04 December 2003

Iranian Opposition Supporters Voice Discontent with Regime

AEI hosts radio talk show connecting U.S. and Iran

By Afzal Khan
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- The growing opposition to the Islamic regime in Iran found expression during an intercontinental radio talk show connecting Iranian opposition supporters with Iranian Americans December 3.

The event was organized by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and was broadcast live by the Farsi-language radio station "Radio Sedaye Iran (KRSI)" that broadcasts daily into Iran from Los Angeles, California. A panel of Iranian-American activists invited by AEI joined in the discussions with opposition activists from within Iran participating by phone.

The callers from Iran, who used pseudonyms for security reasons, were united in their belief that the so-called reforms promised by the Islamic regime are a sham and that true freedom and democracy can only return to Iran with the removal of the "mullah-ridden" government there.

A caller identifying herself as a housewife said, "We gave President Khatami six and a half years to impose his reforms, but nothing has happened. We don't trust him," she said

The housewife, who claimed to be a member of the "activist" movement in Iran, said that democracy cannot "co-exist" with an Islamic regime, and that religion must be divorced from government.

Asked what the United States can do to help the democracy movement in Iran, she said the U.S. government must not "support" or encourage the Islamic regime. Instead, the Bush administration should "boycott" the regime, she said.

She said she was part of a large group of Iranians who on September 11, 2001 took part in a candlelight procession. "Many of us were arrested and taken to solitary cells," she said.

A student under the pseudonym of "Ms. Nargess" called on the United States to play "a bigger role" against the Islamic regime by providing support to the opposition media.

"Nargess" said that as a woman living in Iran, she wanted a secular government, not an Islamic one.

The third caller, identifying himself as a university professor, said that Iranians for the last 25 years have been denied freedom.

He said the 65 million people in Iran have "God-given rights" and that they should be allowed to hold a referendum to choose their government, "be it a monarchy or a Khomeini-like one."

The professor urged Iranians living abroad to help the opposition. He pointed out that radio programs beamed into Iran need to be more sophisticated and have "interesting programs" such as on human rights, instead of just rhetoric against the Islamic regime.

A fourth caller said that he is "a handicapped man" as a result of wounds suffered during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

He said he is a practicing Muslim who wanted the opposition to be more organized. "We want the United States to recognize us," he said.

The fifth caller, "Hassan," said he too was handicapped from wounds sustained in the Iran-Iraq war.

"Hassan" said the highly touted reforms are "done and finished" and the people in Iran are "fed-up and cannot take it anymore."

The sixth caller, describing himself as a poet, complained about the dire economic conditions facing many Iranians. He said he knew many jobless people who eat just one meal a day of "only potatoes and no meat or chicken."

In answer to a question from AEI moderator, Danielle Pletka, a caller identifying herself as "Miss Iran" said activists in the student movement were going to boycott the parliamentary elections planned by the regime in February.

Another caller, "Mohammad," said that "two months ago" posters to boycott the elections began appearing on walls.

The four Iranian-American panelists who took part in the dialogue were:

-- Manda Zand Ervin, the founder and president of the International Alliance of Iranian Women, which draws international attention to human rights abuses against the women and children of Iran;

-- Roozbeh Farahanipour, a writer and journalist who is a founder-organizer of "Hezbeh Marzeh Por Gohar" (The Glorious Frontiers Party), which has been outlawed by the regime;

-- Ramin Parham, of the newly founded Iran Institute for Democracy;

-- Aryo Pirouznia, who worked with the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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