OIAC 2020 Virtual Conference
Iranian-American communities from across the U.S. held their first-ever virtual conference entitled “Iran: Global Threat, Domestic Repression, Prospects for Change.” Moderator Ramesh Sepehrrad explained that the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) was “as eager as ever and proud” to continue its efforts for a free Iran, and in the current circumstances would do so “in person or virtually.” She introduced an impressive lineup of representatives and leaders of the Iranian American communities, each of whom spoke briefly on various aspects of the Iranian situation and what U.S. policymakers should take away from it.
Mr. Aref Alvandi, the community rep from Maryland, emphasized, “Our message is that we stand with millions of Iranians protesting the regime of the mullahs as they shout ‘down with Khamenei, down with Rouhani.’” He paid tribute to the more than 1,500 people massacred in two major uprisings in the last several months, adding, “The days of this regime are numbered. No one better than the mullahs gets this message loud and clear. … we call our policy makers to continue to stand with the people of Iran and keep the maximum pressure on this regime.”
Dr. Afsaneh Maghsoudi, the IAC rep from Michigan, warned, “The mullahs domestic repression, terrorism and nuclear expansion has a new tool, and that is COVID19. Zarif is using it to lobby and get sympathy for his dying regime. Rouhani is using it to distract the public from his utter failure. Khamenei is using it as a strategy to give his regime a lifeline. The Revolutionary Guards are using for repression.” She stressed that “any sanctions relief for the regime under the cover of helping the victims of the pandemic is a lie… Medical assistance should go directly to the people.”
Speaking on behalf of the communities of Kentucky and Indiana, Dr. Nader Ehsani spoke of “the wave of prison rebellions and escapes in more than 10 cities.” He said the public is rushing to aid the escapees and has given them refuge. “We all are so moved by the message of resistance coming from the political prisoners, Dr. Ehsani added. “They urge all of us to be their voice, to ensure our journey to a free Iran is not distracted with the regime’s propaganda and plots.”
Ms. Hasti Hesami, herself a student at UT as well as the IAC rep for Texas, brought a message for “the brave students who carry on the legacy of the student protests which played a historic role in political developments during and after the 1979 revolution.” Ms. Hasti recalled that “the founders of Iran’s main opposition group, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, emerged from the vibrant culture of the student movement, and the MEK organization continues to carry the torch today.” The slogans chanted by today’s Iranian students, she emphasized, demonstate they have learned the lessons of the past: “Neither the crown, nor the turban. The mullahs are goners.”
The Iranian American Community of Southern California was represented by Mr. Mohammad Omidvar, who focused his remarks on regional meddling. “Through proxy forces and the funding of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, the regime has pressed for control in regional politics and hegemony in the Middle East. Thankfully, given the maximum pressure, sanctions and elimination of terror masters like Qasim Suleimani, Iran’s Supreme Leader is no longer able to be as effective in Iraq, Syria or the entire region,” Mr. Omidvar noted.
Dr. Saied Sadjadi, the IAC president for Missouri and Kansas, explained how the Tehran regime is operation from a point of weakness, not strength. He endorsed the call for snap back of sanctions.
Mrs. Batool Zamani, the President of IAC – Georgia, spoke of the 10-point plan of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, which she described as “visionary, forward-looking, progressive and in line with the spirit of 100 years of Iranians’ struggle for freedom and justice.” Listing the issues of the Plan (“separation of church and state, free and fair elections, multi-party system, abolishment of death penalty, gender equality, rule of law, commitment to universal declaration of human rights and all other UN treaties, free market economy, peaceful coexistence, regional cooperation and a non-nuclear Iran”), Mrs. Zamani called on all U.S. leaders and policy makers “to stand with us for a free Iran.”
Dr. Soolmaz Abooali, author and professor at George Mason University, told listeners, “For me the inspiration for a free Iran comes from the women’s movement and the brave young women and girls who risk their lives in every protest and rally as they shout, ‘down with the dictators.’” Addressing Tehran’s lobbying for sanction relief, Dr. Abooali said, “Let us not forget what the people shouted in nationwide protests: ‘Our enemy is here; don’t lie and say it’s the US.’ In my research and studies, I have yet to come across an Iranian who blames the maximum pressure policy by the US for the troubles at home.”
The next speakers – a mother, daughter, and granddaughter, represented three generations of supporters of the Iranian Resistance. Ms..Joanne McIntosh spoke of her life in Iran during the 1979 Revolution, the hostage crisis, and the reign of terror launched against pro-democracy forces by Khomeini. “I became acquainted with the Mojahedin during those early years, and 4 decades later the resilience and integrity of their Resistance movement still gives me hope for the future of Iran, Ms. McIntosh said.
Her daughter, Ms. Hannane Amanpour, spoke of her late father, one of the more than 120,000 Iranians who have been killed in this struggle. “I honor his memory and his sacrifice for freedom and democracy in Iran.” She said. “I would like to one day visit the beautiful homeland of my father, a nation with great culture, magnificent people and a significant role to play to make the world a safer place. I hope my daughter Alia will join me on that day.”
Her daughter, 16-year-old Alia Amanpour Trapp, said, “I never met my grandfather, but he has always been a part of who I am, and his life and death have shaped how I see the world. I am inspired by the youth in Iran, who are risking their lives to carry on the message of the resistance and my grandfather.” “This movement is my heritage,” she said, “and that’s why I stand with the people of Iran and their call for democracy. I want to see a free Iran.”
The last IAC representative to speak was Mr. Shahin Totounchi, of Northern California. He described the resistance units as “representing the depth and reach of Iranians’ call for change. A call that is authentic, home grown, has a history of resistance and is willing to pay the price for a free Iran. It is this call that clarifies who the real alternative to this regime is” Mr. Totounchi emphasized that “All those who pose as alternatives but actually would take us back to the dictatorship of the past are rejected by the people of Iran,” declaring that the “The only alternative that stands out and resonates with the call for change in Iran… is the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its pivotal member organization, the MEK.”
In closing the virtual conference, moderator Ramesh Sepehrrad summed up the main points of the event:
1. Change in Iran is evitable and the Iranian American communities stand in full solidarity with the people of Iran, the longest suffering victims of the mullahs’ regime. We fully support their call for change of the regime by the Iranian people, as evident in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 uprisings.
2. The ruling mullahs who are engaged in domestic repression, terrorism and nuclear expansion have attempted to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. Any attempt to accommodate the mullahs’ political agenda in the context of global pandemic is an affront to the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
3. U.S. policy makers must heed the message of the Iranian people who say, “down with the dictator,” and isolate the regime of Khamenei, and Rouhani.
4. The future of Iran belongs to those who are willing to pay the price for a free Iran, the resistance units. It is time for the world community to stand on the side of the Iranian people, recognize their right to overthrow this regime and to support the 10-point plan presented by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi for the future Iran.
5. The Iranian regime’s human rights dossier must be referred to the U.N. Security Council for crimes against humanity and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials of the regime should be held accountable.
6. Iranian Americans believe that the maximum pressure policy is the right approach and should be maintained. We call on the United States to ensure that the U.N. arms embargo on the regime is never lifted.
7. Tehran is already in serious violation of the UN Security Council resolution 2231 and thus it is now time for the U.S. to activate the snapback at the U.N. and ensure that all six prior UN Security Council resolutions are re-enacted and all prior sanctions are re-enforced on the regime.