June 13, Iranians from around the world gathered, along with some 1,000 political figures, activists, and religious leaders in Paris for the Conference for Democratic Change in Iran. The conference focused on key issues facing Iran and the Middle East, including the state of human rights, the Iranian nuclear talks, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, and the internment of Iranians at Camp Liberty. Iranian communities from all over the world gathered to stand up to Tehran and call for new Western policies that address the changing dynamics of important regions in the world while supporting anti-fundamentalist local movements and populations.
This event meant a lot to me because I am advocating for and trying to spread awareness about to bring peace in Iran and have equal rights all over the world. It is vitally important to draw awarenesses to these important topics and how democratic change is a must.
Here are some of the headlines that are happening right now:
“U.N. Monitor Says Iran is Worsening on Rights, Despite Pledges”
“Thousands in Iran Protest Acid Attacks on Women”
“Executions Surge in Iran after Nuclear Talks”
“Iran’s Supreme Leader Threatens Nuclear Talks Walkout”
All of these are reports on social upheaval, labored progress, fundamentalist violence, and government retribution against its own people in Iran.
This year’s conference theme, “Regime Change in Iran, We Can & We Must,” highlights both the need and the capacity for change in the country right now. Already, the crimes committed by President Hassan Rouhani and his fundamentalist regime are being challenged by an incipient global push to create a free, democratic, non-nuclear Iran. If the past year is any indicator, the next 12 months should prove to be watershed year for Iran.
This past October, thousands of people protesting acid attacks on Iranian women created a global media frenzy and incited the outrage of the international community. In May, after more than 100 people were killed in politically motivated executions in April, UN experts called upon Iran to end the death penalty once and for all. Increased destabilization in the Middle East and the rise of ISIS have also prompted a concerted international effort to bring an end to the Islamic fundamentalism that plagues countries like Iran.
As negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program continue, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hopes to stall progress. In a speech given on May 20th, Khamenei denounced what he said were the escalating demands of the P5+1 and declared that interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists by international inspectors were completely off the table. In the same speech he also stated that “we will not allow foreigners to carry out inspections of any military sites.” But as the P5+1 continues negotiations with Rouhani’s representatives in Geneva, steps have been taken towards an historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
One issue that hasn’t gotten much attention recently is the horrendous conditions of the prisoners at Camp Liberty. Since 2012, when they were transferred from Camp Ashraf, thousands of Iranians sympathetic to a democratic Iran have been subjected to what the UN has labeled “arbitrary detention.” The camp is run by Iraqi Col. Sadeq Mohammed Kazem, who is wanted by a Spanish court for opening fire on Camp Ashraf residents in the massacres of July 2009 and April 2011. Residents of the camp have no freedom of movement or access to outsiders, including relatives, reporters, and humanitarian workers. Several preventable deaths have been reported due to sub par medical facilities. Camp Liberty has unfortunately receded in the international consciousness as it has become by degrees forcibly isolated from the outside world.
Change is coming to Iran. Populist uprisings, nuclear negotiations, and increased attention from the UN and the international community have set the stage for a dramatic shift in the country. But the current regime will not loosen their grip on Iran willingly. “The regime is trying to destroy every aspect of the democratic process in the region,” states President of the Iranian Resistance Maryam Rajavi.
On June 13, Iranian communities stood up to the religious dictatorship that has a hold on their country, and called on Western nations to develop policies to address the rapidly changing dynamics within the region. The conference lay bare the issues facing Iran and galvanized the international community to expand its efforts to support a democratic, non-fundamentalist, and non-nuclear Iran as the only peaceful solution to the ever growing problem of Islamic extremism.