Lily Samimi

Azadeh Shahshahani – Defending Our Civil Rights

Azadeh ShahshahaniAtlanta, GA – Fighting anti-immigrant  laws, discrimination, and racial profiling in the United States is not an easy task.  Anti-immigrant prejudice coupled with constant discrimination facing our community due to events unfolding in the Middle East, does not provide an easy playing field for immigrants’ rights and civil rights lawyers in the United States. However, there is one person that continues to vigorously fight for Iranian-American civil rights and the civil rights of Muslim-American, Arab-American, and Latino communities.

NIAC member, Azadeh Shahshahani’s drive to combat difficulties facing immigrant communities is inspiring and motivational. As the current Director of National Security and Immigrants Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia and author of numerous reports and op-eds on human rights, immigrants’ rights , and racial profiling, Azadeh has extensive experience working on immigrant civil rights.

She is currently busy fighting a bill  that was passed by Georgia lawmakers mimicking Arizona’s anti-immigrant  law, known as the “show me your paper” bill If this bill were  implemented  into law, it would authorize law enforcement to check people’s immigration status with whom they come into contact, including in cases of minor offenses such as traffic violations. At the ACLU of Georgia, Azadeh is working on a campaign urging Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia  against signing the bill into law. “At this point, we continue to  urge the governor to veto this unconstitutional measure, and we continue to actively monitor the situation and examine all of our options,” said Azadeh.

Having moved to the United States at the age of 16, Azadeh’s experiences in a post-revolution Iran laid the foundation for her future career path in human rights. “I have always had a little bit of a revolutionary spirit in me. Growing up in Iran, injustice always infuriated me,” said Azadeh.

“My main focus at the ACLU is bringing Georgia and its localities into compliance with international human rights and constitutional standards in treatment of refugee and immigrant communities,” said Azadeh. She emphasized that through her work experience she has seen that the Iranian-American community  is hesitant in becoming involved in immigrants’  rights and human rights activism. “People are afraid within our community, they don’t want to  bring additional attention to themselves. We need to take a more proactive role and need to be very vigilant and aware of our rights,” Azadeh said.

The ACLU provides presentation to immigrant communities across the nation and educates them on their rights. Azadeh encourages Iranian-Americans to attend and organize these sorts of events and to become familiar with  their constitutional and human rights.  “It is of upmost importance that Iranian-Americans talk to their elected officials and testify at state legislative and city council hearings on civil rights issues that they are facing. We must also act in solidarity with other communities that come under attack – such as the Latino community,” stressed Azadeh.

In order for the Iranian-American community to prosper and grow, Azadeh encourages our youth to pave the path forward in defending our civil and human rights in the United States. “I would like to encourage younger Iranian-Americans to  consider human rights advocacy as a profession. I think people should follow their passion, and if their passion happens to be law, then they should go for it. We definitely need more Iranians in this field and we need people to  represent our community members ,” said Azadeh.




Scholar Discusses Tension Between Ahmadinejad and the Majlis



Washington, D.C. – According to Bahman Baktiari, Director of the Middle East Center at the University of Utah, President Ahmadinejad is facing an unprecedented level of confrontation with the Majlis–Iran’s Parliament–on key topics including economic and foreign policy.

Baktiari spoke on Tuesday at a Woodrow Wilson Center event entitled, “Ahmadinejad’s Confrontation with the Iranian Parliament.” He was introduced to an audience of scholars, journalists, and academics by Haleh Esfandari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“As of November 2010, senior parliamentarians with unquestioned conservative credentials are making statements about Ahmadinejad that are unprecedented in Iranian history, but also unprecedented in the press coverage that it gets,” said Baktiari. The frustration of these conservative parliamentarians, he said, stem from their continued frustration with Ahmadinejad’s decision-making and his refusal to recognize Parliament’s authority on certain matters.

Baktiari explained that, in the past year, Ahmadinejad has refused to sign or completely ignored half a dozen laws introduced by the Majlis, including on key economic matters. In addition, a recent report by the Majlis states that Ahmadinejad’s government has only complied with 59 percent of 159 laws passed.

Disagreements between Ahmadinejad and conservatives in the Majlis go beyond Iran’s economic policy. According to Baktiari, “behind the scenes, all criticize the president’s bellicosity towards the West and poor handling of the nuclear issue.” Ahmadinejad’s statement in June 2010 on a visit to China that “UN Security sanctions are nothing but simple pieces of paper,” was directed not towards the international community, Bakthiari said, but rather towards the Majlis for paying too much attention to foreign policy issues.

It is only recently that many senior Iranian officials have been more vocal about their frustration with Ahmadinejad. Prime Minister Ahmad Tavakoli, a conservative hardliner and strong supporter of the merchant class in Iran, recently said, “Despite sincere warnings by well wishers you continue to violate the law. Even when the esteemed leader of the revolution also steps in, you do not correct your direction.” The accusations were made in an open statement to Ahmadinejad.

