It has become an annual rite. Every September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes before the opening session of the United Nations’ General Assembly promoting hatred and misinformation. In response, every September, Iranian exiles, human rights activists, Jewish communal leaders, and other concerned groups from throughout the world unite in protest in forums such as this, on the streets of New York City adjacent to the United Nations and in cities throughout the globe. Tuesday’s speech was delivered to a smaller audience than usual, although he will speak again on Thursday.
Unfortunately, the public’s attention span is decidedly short. No doubt, for too many the bloody images of the martyred Neda Agha-Soltan and the 70 plus other civilian protestors who were killed by the Ahmadinejad regime or the 115 prisoners executed by Iran in the 50 days after the stolen June 12, 2009, presidential elections appear to be a lifetime away.
Similarly, for too many the anguished cries of the hundreds of innocents detained in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, where state sanctioned torture, mock executions and rape is commonplace, are drowned out by the deafening silence of apathy.
It is our solemn responsibility to remind the world of the thousands of innocent lives needlessly destroyed and held hostage by Ahmadinejad’s regime. Moreover, we are alarmed that Ahmadinejad, so obviously intent on defying the international community through his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, continues to deny the Holocaust by publicly stating that “[t]he pretext (Holocaust) for the creation of the Zionist regime (Israel) is false … It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim,” and calls for Israel to “be wiped off the map.”
Call is resonating in Minnesota
Here in Minnesota, however, there is good reason to believe that our call for the end to the dictatorship in Tehran is strongly resonating with our democratically elected leaders, as well as our fellow Minnesotans. To begin with, we are proud that Minnesota has joined 20-plus other states in approving bipartisan legislation to divest our state’s monies from Iran’s energy sector — monies which are currently helping to support Iran’s illegal quest for nuclear weapons and bankroll Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guard.
Additionally, we are proud that national Iran sanctions legislation was supported by Minnesota’s entire Congressional delegation and signed recently into law by President Barack Obama. Finally, given the well publicized saga of the three young American hikers, including a native Minnesotan, falsely imprisoned by Ahmadinejad’s regime on ridiculous charges of espionage, we are confident that many more Minnesotans are now aware of the regime’s atrocities and have an emotional attachment to Ahmadinejad’s victims.
The world can only stand injustice for so long before it must take notice. We ask that Minnesotans not forget the Iranian people who bravely protested in the streets of Tehran last summer for the simple right to have their vote be counted, the political prisoners who continue to languish in Evin, Gohardasht, and other prisons suffering terrible horrors, the dozens of prisoners of conscience who have been condemned to death, the women and men who face death by stoning, and the mothers of the killed and imprisoned whose grief must be overwhelming.
Pirouz Irani is a member of Minnesota Iranian-Americans for Democracy in Iran; “Pirouz Irani” is a pseudonym — due to fears for the safety of his family members that still reside in Iran, the author does not want to use his real name. Robin Phillips is executive director of The Advocates for Human Rights; Steve Hunegs is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.