Dr. Antonio Stango is the President of the Italian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
The image of bodies hanging from cranes for the “heinous” crimes of civil disobedience or perceived threat has become a common site to many in Iran.
At home the regime’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani is executing its citizens at a record rate – approximately 1,800 in total – a number that far exceeds even his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Under Rouhani, a Washington Post journalist has been arrested and left to rot in prison with thousands of others, without any real representation, for crimes they didn’t commit. And all the while, this leader says one thing to the West, while publicly trumpeting their deception, particularly on the nuclear issue, to the Iranian public.
It was under the shadow of this nuclear threat, during terrible upheaval in the Middle East and brutal oppression within Iran that the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) convened its conference on June 13th in Paris. The gathering was an important answer to the Western ordinary self-defeating policy of appeasement with the Iranian regime that has been full of self-congratulatory and convenient rhetoric, but has lacked nuance and the necessary skepticism.
About 100,000 participants, including scores of top politicians, diplomats, military experts, former heads of state and public figures spanning 60 countries were in attendance. Among those participating: A bi-partisan delegation from the U.S. Congress including members of the Foreign Relations Committee, General Hugh Shelton (former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff), Howard Dean (Former Chair of the Democratic National Committee), Alan Dershowitz (renowned Jurist and Human Rights Activist), former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, Michelle Alliot Marie (former Defense and Foreign Minister of France), Sid Ahmed Ghozali (former Prime Minister of Algeria), Gunter Verhugen (Former Vice President of the European Commission), Giulio Terzi (former Foreign Minister of Italy), MPs and NGOs leaders from all continents.
Though they came to the conference from across a wide political spectrum, participants voiced nearly unanimous agreement on the danger of the Iranian regime. Their thoughts echoed those expressed by over 220 members of the European Parliament who signed a statement sent to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. That statement included recognition of the Iranian regime’s domestic abuses:
“We are extremely worried about Iran’s despicable human rights records, recent arrest of women political activists and the sudden increase of executions especially after the preliminary nuclear agreement in April.”
It also included recognition of Iran’s paramount role in regional unrest:
“Iran is at the heart of the crisis in this region and not part of the solution. If fundamentalism and extremism is to be uprooted in this region, Iran’s destructive influence and interference should end.”
The conference also transcended these statements, delving into the wider regional issue of Islamic extremism and presenting a serious discussion on the acceptable parameters for negotiations with the ayatollahs.
What Mrs. Mayram Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, and other top experts stressed, was that a more realistic approach must be taken. It was clearly reminded that the policies of Iran and their satellite states, included Iraq and Syria, played a crucial role in the rise of ISIS. And on the issue of nuclear negotiations, there were strong statements against the need of taking into consideration domestic abuses within Iran and keeping in mind that the ayatollahs’ regime has proven itself completely untrustworthy time and again.
Just before the June 30th nuclear deadline, the message from all the participants in the great Paris event is clear. They may not be in the negotiating room with the P5+1 representatives, but they deserve the attention of those who are.