“In the Iranian capitol today, all eyes are on struggle of Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament and [Ahmadinejad’s] silent enemy,” said Baktiari. What makes Larijiani so different from his predecessors and other powerful government officials is a combination of his family history, his relationship with the Supreme Leader, his experience with the Revolutionary Guard, and his political ambition. Baktiari argues that Larijani is thusly able leverage his position as Speaker of the Majlis to confidently criticize Ahmadinejad.

According to Baktiari, for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, “the political costs of protecting Ahmadinejad are getting higher every day.” However, Baktiari argues the Supreme Leader continues to support Ahmadinejad because “he cannot afford a weakening of a president that he has so hardly defended for the past six years, including on election issues.” As the Supreme Leader continues to step in, Bakhtiari said, he undermines Iran’s political system and reinforces support for those who have been calling for a reevaluation of his authority.

Ahmadinejad’s current position in Iran suggests that there has been a drastic shift in Iran’s government, according to Baktiari. “It shows that the conflict going on between the Parliament and Ahmadinejad’s government is much deeper, challenging other major institutions of the Islamic Republic as well as the constitutionally approved process for resolving conflict among them.”




Mom’s Against Poverty Granted US Approval for Humanitarian Work in Iran



Washington, DC – When Delfarib Fanaie got the news that their organization, Moms Against Poverty (MAP) received a US license to work in Iran, she couldn’t believe it. “This has been a personal dream for me since my husband and I adopted our first child in year 2000. I fulfilled a dream and a promise that I made to all the girls and boys I left in Iran. I am not going to stop until I help them,” said Fanaie.

Current US Sanctions do not permit American humanitarian organizations to work in Iran. But through a special licensing procedure, the US Government may grant exceptions on a case by case basis to allow organizations to do this important work.

Moms Against Poverty is an organization of Iranian-American mothers who work on humanitarian projects around the world. They work in Cambodia to support a safe house for children and a clinic that provides care to families living in garbage dump sites. In Afghanistan, they implement training programs for girls. In the US, they are working to provide food for children and their families during the Christmas holiday. They are looking to add a region in Africa to their program in 2011 as well. But until now, they have not been able to work in Iran.

MAP first applied for a US license to work in Iran in November 2009. “They told us to be patient, and we were,” said Fanaie. At the end of August 2010, MAP received word from the US State Department that they had passed all the required background checks. The next step was to contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to complete the application. MAP proceeded to call OFAC on daily basis and everyday they heard their file was pending. On the morning of November 1st, one year after they began the process, MAP received the good news: they had finally been approved for a license.

Critics of the OFAC permitting process say that the requirements are so arduous that few humanitarian organizations have the time or resources to complete it. As a result, few American humanitarian organizations are able to work in Iran. Delfarib recalls how so many lawyers and officials told her that MAP would not be able to get an OFAC license. “We were told for organizations like ours that to get an OFAC permit is close to impossible. They told us we were crazy for applying.”

Legislation was introduced in Congress last year, the Stand With the Iranian People Act (SWIPA), which would allow organizations to work directly with the Iranian people for specific humanitarian relief and human rights purposes without going through the licensing procedure. A group of humanitarian relief organizations signed on to a letter organized by the National Iranian American Council to US Government officials calling for a fix to the licensing requirements. But those calls were not heeded and, because SWIPA has not been adopted, organizations like MAP must continue to work through the licensing procedure.

Now that they received their license, MAP is eager to begin their work in Iran. “The OFAC permit is very specific about what kind of work we can do and granted us to work directly in the orphanages in Iran. These places are in such poor condition, without proper infrastructure, heating in the winter, and some have no showers. We will be working hands-on to improve the living situation for these children.” In addition to improving conditions in the orphanages, they will also implement educational workshops at Azadi School for Girls, so that girls will have the ability to support their families and avoid falling into abusive families.

Delfarib is hopeful that their work will make a difference and that, in the future, more American organizations will be able to work in Iran. “We encourage other organizations to have faith, be transparent, believe in your work, be committed, and most importantly have lots of love.”




Iran’s Nuclear Slowdown Discussed by Experts


Olli Heinonen  

According to Olli Heinonen, the former top nuclear inspector for Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran’s nuclear program is plagued by technical problems. Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility “is only operating at 60 percent of its design capacity. This indicates that there is a problem.”

Heinonen joined experts at a briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association (ACA) to discuss “The Status of Iran’s Nuclear and Missile Programs.” Also on the panel were missile expert Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Paul Pillar, who served for three decades in the CIA and as the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. The ACA’s Greg Thielmann, a former top State Department intelligence official and arms control expert, moderated the discussion.

