July 21, 2006
Do you mind letting Kurds be?
I welcomed the invitation of a dear Persian friend, a humanist by nature and a physician by profession, to support an initiative for release of political prisoners in Iran. We frist had had a little discussion over the credibility of the main initiator, Mr. Ganji, since he had been closely associated with the Islamic Republic after the revolution. However, we concluded that he deserves the support of anyone who thinks democratically and welcomes change within first. Ganji had met such criteria by turning away form fanaticism and joining the voice of moderation. He had paid heavily for his view change by incarceration for a few years and a hunger strike for a few months as a pacifist political prisoner. After his release, he had been allowed to travel abroad and initiate a symbolic hunger strike in front of the UN in New York.
To support this peaceful cause some Iranian intellectuals had organized rallies in a few other cosmopolitan cities on July 16th. We happened to be closer to Los Angles and decided to join a rally in front of federal building in Westwood. We were surprised that only around 100 people gathered for the event, in a city where 100 thousands of Iranians live. We questioned what makes Iranians in Diaspora so apathetic. To me they had left their home primarily due to oppression and lack of opportunity to be themselves under the rules and regulations of Islamic Republic. Somebody in the rally mentioned that Mr. Ganji is not willing to work with two opposition groups, the monarchists and the mujahedin and therefore many Iranians did not show up.
I became disappointed to hear that Mr. Ganji who now enjoys the forgiveness of Iranian people for his past association with fanatics, can not be forgiving and welcome all opposition groups for a common cause. However, according to my friend who follows Iranian personalities and events more closely, Mr. Ganji had only mentioned that he is for a secular republic. Since monarchists insist on a monarchy and mujahedin on a different form of an Islamic republic, they have perceived Mr. Ganji as their opposition and therefore been unwilling to support a cause initiated by him. Such perceptions, assumptions, and lack of cooperation for a neutral and peaceful cause, reminded me of all or none thinking and lack of a democratic spirit. May be it is due to such a mindset that the leaders in this troubled region think whoever is not with them 100 percent is then against them so they can not negotiate and compromise for peace.
Although I supported the release of political prisoners and demand a separation of religion and state, I did not agree with all points mentioned by some speakers. As an example, a gentleman was demanding “US out of Iraq”. When I mentioned that it is too early, he became very angry calling me an agent of CIA; my response was may be I am and I don’t know myself. Another speaker was shouting about the importance of territorial integrity of Iran as one nation; I responded with a smile indicating that his views are outdated and raised my placard with following slogans:
Do you mind releasing Kurdish political prisoners too? How about letting Kurdish children learn their native language in public school? Do you mind changing Islamic Republic of Iran to Union of Iranian Democratic Republics? If so, an Independent Eastern Kurdistan might not be as urgent.
Regardless of some controversial views, I found the gathering a positive step in bringing neutral, peaceful, and democratic expectations to the attention of public. I enjoyed the company of some valuable friends, intelligent speeches of some progressive guests, and beautiful poems of some humanists with an artistic temperament. Hopefully such a trend will continue to end fanaticism, violence, and discrimination in the Middle East with peaceful means.