A History of the California Society for Democracy in Iran
California Society for Democracy in Iran (CSDI) has its roots in the activities of the Iranian-American student organizations who gathered to lend support to the 1979 anti-monarchy revolutionary movement in Iran. Universities and Colleges across California, from Berkeley to Los Angeles and San Diego were the places of gathering, demonstration, and served as the forum for the hundreds of Iranians in California who were eager to echo the wishes of millions of Iranians who in 1979 supported the revolution and subsequent overthrow the despotic government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
After the November 1979 fall of Pahlavi regime, majority of the Iranian-American associations, including the activists who later formed CSDI called for a secular and democratic form of government in Iran. Many students returned to Iran (some temporarily) to participate in the rebuilding of Iran, while others continued their studies in California. After the now deceased Ayatollah Khomeini usurped power and installed himself as the Supreme Leader of the country (and the world), a great number of the students living in California joined forces with the millions in Iran and objected to Khomeini’s perversion of Islamic principles and his dictatorial leanings.
In 1980 and 1981, Iranian students living in the United States, many of whom eventually organized the CSDI, helped arrange demonstrations in California and other U.S. cities against Khomeini’s illegitimate regime. They held picket lines, seminars, book/poster sales, and hosted many other social/political events to expose the Islamic Republic’s misogynist, intolerant, and fundamentalist ways. These students, as with all Iranians at the time and since, rejected Khomeini for orchestrating overtake of U.S. embassy in Tehran, seeing it as a ploy by the power hungry Ayatollah to consolidate control and deflect from his government’s obvious lack of popular legitimacy.
In the years that followed, the Iranian student organizations continued to hold photo exhibitions and promulgated books to expose the Islamic Republic’s rapidly deteriorating human rights record. In schools, churches, synagogues, across towns in California and beyond; our activists took their sad but real story to the American people and made them aware of the human rights violations in Iran.
In the rest of the 80’s and 90’s, executions mounted and widespread torture of prisoners became the norm in Iran. The community of Iranian-Americans in California was among the leading Iranian Diaspora communities which exposed globally, the 1989 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners by the Iranian government. In 1999, the supposedly moderate government of Mohammad Khatami brutally suppressed a nationwide student uprising. Our activists distributed in public pictures of those killed or tortured by Iranian authorities and held rallies to demand international condemnation of the murder of innocent students across Iran.
The movement of Iranian-Americans, including those in California matured as they reached out to their members of congress and the United Nations member states. At the U.N., their activism resulted in dozens of resolutions condemning the violations of human rights in Iran.
In U.S. congress, as in years past, these activities continue today to inform U.S. policy decisions on Iran. In 2004 and again in 2005, CSDI activists helped organize the first and second Annual Convention for Secular, Democratic Republic in Iran; respectively. In 2004, they also participated in a rally of some 10,000 Iranian in Washington, DC and called for U.S. support for the Iranian resistance. In each of these gatherings, members of congress lent their enthusiastic support.
In 2008, we organized symposiums both in California and in Washington to inform the public and policy makers contemplating economic, political, or military action on Iran. Also in 2008, thousands of CSDI activists joined tens of thousands of freedom loving Iranians in Paris to call for democratic change in Iran by the people of Iran. They rejected violence and war as a way to contain the Iranian regime, while also denouncing the policy of appeasing the mullahs in Tehran. In 2010, some 70,000 gathered in the aforementioned yearly gathering; followed by an even larger group in 2011.
In 2009, CSDI activists organized and participated in a number of rallies, demonstrations, and other public events to support the uprising taking place in Iran. The uprising was the culmination of Iranian people’s pent up frustration which surfaced after the fraudulent presidential elections in Iran. Then and now, community of Iranian Americans, CSDI activists included, are simply echoing the Iranian people’s demand that mullahs give up power altogether.
As an alternative, the Iranian Diaspora and CSDI activists have consistently supported the THIRD OPTION. In this approach, the world, and particularly the West is encouraged to stop placating the tyrants ruling Iran. We have said that Iranian mullah regime is not capable of moderation or democracy and must be replaced all together. Our THIRD OPTION calls on the international community to engage the Iranian people and their organized resistance instead of those now ruling Iran. The only thing the Iranian people need in order to bring democratic change to Iran is political space and moral backing.
The 2009 uprising in Iran served as a blueprint for the ongoing Arab Spring which is gradually transforming the Middle East. With their continued sacrifices, the brave people of Syria have particularly proven that despotic regimes have no place in the modern human life and must be replaced. Iranian Americans in California have therefore expressed solidarity with the Syrian people. Not surprisingly, Iranian regime is the major supporter of Syrian government and actively aids it in the suppression of Syrian people.
In the United States, CSDI has recently co-sponsored many forums, briefings, symposiums, and rallies in support of the THIRD OPTION. Some of the prominent American foreign policy, security, intelligence, military, and civic leaders have joined forces in support of this cause. Our activist’s aim is simple: to bring democratic change to Iran by the Iranian people. This, we believe, is the most peaceful and least costly alternative to appeasement or war.