A report released by the IAEA this week confirmed that Iran temporarily halted their centrifuges machines needed to refine uranium in mid-November. The problem with the centrifuges facility can stem from a variety of sources, said Heinonen. Recently, Iranian government officials have claimed that Stuxnet, a computer virus leaked into Iran’s nuclear program software, has not upset growth in their nuclear enrichment program. Heinonen argued that although Stuxnet may have caused setbacks to the Iran’s nuclear program, there is no proof of damage. He adds that Natanz’s centrifuge facility had been facing setbacks long before the Stuxnet virus was discovered.

The more likely cause for the Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities failing to operate at full capacity, stated Heinonen, is from lack of raw materials needed to operate the centrifuges and from poor design quality based on decades-old Dutch-based centrifuge design.

Heinonen said that because “Iran does not provide information on construction or design of their nuclear facilities and does not comply with IAEA requirements,” it is hard to gauge Iran’s future nuclear weapons capability. “Everything is indigenously produced, making it difficult for intelligence to find out what happened. We must use reverse engineering.”

Michael Elleman explained that the worst case scenarios regarding Iran’s missile capabilities have thus far not proven true. Perhaps in the future Iran’s ballistic missile capability could be “problematic,” but its current missile program is weak. While Iran has “created the knowledge to make solid propellant missiles,” Elleman said that applying “this knowledge to make long range missiles will take time.” Iranian ballistic missiles lack the capability to hit fixed targets, and such capabilities are not on the near horizon. Furthermore, Elleman said, Iran has not demonstrated intentions to develop missile capabilities against Europe and current capabilities to target Israel remain limited.

Paul Pillar said that suggestions that Persian Gulf countries would support a military attack against Iran are false, though he did say those states have concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Furthermore, he said, a nuclear arms race in the region is not likely, even if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons. “Fears about such a development are overblown,” Pillar said.

Pillar emphasized that we should be “cautious on the role of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program… at best intelligence can provide a snap-shot – fragmentary and incomplete.” He stressed that intelligence cannot answer, “what are the costs and risks and what are the best strategies” for the US regarding Iran’s nuclear program.




Experts Urge US to Recalibrate Iran Engagement Efforts



Washington, D.C. – With negotiations with Iran expected to commence soon, the Stimson Center and the US Institute of Peace (USIP) this week released a report, Engagement, Coercion, and Iran’s Nuclear Challenge, offering recommendations for a successful engagement strategy. The report’s authors, USIP’s Daniel Brumberg, Stimson co-founder Barry Blechman, and USIP’s Steven Heydemann, convened a panel discussion on Tuesday to discuss what Brumberg described as a “road map” for successful engagement with Iran.

The US and EU must communicate “a comprehensive picture of what Tehran has to gain from a mutually acceptable agreement on the nuclear issue,” according to the report. Accordingly, the authors recommend a “recalibration of efforts” to rebalance the current dual-track approach so that the US is not faced with a choice between either military options, which the group strongly warned against, or an undesirable containment and deterrence posture towards a nuclear Iran.

The panel supported the enforcement of UN sanctions to increase costs on Iran, but the group cautioned that sanctions are not an end unto themselves and US efforts cannot be successful without a “reinvigoration” of engagement. “Our tactical focus on sanctions has come at the expense of strategic engagement,” said Brumberg. “Sanctions will not elicit Iran’s cooperation.”

Thus, the US should simultaneously offer a “package of robust incentives” to provide compelling reasons for Iran to cooperate, said the authors. They recommend that the US be prepared to recognize Iran’s right for a peaceful enrichment program under international safeguards, while ultimately seeking “internationalization of all nuclear fuel services” that would end Iran’s domestic enrichment. The US and allies should also offer assistance to modernize Iran’s energy sector to help create a region-wide gas and electric grid, which would provide Iran a better long-term energy solution than nuclear energy.

Additionally, to help foster successful talks, the report recommends that the US remove restrictions barring American diplomats from communicating with their Iranian colleagues and indicate a readiness to reduce and eventually eliminate sanctions in conjunction with progress on engagement.

Warning against the use of force, Blechman said that military strikes “would trigger uncertainty and conflict throughout the Middle East and ultimately fracture the U.S. coalition.” The report warns that “Even veiled allusions to the ‘military option’ reinforce those Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran requires nuclear weapons to deter the US, and protect Tehran’s security and freedom of action.”

USIP’s Steve Heydemann, discussed Iran’s regional and global relations, and urged that the US not spurn the efforts of countries like Turkey and Brazil who can help foster diplomatic initiatives that are acceptable to Iran while addressing US and European concerns. “The US has not made an effective use of these key interlocutors,” said Heydeman, “and they need to provide a more robust role.”





