February 10, 2013
Many Texas Iranian Americans and top United States political leaders gathered in Washington on Saturday, at the National Convention of Iranian American Communities, to talk about their efforts to create a democratic Iran.
The event changed gears from nuclear non-proliferation and democracy to become an unexpected vigil following news of a horrifying event within the Iranian expatriate community.
Early Saturday morning, Camp Hurriya, a former United States military base known as Camp Liberty just outside Baghdad, was attacked by rockets, reportedly killing six or seven and injuring dozens, the BBC reported. The camp held many members of the Iranian resistance group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), an exiled group supporting the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is not yet known who was behind the attacks.
Former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison spoke at the event to hundreds of Iranian-Americans about her support to one day see Iran as a democratic society.
“While America does play a unique role in the world, certainly I’m glad they do, we cannot take this one a lone. We’ve tried sanctions from America, that didn’t work,” Hutchison said. “It takes a global initiative, to take this challenge on and be serious about success.
Last week, both Vice President Joe Biden and newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry urged Iranian officials to participate in discussions concerning its nuclear program. Currently, the U.S. government has sanctions and is in diplomatic talks to approach the Iranian government about their nuclear program. However, the Obama administration has indicated it will use military force to refrain Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Other speakers at the event included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., former Pennsylvanian and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, among others.
“This is a country that put a man on the moon and you mean to tell me we can’t get 3,000 people out of there safely? Nonsense,” Mukasey said as the crowd rose to their feet in applause.
Though many of the speakers admitted they came prepared for a slightly different discussion, they all expressed their condolences. Many were outraged at U.S. and United Nations officials for not doing enough for the exiled Iranians.
For Mihim Shaikh, a Dallas resident who attended, she is tearfully thinking of her parents.
The 33-year-old said her parents, who were residents at Camp Liberty and though are not named among the dead, she does not know if they are safe or among the many critically injured.
As she watched the aftermath on an Iranian news station early Saturday morning, she said she could only think of her 19-month-old daughter.
“All I could think about is her never seeing her grandparents, because I never did,” she said, dabbing away a tear from her cheek.
Shaikh’s parents sent her to America to live with an aunt and uncle in Fort Worth when she was nine.
“I’m here because I want to support the cause. I’m here for me people because they don’t have a voice in Iran,” she said.
Among the crowd, roughly 200 Texas Iranian Americans made the trip to the event, said Ali Soudjani, president of the Iranian-American Society of Texas.