Having been imprisoned in solitary confinement at the Towhid Prison in Iran for simply expressing my opinions, I grateful to have been a direct beneficiary of the work of human rights organizations.
For the last ten years, I have called the United States of America my home. I am not a US citizen, nor do I plan to assume the status, as I'm intent on returning and rebuilding my motherland. Our members inside and outside Iran are working diligently to bring about a free and democratic Iran, void of institutionalized Islam and deliberate persecution. As a political refugee who fled the repressive Islamic regime occupying Iran, I was warmly welcomed by American tolerance and democracy. The US is exemplary of a working democracy, and it is her policy to continuously promote democratic freedoms and basic human rights abroad.
So, why do American human rights organizations and activists fall silent in the face horrific and systematic human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran? This theocracy devastates not only political dissidents like myself, but anyone who promotes secularism, equality, personal freedoms and true Iranian culture.
US human rights organizations did reach out on my behalf when I was illegally imprisoned, resulting in my current freedom; their actions effected change -- but today, as crimes against humanity in Iran intensify, the voice of American human rights organizations has seemingly settled.
Iranian mothers still cry for their sons who disappear without a trace, for their daughters stoned barbarically, and for the slowly dwindling dreams they once had for the future of our people. As a direct beneficiary of their advocacy, I call out to human rights organizations and activists to raise their voices once again, and be a partner in establishing our most basic rights in our beloved homeland.
It might be too late for my dear friend and colleague, Yaghoub Mehrnehad, savagely hanged while others were forced to watch his slow, excruciating death. At 28 years of age, Mehrnehad was guilty only of advocating for civil rights, and envisioning a future free of the desecration of human sanctity.
And don't forget Atafeh Salaaheh, executed publically at 16 years of age, charged with adultery and what the regime coins "crimes against chastity." As if the concept of this as a crime, and the subsequent punishment are not sufficiently outrageous, two facts regarding her trial prove the intrinsic immorality of Iran's Sharia legal code. Not only was Salaaheh unmarried (the legal age for marriage in Iran is nine), but her sexual relationship with the married 51-year old in question was limited to consistent rape.
But it's still not too late for 36 year old Hengameh Shahidi, a female freelance reporter currently imprisoned for publications regarding the suppression of women in Iran; rape and torture come with the territory as well. It's not too late for 26 year old singer Arya Aramnejad, detained for singing 'pop' music- held in solitary confinement, denied medical attention, and forced to walk barefoot through the blood of an HIV-positive prisoner who had just committed suicide. While they courageously endure the obscene reality of an Iranian prison cell, for them, and others, there is still hope.
This is not my Iran, rather an ancient homeland culturally occupied by the Islamic Republic. Not her city center hangings -- lifeless, pale bodies left drooping from nooses as a visual message of the regime's butchery. Not her de facto, state instituted opium distributions meant to shackle Iranians to poverty, dependency and political complacency. Not her contempt for international law as emphasized by her pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of the UN.
Already, despite still only being in the process of attaining nuclear capabilities, Iran has successfully sent chilling waves throughout the Islamic and Western worlds alike. Lest we forget, one of the regime's most senior and influential clergy, Hashemi Rafsanjani declared that "use of even one nuclear bomb...is not irrational." While the Iranian people, my people, continuously spiral further into poverty, Iran invests our increasingly evaporating funds in abuse and insurgency in Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt among others - all of which hold anti-cleric views, as it is. This regressive and dangerous ideology has already reached the US doorstep; Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador have already been affected by the Islamic Republic-bug. Their acquiescence to theocracy's 'Islam comes first' foreign policy will, undoubtedly, translate directly to the decay of their own nations -- in fact, the cycle has begun. The regime's values have already found a comfortable home in regions of Latin America.
If this is already the reality, am I alone in fearing what might come if the Islamic Republic actually attains nuclear capabilities? Are human rights organizations not concerned with the developments? An Islamic Republic armed with nuclear weapons will feel completely inhibited to pursue more repression at home and the ratcheting up of bellicose policies abroad -- just take a look at North Korea; can you imagine what will happen if the Islamic Republic of Iran actually goes nuclear? I just ask that you notice how the clerical regime has used conventional weapons to commit crimes against humanity with their own citizenry, what makes you think they won't use nuclear weapons against Iranians much less the rest of the world?
To deny Iran nuclear energy capabilities today is to not only help us re-establish a free and democratic Iran, but to ensure democracy and constant progress within your own society. To unequivocally stand up against Iran's undoubted desire to acquire nuclear weapons, is to help us promote civility, equality and justice there, but ensure that these norms continue to prevail in the Western world.
You do not want to live the life of an Iranian under siege. Forced into uncertainty, darkness and universal limitation. Daughters, abused; sons, brainwashed. Culture hijacked, homosexuals denied existence, and hairstyle regulated. Life dictated by one self-proclaimed supreme man of God, enforcing seemingly 15th century laws conducive to nothing more than misery. I humbly ask that you join me in calling out to human rights organizations and activists to employ their agency in actively opposing the Islamic Republic's domestic policies of social, cultural and political oppression, and foreign policy of pursuing nuclear weapons and coercive power.
Don't forget Hengameh and Arya and the other thousands, as you didn't forget me.
Down with Islamic republic.
Long Live Iran.