Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iranian Exiles Say 'No Nukes,' Advocate Regime Change

Shally Zomorodi, Voice of America:
Los Angeles has become home to thousands of Iranians immigrants, to such an extent that the city is sometimes referred to as 'Tehrangeles.' Although many of them fled Iran and cannot go back, they are making sure their opinions about the future of Iran are heard loud and clear. READ MORE

Watch Tehrangeles report

Walking down streets of Westwood Boulevard in Los Angeles is similar to strolling a street in Tehran. There are signs written in Farsi, and Iranian men and women are going about their daily lives.

Most of them fled from Iran over 20 years ago, during the Islamic revolution, looking for a better life.

Book store owner Bijan Khalili, who owns the largest Iranian bookstore outside of Iran, still pays attention to what is going on back in his home country. And he is not happy that a fundamentalist Muslim republic might get a nuclear weapon.

"[With Iran] being a nuclear power, as an Iranian, I do not have any problem," said Khalili. "Having a nuclear power in the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran is so uncomfortable. Everybody is uncomfortable and we Iranians outside are uncomfortable and Iranians inside Iran are uncomfortable".

Saied Danosian, publisher of OCPC, a well known Iranian magazine, says he does not like to get involved in politics but says he hopes Iranians will shed the undeserved negative image they have carried for so long.

He would also like to see some free speech in Iran. "I wish one day freely we can write, we can speak and freely communicate and freely say we are Iranian, we are Persian and we are proud," said Danosian.

But just around the bookcase isle, Iranian political activist Farayar Nikhbaht is much more outspoken. Like many Iranians, he cannot return to Iran for his own safety, but is doing everything he can in the United States to rally support for a regime change.

"All the people in the world want their country to have the highest and best of everything including nuclear technology, and I want my country to have the highest technology including nuclear technology," said Nikhbaht. "The problem is the Iranian regime. What will this regime do with this technology? A regime that given a stone will stone people; a rope they will hang people with, what will they do with their nuclear technology?"

Former Iranian solider Babak Heravi believes he knows the answer. Heravi fought in the Iran-Iraq war and was tortured and then exiled for not believing in Islam.

Heravi says when the Iranian government is capable of hurting its own people, hurting others is second nature. "Some people say Iran is 5 years to developing a nuclear weapon - some say 2 years, some say 1 year, ok, I say 10 years - just imagine the danger within the next 10 years," said Heravi. "You will ruin the whole world. An atomic mullah is the worst thing that can happen to mankind."

It's a fear far too real for Iranians like Heravi. A fear for the people of Iran, followed by a dream to one day return home. "I wish one day they just set themselves free, because no one else can," said Heravi. "I wish I will live long enough to see that day, no matter what."