Paris, 15 June (IPS-NewsMax) A broad cross-section of Iranian political activists and organizations are holding a new meeting in Paris to create a "coordinating council" aimed at changing the present ruling theocratic system in Iran and help installing a democratic government in their country.
They are calling their movement "Iran Solidarity". "Iran Solidarity aims to bring together activists and organizations from across the political spectrum to build a bridge between groups working outside Iran and those working inside", Dr. Hossein Baqerzadeh, a human rights activist told NewsMax from London.
What we want to at this stage is to evaluate our potentials for continuing the struggle.
“What we want to this at this stage is to evaluate our potentials for continuing the struggle, set up two coordinating committees, one for Europe and another one for the United States to bring together all Iranians opposed to this regime and eventually, forming an Iranian government in exile”, one of the organizers told Iran Press Service.
"That is what Iran Solidarity is all about", one of the organizers said. "It's a new spirit of cooperation".
Organizers in Holland, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States who spoke to NewsMax on background, say they expect more than two hundred delegates to the invitation-only conference, which will be held from June 15-17.
Among the participants are well-known leftist activists, such as Kambiz Rousta and Dr. Hassan Massali, who opposed the former Shah and for years have been vilified by the monarchist camp.
Sitting next to them will be conservative former monarchists such as Mr. Shahriar Ahi, an advisor to Prince Reza Pahlavi, University Professor Dr. Shahin Fatemi, or Dr. Cyrus Amouzegar, a former government minister under the shah. Also at the table will be Mohsen Sazegara, a confidant of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini who helped to found the dreaded Revolutionary Guards but who broke with the regime in the late 1980s and was jailed repeatedly and tortured because of his calls for change and Ali Afshari, a former students leader.
"Some groups can't accept the new political realities that require reaching across party lines, and have said they will not come", said Baqerzadeh. "But we are not closing the door", he added.
It took nearly two years of intense and often frustrating political work before Baqerzadeh and other conference organizers got to this point.
During two earlier meetings in Berlin and London, they hammered out a common platform acceptable to Iranian opposition groups that range from supporters of the monarchy to Marxists and to former members of the Islamic regime.
"We're saying to everybody who wants to come, “Check your politics at the door”, one of the organizers told NewsMax. "Keep your political identity and your political philosophy, but stand together as we support the social and professional movements inside Iran. Stand together before world public opinion".
However, some of the participants are skeptic: “Belief in factors like democracy, political and individual freedom in a country with huge and complicated problems like Iran is not enough. The present Iranian society, the young and women who makes 70 per cent of Iran’s population have a different interpretation for freedom, especially the freedom of the individual”, observed Ahmad Ra’fat, a journalist who often talks to Iranian students and women activists in Iran observed.
“What Iranians outside are fighting for is quite different from what Iranians inside the country wants”, he noted in an article posted by “Gooya”, the most popular Iranian internet website.
What Iranians outside are fighting for is quite different from what Iranians inside the country wants.
“The problem with these meetings, conferences, alliances or coalitions is their unilateralism. The participants are gathered around opposition or anti-ism, leaving discussions and debates about the future and how solving problems in a complex and complicated country like Iran to the future”, he said in his article, referring to the Paris meeting.
“While here, the emphasis is still on the form of the regime, inside Iran, the focus of the opponents is the content. The students and youngsters want basic human freedoms; women want equality of rights, political as well as social. They say they don’t care about the name of the regime or whether the rulers are clerics or not, provided we get our rights”, he added, talking to IPS.
It is not the first time that Iranian opposition groups have come together across party lines, but without tangible and concert results. Eearlier attempts to create a broad-based coalition, dating back to 1997, all failed when one party tried to dominate the others.
In a discreet nod in the direction of the conference organizers, Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, who is expected to address the Paris meeting, appealed to European nations support the struggle for human rights and political freedom in Iran.
Addressing the Democracy and Security International Conference that was held in Prague on 5 and 6 June 2007 and at which appeared President George Bush, Mr. Pahlavi appealed to all democratic governments of the world, especially to the Europeans for solidarity with the people of Iran against a common enemy: Islamist preachers of intolerance who turn young men and women into walking bombs, shouting death to America, death to Israel, death to whosoever resists their murderous ideology.
“To the realpolitik cynics who say Islamist theocracy is a reality we have to live with, I respond: funny – they never said they can live with YOU! To those who say the theocrats can reform if we are nice to them, I say you do not know the difference between Islamist revolution and secular ones. Those who believe they speak with the absolute authority of Allah demand absolute submission”. ENDS OPPOSITION 14607
Editor’s note: Parts of this article was reprinted from an article by Mr. Kenneth Timmerman posted by NewMax on 5 June 2007
Highlights are by IPS