Thursday, September 07, 2006

Manouchehr Ganji: Help set Iran free

Dallas Morning News:
What many Americans don't realize is that – 28 years after taking power – the ruling mullahs and their henchmen are hated in Iran and their power is shaky. Why? The Iranian people, including the vast majority of those under the age of 30, know them for who they are.

So while the government is busy with its foreign adventures – including an outrageous Washington visit this week by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami – the younger people and women are in the forefront of an underground freedom movement there, risking their lives to protest the clerical regime.

Today, more than 55 percent of the Iranian population is under the age of 20, which is bad news for the mullah regime because the principle threat to its authority comes from the youth. And this is a group that, along with the poor, is becoming ever more restless.

So the government responds by spending more than $24 billion yearly – all from its oil revenues – on subsidies on bread, rice and other staple food items, low-cost housing and gasoline and oil products. In addition, the government makes narcotics easily and cheaply available to the youth. No wonder that Iran today has more than 4 million addicts, or 6 percent of the population.

What the democracy movement in Iran needs is for the European Union and the United States to speak with one voice and adopt a common policy of support for its operation in Iran. There are many things that Iranians struggling inside the country can do that those outside cannot. Likewise, Iranians living elsewhere can play a significant role. Today, at least 70 percent of Iranians would help the democracy movement succeed if they could be convinced that it has the support of the West for the long haul. READ MORE

It's also critical to remember that no matter how much the Iranian people may oppose the repressive and corrupt mullah regime, the one thing that could unify them behind the regime would be foreign military aggression. Thus, the use of that option would only serve to prolong the survival of the mullah regime and thereby extend the sufferings of the Iranian people.

Instead, ban the travels of high officials of the Islamic Republic and their family members rather than allowing them to speak their propaganda worldwide. Close down their propaganda establishments that operate under the cover of mosques and charities. Block their use of bank accounts, including accounts in the names of their relatives, set up in other countries, particularly EU countries. Persuade other oil- and gas-exporting countries to raise their production to the point that the mullahs could no longer profit from these resources. Give the mullahs haven in the West if they quit now and leave Iran.

These are just some of the ways that the West and its allies can support the democracy movement in Iran.

Dr. Manouchehr Ganji is Secretary General of the Organization for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms for Iran ( He was formerly dean of the School of Law of Tehran University, a senior U.N. human rights official and Minister of Education of Iran.