Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dangerous Political Blunders in Iranian Ethnic Affairs -By: Faryar Nikbakht

Marze Por Gohar:

The American Enterprise Institute's planned conference on "Federalism in Iran" on October 26th 2005, has already succeeded in discrediting this institution in the eyes of almost all credible Iranian opposition forces and has demonstrated its lack of understanding of Iranian issues. A conference which includes at least two known hate mongering and separatist speakers who do not even represent real trends among their claimed constituency (The so called Azeri and the Arab "representatives"), while noticeably excluding serious representatives from amongst other Iranians of "Persian" ethnicity is clearly exploring a dangerous separatist agenda in a volatile region.

While the Iranian Baluch speaker has already cancelled his appearance and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran may do the same, we hope that the AEI will postpone the conference altogether, until such time that the subject of Iranian ethnicities, their problems, demands and solutions can be brought up in a truly representative fashion, and in a productive atmosphere.

The following points may help understand the issue and plan for a sustained effort aimed at uniting all Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic in order to replace the current regime with a democracy tailor made to the needs of all segments of the Iranian society:

1- The territorial integrity of Iran, is clearly a paramount issue in the eyes of the vast majority of Iranians of all ethnicities. Separatist efforts in Iran, apart from their devastating economic and human costs, foster so much hate and violence (as it has done in the past history of our country and is observed on the internet these days) that events of Yugoslavia in the 1990s will pale in comparison. This is not just the issue of the "majority" against any "minority" but it is also a matter of different ethnicities as well, just as the bloody ethnic clashes of 1979 briefly but brutally demonstrated; with the Gharnaa massacre of Kurds as one case in point.

2- Recent history has shown that the abandonment of Bush 41's correct policy of retaining Yugoslavia's territorial integrity and bowing to European greed and adventurism devastated a country and its people for generations to come at the cost of hundreds of thousands from all sides being massacred and millions from all sides being uprooted, while foreign terrorists of Al Qaedah and the Islamic Republic gained permanent footholds there with the blessing of the international powers, causing the later Kosovo war and future wars to come. The current policy of Bush 43, in support of establishing democracy in Iran while respecting its territorial integrity is another positive commitment, the abandonment of which will place Iran's future in a dark zone of instability and human tragedy.

3- Extremely emotional issues such as challenging Iranian territorial integrity will and has already pushed segments of the Iranian opposition towards the Islamic Republic, in particular, those sections of the opposition who are always seeking excuses for reconciliation with the Mullahs or those who consider the ruling Ayatullahs closer to themselves (based on religious and linguistic affinities) than the ethnic peoples and organizations that oppose the regime.

4- The sensitive issues of ethnicity, nationality, federalism, autonomy, decentralized democracy, linguistic, religious and cultural rights and etc. are all legitimate concerns of all Iranians which have not been discussed among different segments of our society except during short historical junctures in the past, or at the point of a gun. The subject is "new" to many Iranian activists and not surprisingly harsh words are the first reaction of all sides. It is certain that hot bullets will follow unless this dialogue becomes part of the Iranian political culture, just as the much feared, ridiculed and often suppressed anathema of Western Democracy has recently become an acceptable dialogue.

5- The AEI, seems to have lost yet another opportunity to become a mediator for unity among Iranians opposed to the IRI, at a time when a surprisingly wide spectrum of the opposition trusted the AEI as a strong supporter for a regime change and for democracy in Iran. This blunder is much larger than the catering of AEI and WI to former Revolutionary Guards and IRI elements such as Khomeini's grandson who was welcomed despite all warnings and went right back to Iran joining with Khamenei in person, ridiculing the "simple minded Americans".

6- The issue of unity is a two way proposition. Our Kurdish, Azeri, Arab, Baluch and other beloved compatriots must know that if they seek out support, understanding and unity with their fellow Iranians of diverse ethnic identities, they will find it following a sustained dialogue and serious negotiations. All Iranians must recognize the hard fact, that without each other we cannot reach our common and even specific goals and by ourselves alone we will either devastate ourselves and our future generations (worse than what we have done before) or we shall beg for a separate peace with the brutal) regime (just as some have done in the past) and be separately gunned down and be destroyed by it (again, as some have tragically experienced).

Faryar Nikbakht

Founder of Committee for Religious Minority Rights in Iran

Activist in Iranian Democratic and Political Issues


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