Iranian-Americans 2006 Democracy Convention in DC

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On May 25, 2006, Iranain-American held their second convention for a democractic, secular republic in Iran and in support of democractic change there. Below are some media reports on this event.

The Washington Times, May 25, 2006
As a teenager, she spent 2½ years in an Iranian prison, fearing for her life and watching other dissidents dragged away for execution. Today, Shirin Nariman is a naturalized American citizen, a mother of two daughters and a U.S. resident for 27 years. She has no plans to return to Iran, but she is still trying to help overthrow the brutal, theocratic regime that she thinks is bent on world domination through the export of Islamic extremism.

“The regime wants to kill all hope,” she said during a visit to The Washington Times yesterday to promote a gathering of Iranian-Americans and Iranian exiles today in Washington. “One thing I learned in prison is you never lose hope.” Mrs. Nariman said she is keeping her promise to her fellow prisoners, the ones who did not survive their captivity. “I had friends being led to their execution, and they would say, ‘Remember, never give up,’ ” she said.

Mrs. Nariman, who was accompanied by a colleague, Majid Sadeghpour, hope administration officials and members of Congress will listen to the messages that will be delivered today at the second annual National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran.

Mr. Sadeghpour, whose brother was killed and sister tortured in Iran, said diplomatic efforts to negotiate with the regime are futile. “The appeasement of the mullahs is responsible for the empowerment of the Iranian regime and its projection of power around the globe,” said Mr. Sadeghpour, also a naturalized American.

They said the only way the Iranian government will abandon its nuclear program is through tough international sanctions on its oil exports and the isolation of Iranian diplomats.

“They have an expansionist, fascist ideology. They will not stop,” Mr. Sadeghpour said. He said the extremist religious leaders who control the government are incapable of moderation. “A violent black panther will not give birth to a peaceful, white dove,” he said. “You cannot ask them to be something they are not.” Mrs. Nariman added that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like “Hitler with a fundamentalist ideology.” Mr. Ahmadinejad has embraced an apocalyptic version of Islam and has threatened to destroy Israel.

Speakers at today’s convention are expected to renew calls for the United States to remove the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its military wing, the People’s Mojahedin, from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. “Delist them and you will give hope to the Iranian people,” Mrs. Nariman said, adding that the regime is widely unpopular among the population and citing 4,000 strikes and protests throughout the country last year.

The Mojahedin, who were based in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, surrendered to U.S. forces in 2003 and remain under “protective custody” at Camp Ashraf, about an hour north of Baghdad. At last year’s convention, two U.S. Army officers who dealt directly with the Mojahedin said they deserve to have the terrorist designation lifted. Lt. Col. Thomas Cantwell, who commanded Camp Ashraf, denied they were terrorists, and Capt. Vivian Gembara, the military lawyer who negotiated their surrender, said the United States lost an opportunity to use the rebel army to its advantage… The convention, which is open to the public, begins at 1 p.m. at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW.

The Chicago Tribune, May 25, 2006
While controversy swirls around Iran’s ambitions for a civilian nuclear power program – which European and American leaders view as ambition for a bomb – a collection of Iranian-Americans from around the United States will assemble today with a call for “regime change’’ in Iran.

The [Convention], welcoming several members of Congress and an expected 500 delegates from around the U.S. to its second annual convention, maintains that the ascent of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his hatred for Israel, friendships with Syria and Hamas and designs for a nuclear program, has made the case for a peaceful overhaul of Iran as a secular, democratic state more pressing. “The only way is a democratic regime change by the Iranian people,’’ says Shirin Nariman, spokeswoman for the council. “We don’t want anyone to come in and do it.’’

There was a certain amount of interest in the first National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran – which drew several members of Congress – last year. But the council expects greater interest this afternoon for its parley at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue in Washington, in light of Iran’s insistence on pursuing nuclear power over the objections of European and U.S. leaders…

As pressure mounts on the United Nations Security Council to intervene, Iranian-American critics are counting on another sort of pressure building within Iran itself – pressure for a peaceful regime change. “The threat of the hard-liners is becoming more tangible and visible to the world,’’ the U.S. Iranian council spokeswoman says. “Iran is going to keep playing and playing until they have the capacity to have the bomb.’’

The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2006
Early this summer, as Washington fretted about Iran’s nuclear program, supporters of Mujahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group, held a rally in an auditorium two blocks from the White House. Prominent members of Congress addressed the crowd, as did the State Department’s recently retired ambassador-at-large for war crimes.

Maryam Rajavi, the dissident outfit’s leader, beamed in a stirring speech via satellite from France. Denouncing Iran’s clerical rulers and their nuclear ambitions, she proclaimed democracy “the answer to Islamic fundamentalism.”

Mujahedin-e Khalq, known as MEK, is Iran’s largest exile opposition group and, say its supporters, the best hope of bringing democracy to Iran. It reaches into Iran through its own satellite TV channel and claims an underground network of activists inside the Islamic republic. It also has a big presence in neighboring Iraq, where U.S. soldiers watch over more than 3,000 MEK members gathered in a sprawling camp north of Baghdad…

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