Many perspectives have been analyzed by Iranian experts of the benefits derived from the Iranian revolution during the post June 12 elections. Whether these perspectives deal with Khameini’s fading luster or the obvious, and now open split, among the Mullahs of Iran, they in fact changed, from the little that we have read, the landscape enough to haunt the Iranian regime going forward and expose its weaknesses.
But on the periphery of the central events in Iran and the violence against the Iranian people at the hands of a government more interested in power than religion, lies a blessing that has drawn little attention. Its strategic value, yet immeasurable, has within its core the possibilities of advancing the cause of freedom, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East against the backdrop of little international support to the same core values the world was united behind when it came to freedom, democracy, and human rights against the Apartheid system in South Africa.
One of the major frailties easily exposed by any Middle East opposition is the lack of unity among the different groups. Sometimes, this dissidence among dissidents runs across political ideologies and sometimes it runs across personalities with uncontrollable ambitions. Regardless, these fissures reveal enough to dissuade government officials, third-party essential support, and the public to embrace our just cause. Often, we are our own worst enemies.
But the remarkable thing we were privileged to witness over the last two weeks is that while we, in the Syrian opposition, tend to fight among ourselves or disagree over a certain policy or strategy, we seem eager to coalesce with the Iranian opposition in support of their cause.
As an example, we know many Syrians who participated in peaceful marches in Paris and Washington side by side with their Iranian brothers. Their Blogs kindled the Internet and their outrage at the Iranian government response against unarmed marchers is no less than their outrage at the Syrian government crack down against freedom of expression.
The same could be said of many Syrians who stood by the Lebanese in support of their democracy and sovereignty. Names that come to mind are Abdul Razzak Eid, Michel Kilo (Who was just released after a 3-years sentence), Anwar al-Bunni (Who remains jailed for his support of democracy in Syria and Lebanon), and thousands more.
On June 23, we was invited to a US Congress panel by US Congresswoman Sue Meyrick (R – NC) along with three other Iranian dissident groups to discuss freedom for Iran. To our surprise, CBS and Fox News cameras were present because the event, at 3 pm, was conceived as a response to president Obama’s own press conference on the subject of Iran’s revolution. The one he used to finally respond to the killing and clubbing of the Iranian people some 11 days after they revolted.
Armed with representing many Middle East organizations such as the World Council for the Cedar’s Revolution, a Lebanese organization dedicated to Lebanon’s independence from Syrian hegemony and democracy, The Yekiti Kurdish Party, led by Abdul Baset Hammou in Europe, The Middle East Coalition, representing other Middle East groups, including the precious minorities in the Middle East, we sat, as Arabs and fellow Muslims, among three Iranian organizations eager to tell the Obama administration how wrong it is the defend violent men against peaceful, pro-western freedom fighters.
The three Iranians present were Dr. Saeed Ganji (Secretary General – National Union For Democracy in Iran), Manda Zand Ervin (Founder and director of the Alliance of Iranian Women), and Ghazal Omid (Founder and director of Iran & Its Future.org). All were arguing for US support for the Iranian people against the Mullahs. The combination of logical arguments and bursting emotions delivered by the panel in front of a large crowd of US Congress staffers, US State Department officials, and news organizations sharply contrasted the early responses promoted by the US administration. Arabs, Farsis, and Kurds, Shia and Sunnis, men and women, all united behind Iranian freedom.
Syrians stand by their fellow Iranians because of common values and because we feel a connection due to exposure to an extremist government the way we are exposed to extremism. Iran, as a nation, stands tall because of the pride of its people, so do Syrians because of our rich history in the region. Tyranny, in its religious or secular shape, has no place in the world today, but apparently these ideas are not universal and sharing them has become a burden on any movement fighting for freedom and human rights.
Black holes in space, the latest theories have determined, are not really black nor motionless. Rather, they are brimming with activities as tiny, negatively charged matter converges unto the lips of a black hole. The result, still unseen to the naked eye, is like an evening in Washington DC on the fourth of July. Similiarly, the Middle East is one big black hole because of lack of freedom and democracy. While it looks silent and motionless, in reality there is a firework of extremism glowing at its core. By the time our naked eyes see the glow, it is another 9/11 all over again.
Defending regimes who oppress their people is morally broke. It invites extremism, ignorance, and inert civilizations unable to cope with the rest of the world. Even under the worst of circumstances, real leaders can find a balance between protecting US interests and defending human rights at the same time. If president Reagan succeeded, president Obama can too. Who among his gatekeepers understand that the greatness of the US can demand that its interests be respected while defending universal rights of mankind is a question we are all asking.