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Open Letter to Iran’s Nobel Laureate: Part 2

Dear Ms. Ebadi:

Rostam Pourzal, “Open Letter to Iran’s Nobel Laureate: Part 1 “ (27 February 2006)

Poet Khosro Naaqed, a prominent promoter of your reformist coalition, demonstrated in a published commentary last summer why a majority in Iran is now disillusioned with your “democracy” project.  As you know, he speaks for almost all Iranian reformists when he advocates the privatization of government and the deregulation of the economy.  Urging the party faithful to remain confident after losing in the June presidential elections, Naaqed complacently predicted that the “calm, natural” trend toward letting “people” take charge would eventually prevail over the “violence” of populist government.  Your commentary in the 19 January 2006 issue of the International Herald Tribune indicates that you share Naaqed’s definition of peace and progress.

Ordinary Iranians need not be historians to know that advance of the so-called free-market “democracy” is, on the contrary, accomplished by systematic uprooting and brutality in the name of law.  They experienced it during the rule of the deposed Shah and they have seen it in Indochina, Indonesia, South Africa, Chile, Nicaragua, Colombia, Yugoslavia, Palestine, Iraq, and dozens of other blood-soaked places.  That awareness explains the reluctance of the vast majority of Iranians to join you in decisive action against the current government in Iran.

In 1978-79, Iranians overpowered one of the mightiest police states the world has known with bare hands, against the wishes of global powers.  I challenge you to explain why you believe our people could not do the same today, if they wished to, without the foreign help that you advocate.

You need to put down Thomas Friedman‘s The Lexus and the Olive Tree and pay more attention to what actually goes on in our world, Ms. Ebadi.  You need to stop believing, as do the self-described saviors who organized last summer’s Live8 concerts worldwide, that George Bush and Tony Blair can deliver humanity from the misery the duo have inflicted on the world.  The real frontiers of freedom and human rights today stretch from the “Battle of Seattle” to the World Social Forum, of which you make no mention in your published commentary.  Your reformist coalition has lost the confidence of most Iranians NOT because it calls for the separation of mosque and state.  Rather, you have alienated your most important constituency because you have failed to press for the separation of corporate interests from politics.

The US Democratic Party suffers from a similar self-afflicted ailment.  It stands heroically for women’s right to abortion, as it should.  It would also protest the separation of tens of thousands of “guest worker” women in the United States from their children in Latin America for years, if the separation were mandated by a religious decree.  But my liberal American friends keep quiet about the global dispersion of low-wage moms because it is a result of capital-driven globalization instead.  I challenge you, Ms. Ebadi, to join me in condemning the mistreatment of women by Wal-Mart, evidenced in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 1.6 million of them, as much as you protest the unequal treatment of women under Iran’s family law.

Iranian reformists focus exclusively on government wrongdoing, conveniently neglecting that today’s world is equally misruled by multinational corporations which lack transparency.  You have asked Western investors and their partner, the World Bank, to help correct human rights abuses in Iran.  I hate to burst your bubble, Ms. Ebadi, but you are in effect asking unelected entities to teach democracy to an elected government!  That is hardly a healthy way to promote transparency, because now the whole world knows that the private sector has corrupted the US government to the bone.

You insist in your published commentary that Iran’s nuclear program is less transparent than it should be.  You do not mention that no nation on earth has a more transparent nuclear program, not even your favorite “Western democracies.”  The darling state of Israel kidnapped its nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, from the streets of Europe and kept him in prison for 18 years, much of it in solitary confinement.  He is barred even after his release from speaking to reporters or leaving Israel.

The only country in all of history that agreed to more technological transparency than Iran was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq after it was defeated in the first Gulf War.  We all know what happened after that transparency rendered Iraq defenseless.  I personally do not believe in nuclear power or nuclear weapons.  But I do believe in the sovereign right of Iranians to remain free of foreign aggression and domination.  It is the preeminent human right, before all else.  Yet you have rarely defended that human right unequivocally.

The stated premise of your invitation to the West to intervene in Iran is that NATO governments are accountable and Iran is not.  That argument suffers from two inconsistencies.  First, by now every teenager in the world knows that US and UK leaders lied repeatedly to get public support for the invasion of Iraq and that they now refuse with all their might to be held accountable for their murderous lies.  It is also well known that they try their utmost to hide from the public the facts of their kidnap-and-torture policies in the name of “national security.”

Nor is it a secret anymore that this new generation of Cold Warriors operates political prisons in undisclosed locations and hides selected prisoners even when the Red Cross is allowed to inspect a detention facility.  Since you are a professional lawyer, Ms. Ebadi, I would like to know how you consider this system “accountable.”

Furthermore, as you well know, the US has been ferrying dozens, perhaps hundreds, of political prisoners to Middle Eastern countries where they can be interrogated more efficiently.  Given NATO’s need for such services, do you honestly believe that the Atlantic powers want unaccountable Middle East governments to cease to exist?  Just whom are we kidding here?

You warn of Iran’s further isolation in what is euphemistically called “the international community.”  This is similar to the arguments of John Bolton and other neoconservatives who ridicule the United Nations for having “rogue” nations on its human rights agencies.  It is like saying, “Real men don’t negotiate with non-whites!”  Too bad the world’s citizenry does not agree with this colonial propaganda.  I am sure you were not watching when, five weeks prior to the Iraq invasion, well over ten millions of the world’s best citizens filled the streets on all continents to say no to the imperial agenda.  No one has interrupted you to point out that surveys in almost every country in Europe and elsewhere show the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the war on Iraq.  Yet you do not consider the imperial “democracies” isolated.

You may even have skipped the news when the American president’s arrival ceremonies in European capitals switched from an open-top limousine and motorcade to a hurried helicopter ride out of the airport.  Was it not to avoid the angry demonstrators that Bush’s strategy meeting with Blair and the Spanish prime minister before the invasion of Iraq was held offshore instead on the Spanish mainland?  Or perhaps you did not hear that the White House scrapped George Bush’s addresses at Canada’s and Pakistan’s parliaments for fear of heckling from elected representatives?  If these are not signs that your dream “democracies” are rouge and isolated, what are they?


Based in Washington, DC, Rostam Pourzal writes about the politics of human rights for Iranian expatriate journals.


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