Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Commentary on Iran

Ayatollah Boroujerdi represents an ideological threat to the Iranian regime.  He challenges the Khomeinist theory of the Velayat-e-Faghih, or the Supreme Jurist, from his vantage point as a Shi’ite cleric.  The regime is frightened of his ideas because he is opposed to the whole concept of a clerically governed society and because his ideological challenge comes from the within the ranks of the Shi’ite clergy.  For this reason, the regime has worked extremely hard to suppress both Ayatollah Boroujerdi and his followers. 

Ayatollah Boroujerdi was arrested in October, 2006, and originally sentenced to death.  The death sentence was commuted to 11 years in prison.  But given the tactics of this regime, I am certain that Ayatollah Boroujerdi will not be released until the regime falls.  If necessary the regime can invent any sort of pretext for extending his sentence because they really need no excuse to persecute him.

I am proud to call Dr. Roya Araghi, a former university professor and political prisoner, as my friend.  She is a follower of Ayatollah Boroujerdi who was arrested in November, 2010, and spent several months in prison before escaping Iran under cover of medical leave.  Dr. Araghi has escaped Iran, and so the regime can no longer imprison and persecute her directly.  Instead they are targeting her family in order to increase emotional pressure against her.   The Special Clerical Court threatened Dr. Araghi’s mother Ms. Homa Ghazanchaee as a means of intimidating her.

The ongoing persecution of Boroujerdi and his followers is a reminder to the world that the Iranian Islamist regime is an undemocratic and unjust system built upon oppression and radical Shi’ite Islamist intimidation.  As long as this regime remains in power, the human rights abuses and the political oppression will continue.  The difficult and complicated solution lies in developing a consensus for a democratic and secular alternative to the entire system of clerical rule.  The public opposition inside Iran has consisted primarily of reformists who favor deep structural change within the context of continued clerical rule.  But the secular democratic opposition has remained poorly organized inside Iran as a result of political oppression by the Islamist regime. 
The secular democratic forces also suffer from a feeling of being repeatedly abandoned by the West as they struggle to confront this regime.  Obama chose to side with the regime in 2009 when the reformists launched their protest movement against it.  Thus, the Iranian people know that they are on their own and cannot count on Western support in the event that they organize another uprising against this regime.  In addition, secular democrats fear that removing this regime will require large-scale bloodshed along the lines of the 1979 revolution.

But as long as this regime remains in power, the Iranian people will be forced to endure an ongoing  state of national captivity.  I support secular democracy and regime change in Iran and encourage Western intellectuals who care about the fate of the Iranian people to join me in strategizing about how we can help the Iranian freedom struggle.  We cannot do the hard and dangerous work of the Iranian people who are risking their lives and serving long prison terms in order to challenge this regime.  But we must assure the Iranian people that they are not alone in their struggle to regain their dignity, and that we support them and will not abandon them as our politicians have done.
Finally, I once again appeal to Israel and American Jews to find the courage and strategic foresight to support the Iranian freedom struggle.  Iranian secular democrats in exile have been begging for Jewish support for many years, and they are frustrated by the timid and weak-kneed Israeli policy of containment toward this regime.  The Islamist regime does not represent most Iranian people, who admire Israel and the Jews and would welcome their support in their struggle for secular democracy. 
The Israelis need to learn to think outside the box and realize that the Iranian people are their natural allies in the quest to remove this evil regime from power.  The removal of this regime would be in the interests of both the Jews and the Iranians.  It would liberate Iranians from a state of internal tyranny, torture, and murder.  It would liberate the Jews from a totalitarian regime which is openly dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the Jews.  It would allow a free Iran to develop either formal or informal diplomatic relations with Israel and the Jews, and it would lead to a restoration of the ancient and positive relationship between Iranians and Jews.   


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