”

“Some of the most visible heroes and heroines of this battle for a new and free and 21st century Iran, are the heroes and heroines and men and women of Ashraf 3”, home in Albania to some three thousand members of the main Iranian opposition, the MEK. Ridge recalled his own efforts working for this cause, “along with so many other Republicans and Democrats for almost 15 years,” and highlighted three characteristics of the Iranian Resistance, i.e., courage, resilience, and global resistance.

Robert Torricelli, former Democratic senator from New Jersey, talked about bi-partisan support for U.S. policy regarding Iran and the need for snapback of the U.N. sanctions on the Iranian regime. “I know that the regime is undoubtedly telling the Iranian people, ‘Don’t worry.  We’ll wait out Donald Trump.  This is just him.’  It’s not just him.  This is completely bipartisan.  As you saw with the killing of Soleimani, President Trump may have ordered it, but I didn’t see much opposition. So will the snapback be bipartisan, and so will the continuation of American sanctions until the regime is ended.”

Torricelli added, “These are desperate moments for the mullahs; they’re really only attacking two entities—the United States government and President Trump, … and Mrs. Rajavi and the MEK.  What does that tell you?  They’re not attacking any other opposition group … That’s not by chance. They know that the orchestration, the organization, the sacrifice, the work that is going to bring down this regime, other than the United States and our Western allies and human rights organizations, is going to come from one place, … the National Council of Resistance and the MEK and Mrs. Rajavi. She alone has the credibility, the resources, the will to make the sacrifices, has the international network, and the support to do this.” Highlighting the impact of the movement, Torricelli said, “At the moment, only Mrs. Rajavi and the MEK is in communication with … the Western world. Only the MEK has the people inside Iran in the resistance groups who can combine and support, and resources in the West, and the people on the ground in Iran.”

Ambassador Blackwell said, “The Trump administration has committed to an all out government approach to really pushing back against a regime that is at the epicenter of international terrorism and disregard for human rights.  Just yesterday, the State Department and the Treasury basically tagged 12 individuals and entities for their violation of human rights and their acts against humanity last year during the uprising in Iran.”

Emphasizing the important role of exposing the regime’s atrocities, Blackwell said, “We must speak about those students [Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi] who the State Department talked about on May 10th, that were arrested and tortured.  And for 26 days, you had complete denial on the part of the regime.”

Blackwell embraced “the spirit and the commitment of all of you within this network within the NCRI coalition, and I lock arms with Mrs. Rajavi and the MEK as we lead the way to make sure that international justice is met and that the regime in Iran is ousted.”

Ms. Soona Samsami, the U.S. Representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, joined the conference from Washington, DC. She said, “There is a single solution for coronavirus, for poverty, for oppression, for terrorism, and for Tehran’s global threat.  That solution is overthrowing the mullahs’ religious dictatorship in its entirety by the people of Iran. The international community should stand on the side of the Iranian people and their resistance. The world will be a safer place with a free Iran.”

The NCRI representative talked about the Iranian regime’s campaign to advance its objectives. “While the resistance escalates against the Iranian regime, the mullahs spend huge amounts of money to demonize the resistance. Tehran has funded its agents, proxies, and its various lobbies to wage hysteric attacks against the NCRI, the MEK, and the leadership of the resistance, and the focus is on Ashraf 3 in Albania.”

She added, “The success of the Iranian resistance has only made the regime more hysterical. But make no mistake, experience shows that these demonization campaigns by the Iranian regime are preludes to terror operations. To reach its objective, the mullahs have resorted to dirty tactics such as exploiting the families of the Ashraf 3 residents, or the arrest and intimidation of their family members in order to break the will of MEK members. All to no avail.”

Samsami urged the United States to “use its leverage at the United Nations Security Council to facilitate the snap back of all prior UNSC sanctions in response to the Iranian regime’s non-compliance with its own commitments. Afterall, no relief, now or a few years down the road, should be provided to the Iranian regime.”

Mr. Aref Alvandi, the community rep from Maryland, emphasized, “Our message is that we stand with millions of Iranians protesting the regime of the mullahs as they shout ‘down with Khamenei, down with Rouhani.’” He paid tribute to the more than 1,500 people massacred in two major uprisings in the last several months, adding, “The days of this regime are numbered. No one better than the mullahs gets this message loud and clear. … we call on our policy makers to continue to stand with the people of Iran and keep the maximum pressure on this regime.”

Dr. Afsaneh Maghsoudi, the representative of Iranian American Cultural Society of Michigan, warned, “The mullahs’ domestic repression, terrorism and nuclear expansion has a new tool, and that is COVID19. Zarif is using it to lobby and get sympathy for his dying regime. Rouhani is using it to distract the public from his utter failure. Khamenei is using it as a strategy to give his regime a lifeline. The Revolutionary Guards are using it for repression.” She stressed that “any sanctions relief for the regime under the cover of helping the victims of the pandemic is a lie… Medical assistance should go directly to the people.”

Speaking on behalf of the community of Kentucky, Dr. Nader Ehsani spoke of “the wave of prison rebellions and escapes in more than 10 cities.” He said the public is rushing to aid the escapees and has given them refuge. “We all are so moved by the message of resistance coming from the political prisoners,” Dr. Ehsani added. “They urge all of us to be their voice, to ensure our journey to a free Iran is not distracted with the regime’s propaganda and plots.”

Ms. Hasti Hesami, a student at UT who represented Texas, brought a message for “the brave students who carry on the legacy of the student protests which played a historic role in political developments during and after the 1979 revolution.” Ms. Hesami recalled that “the founders of Iran’s main opposition group, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, emerged from the vibrant culture of the student movement, and the MEK organization continues to carry the torch today.” The slogans chanted by today’s Iranian students, she emphasized, demonstrate they have learned the lessons of the past: “Neither the crown, nor the turban. The mullahs are goners.”

