February 13, 2010
Thursday night was a humbling experience. I interviewed two British Iranian men who had fled the brutal theocracy that has been Iran for the past 31 years.
One’s uncle had been executed. The other’s wife was arrested for opposing the regime. He was allowed to visit her in Evin prison and saw how bruised and emaciated her body had become. He encouraged her to stay strong and do what she could to comply with the authorities.
A few weeks later he had a visit from a government official who told him she had been executed.
The two men both spoke without any bitterness. Instead they have decided to channel their energy into opposing President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei.
They hope one day to be able to participate in a democratic Iran where free elections are normal.
Granted Iran has more elections than we do in the UK but to stand for election for political office you have to be approved by the Guardian Council, which means you have to adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam.
The two men described how 30,000 Iranians were massacred by their own government in 1988 (the official figure was 33,480). In 1996 human rights organisations were thrown out of Iran. 90% of Iranians are opposed to the regime.
They said the only answer was for full economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran.
But surely that would just hurt the people? They responded that the people are already hurt. They are impoverished. 70% live under the poverty line. They reckoned $80 billion to $90 billion has been spent supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
They reminded us how Iran executes minors and how both women and men are stoned to death. The executions are still continuing at quite a pace.
This is a regime that understands that when the Shah showed contrition in 1979, under pressure from President Carter, he quickly fell. The current regime won’t be cowed into making the same mistake.
Two young men were executed last month for taking part in recent protests. Nine more will follow shortly. All for the “crime” of protesting.
In an ideal world sanctions would work, the regime would fall and then Ms Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, would become the President of Iran for six months. This would pave the way for free and fair elections to take place after that time. Ms Rajavi currently resides in France.
Ordinary Iranians will no doubt suffer terribly under sanctions but they are suffering already.
However, as the Revolutionary Guard controls the economy the scene could be set for its possible fragmentation and weakening. With vastly reduced funds to pay off the Guard both President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei could soon find themselves being led to the same scaffolds they have sent so many innocents.
The Iranians would be free to determine their own lives and they would have increased resources with which to do it. Iran could try to repatriate the $80bn to $90bn that has gone into the coffers of Hamas and Hezbollah for starters.
Another positive effect would be the huge knock taken by political Islam. The end of theocratic Iran would also commence the demise of Hamas and Hezbollah and allow the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations after a 10 year hiatus.
With no funds from Iran Hamas would lose support as the Gazans realise Hamas is a busted flush.
This all sounds idealistic but then so was the end of the dictatorial Shah in 1979.
Today from 12.30 to 3pm there is a pro-democracy demonstration at Parliament Square in London.
It is an opportunity to show solidarity and to try to help get this process rolling.
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