Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Does Khatami's appeal to religious tolerance extend to the Iranian people?

September 7, 2006- At a press conference held at the National Press Club today, former political prisoners and survivors of torture in Iran, and activists working in opposition to the Iranian regime, and members of the United States Congress comprised the panel, expressing their disapproval of the State Department’s decision to grant Mohammad Khatami, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a visa to enter the United States. Mr. Khatami’s visit culminates in a lecture scheduled at the National Cathedral on how understanding and communication among the Abrahamic faiths can facilitate the peace process in the world today. Mr. Khatami is often seen as a moderate who is sympathetic to establishing friendly ties with the West.

However, at the press conference several panelists testified to the persistence of grave human rights violations throughout Mr. Khatami’s term of office from 1997 to 2005. Despite Mr. Khatami’s reformist discourse promising the expansion of civil freedoms, the regime continued to imprison, torture, and carry out extrajudicial executions of political and religious dissidents, women’s rights activists, students and ethnic minorities. It was the panelists’ concern that while Mr. Khatami was allowed to preach a message of international religious tolerance and cooperation, the Iranian people would not be subject to the same treatment on a national level.

Discussion of the current security threat posed by the Iranian government pointed to the regime’s unrelenting record as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and its refusal to comply with the international community’s nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Senator Sam Brownback, using language borrowed from the current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused President Bush and his administration of adopting a “bow down and surrender” policy towards Iran. He attributed the failure to fully address and resolve Iranian nuclear proliferation issue to a soft policy of “making concession after concession without asking for anything in return.” Along with Rep. Brad Sherman, Brownback called for a more hard-line approach through the UN Security Council’s full implementation of sanctions against Iran.

Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Iranian ruler Mohammad Reza Shah and an active leader in the opposition effort, appealed to all Iranians to put aside their political and ideological differences in order to stand united against the Islamic Regime in Iran. He denounced Khatami and his rhetoric as “double-talk and deception” used as a method to buy the regime more time to accomplish their nuclear aspirations. While many panelists, themselves victims of arbitrary imprisonment and torture, expressed the need for a unified Iranian effort bulwarked by international financial and political support, they were firm to condemn any attempts for regime change by use of a foreign military force. On the issue of sanctions, however, they remained divided about whether such tactics are necessary and effective.


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