The Iranian American Community of Southern California was represented by Mr. Mohammad Omidvar, who focused his remarks on regional meddling. “Through proxy forces and the funding of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, the regime has pressed for control in regional politics and hegemony in the Middle East. Thankfully, given the maximum pressure, sanctions and elimination of terror masters like Qasim Suleimani, Iran’s Supreme Leader is no longer able to be as effective in Iraq, Syria or the entire region,” Mr. Omidvar noted.

Dr. Saied Sadjadi, the IAC president for Kansas, explained how the Tehran regime is operating from a point of weakness, not strength. He endorsed the call for a snap back of sanctions.

Mrs. Batool Zamani, the President of Iranian American Community of Georgia, spoke of the 10-point plan of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, which she described as “visionary, forward-looking, progressive and in line with the spirit of 100 years of Iranians’ struggle for freedom and justice.” Listing the issues of the Plan (“separation of church and state, free and fair elections, multi-party system, abolishment of death penalty, gender equality, rule of law, commitment to universal declaration of human rights and all other UN treaties, free market economy, peaceful coexistence, regional cooperation and a non-nuclear Iran”), Mrs. Zamani called on all U.S. leaders and policy makers “to stand with us for a free Iran.”

Farideh Sedighi of Northern California described the resistance units as “representing the depth and reach of Iranians’ call for change. A call that is authentic, home grown, has a history of resistance and is willing to pay the price for a free Iran. It is this call that clarifies who the real alternative to this regime is.” Ms. Sedighi emphasized that “All those who pose as alternatives but actually would take us back to the dictatorship of the past are rejected by the people of Iran,” declaring that the “The only alternative that stands out and resonates with the call for change in Iran… is the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its pivotal member organization, the MEK.”

The next speakers – a mother, daughter, and granddaughter, represented three generations of supporters of the Iranian Resistance. Ms. Joanne McIntosh spoke of her life in Iran during the 1979 Revolution, the hostage crisis, and the reign of terror launched against pro-democracy forces by Khomeini. “I became acquainted with the MEK during those early years, and 4 decades later, the resilience and integrity of their Resistance movement still gives me hope for the future of Iran, Ms. McIntosh said.

Her daughter, Ms. Hannane Amanpour, spoke of her late father, slain by the Iranian regime in 1988–one of the more than 120,000 Iranians killed in this struggle.  “I honor his memory and his sacrifice for freedom and democracy in Iran,” she said. “I would like to one day visit the beautiful homeland of my father, a nation with great culture, magnificent people and a significant role to play to make the world a safer place. I hope my daughter Alia will join me on that day.”

Her daughter, 16-year-old Alia Amanpour Trapp, said, “I never met my grandfather, but he has always been a part of who I am, and his life and death have shaped how I see the world. I am inspired by the youth in Iran, who are risking their lives to carry on the message of the resistance and my grandfather.”

“This movement is my heritage,” she said, “and that’s why I stand with the people of Iran and their call for democracy. I want to see a free Iran.”

Dr. Soolmaz Abooali, author and professor at George Mason University, told listeners, “For me the inspiration for a free Iran comes from the women’s movement and the brave young women and girls who risk their lives in every protest and rally as they shout, ‘down with the dictators.’” Addressing Tehran’s lobbying for sanction relief, Dr. Abooali said, “Let us not forget what the people shouted in nationwide protests: ‘Our enemy is here; don’t lie and say it’s the US.’ In my research and studies, I have yet to come across an Iranian who blames the maximum pressure policy by the US for the troubles at home.”

Bishop Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings said, “we call on freedom-loving people around the world to support and advance the national plan of President Elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi; A plan which includes support for a democratic, secular, non-nuclear republic, based on gender equality, and freedom of religion for all in Iran.”

Rev. Dr. Marcos A. Miranda from New York said, “this tyrannical regime continues to use threats, imprisonment and public executions as a means to silence the moral majority in Iran. But this will not last for much longer. The uprisings have begun and will not stop.”

The virtual conference closed with the message agreed upon by Iranian-American communities in 40 states, as follows:

  1. Change in Iran is evitable and the Iranian American communities stand in full solidarity with the people of Iran, the longest suffering victims of the mullahs’ regime. We fully support their call for regime change by the Iranian people, as evident in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 uprisings.
  2. The ruling mullahs, who are engaged in domestic repression, terrorism and nuclear expansion, have attempted to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. Any attempt to accommodate the mullahs’ political agenda in the context of the global pandemic is an affront to the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
  3. U.S. policy makers must heed the message of the Iranian people who say “down with the dictator,” and isolate the regime of Khamenei, and Rouhani.
  4. The future of Iran belongs to those who are willing to pay the price for a free Iran, the resistance units. It is time for the world community to stand on the side of the Iranian people, recognize their right to overthrow this regime and to support the 10-point plan presented by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi for the future of Iran.
  5. The Iranian regime’s human rights dossier must be referred to the U.N. Security Council for crimes against humanity, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials must be held accountable.
  6. Iranian Americans believe that the maximum pressure policy is the right approach and should be maintained. We call on the United States to ensure that the U.N. arms embargo on the regime is never lifted.
  7. Tehran is already in serious violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231, and thus it is now time for the U.S. to activate the snapback at the U.N. and ensure that all six prior UN Security Council resolutions are re-enacted and all prior sanctions are re-enforced on the regime.

 

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