Questions Linger About Nokia Siemens Involvement in Iran

“I am on the run and change homes all the time,” Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz told German weekly Der Spiegel on the morning of June 29, 2009, in the midst of Iran’s post-election turmoil. “I turn on my mobile phone only one hour each day, because they can trace me and arrest me.”

Just hours later, six officials of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran (MISIRI) appeared at Saharkhiz’s home in a small village in northern Iran. They arrested him and beat him severely, breaking his ribcage and both his wrists, before taking him to Iran’s notorious Evin prison where he has remained ever since. His crime: “insulting” the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Saharkhiz says that he was tracked down through monitoring technology designed and sold to Iran by Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). Now he and his son Mehdi are suing NSN in U.S. Federal District Court for aiding and abetting Iranian government officials who committed human rights abuses against innocent Iranians.

NSN’s history of working with Iran dates back to 2007, when they established a joint venture company called Pishahang Communication Network Development Co. Their partner in the venture, the Takfam Company, is owned and operated by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC). Utilizing NSN’s intelligence monitoring centers, the IRGC and other Iranian government agencies can monitor any form of communication inside Iran, from telephone conversations to text messages and emails.

NSN has asserted that they have ended their work with the Iranian government. “In 2008 Nokia Siemens Networks provided a monitoring center to allow Iranian law enforcement authorities to implement the Lawful Interception capability in MCI’s mobile network,” an NSN statement reads. “We have since divested the monitoring center business and, with the exception of some technical contractual links, no longer have any involvement with it.”

But NSN’s assertion, which has been made in publicized negotiations with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi and before a European Union panel investigating the matter, has been disputed by some.

“NSN still holds contractual links with Iran by providing support and maintenance services to Iran,” says Ali Herischi, the attorney who is representing Isa and Mehdi Saharkhiz.

Herischi explains that the surveillance company, Trovicor, which Nokia acquired in 2007, was sold to a German holding company, Perusa Partners Fund, in March 2009. The same Nokia executives that worked for Trovicor when it was acquired by Nokia still work there and, according to Herischi, still provide support for Iranian government officials committing human rights violations.

“[D]espite their PR spin, Nokia Siemens hasn’t really changed,” according to the nonprofit organization Access, which is leading a petition entitled No to Nokia. Access argues that NSN acknowledges continued links “with its old human tracking business” and maintains that “many of the senior staff who worked for Nokia Siemens now work for a private and unaccountable holding company which was set up to continue this dirty trade.“

Herischi wants these questions to be addressed. This past June, Congress barred all federal contracts for companies that provide monitoring and censorship technology to Iran. “Given the recent sanctions, it falls on the United States government to investigate NSN’s contractual relationship with Iran,” says Herischi.

But notwithstanding these questions, NSN has filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Saharkhiz’s case, and the court is currently investigating to determine whether to move forward with a trial. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet freedom group formed after the Iranian elections, questions NSN’s basis for having the case dismissed, calling for NSN to take responsibility for its actions. Nokia’s public statements, EFF says, “are sharply different than those it has made in court, where it had boldly claimed that because it is a corporation, it is categorically immune from responsibility for its role in aiding and abetting torture and illegal arrest.” EFF argues that “those hurt by its decision deserve their day in court.”

Herischi agrees. “NSN acted with the knowledge that Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has adopted means for illegal and unlawful interception under Iranian law and international laws and regulations. In effect, NSN are directly involved in the unlawful censoring and monitoring of journalists, activists, and citizens in Iran, including Mr. Isa Saharkhiz.”

“Each case is special on its own and requires its own investigation,” Herischi says. “We encourage more victims to come forth and seek justice for Nokia’s actions.”

Update: Isa Saharkhiz has voluntarily withdrawn his case against NSN due to potential concerns regarding a Second Circuit decision which held that corporations can not be subject to liability under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350.




Rights Advocates Discuss the Future of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran


Shirin Ebadi - UMD Conference 10/2010  

Washington, D.C. – Human rights activists, scholars, journalists, and diplomats converged last week at the Roshan Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland to discuss the future of Iran’s human rights movement, with keynote addresses from Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and NIAC advisory board member Ambassador John Limbert.

Participating in a panel discussion, Dr. Ebadi spoke about the evolution of human rights discourse within Iran and refuted the three typical responses of the Iranian government to demands for greater human rights in the country. One typical response of the Iranian government, said Ebadi, is the claim that human rights itself is a foreign concept and, as such, has no place inside the Iran. She dismissed this argument by asking how Iran can claim to support human rights at the United Nations and then say it has no place in its own country. A second stance taken by the Iranian government, Ebadi said, is the claim that human rights violations are an internal matter of Iran and no one else’s business. Ebadi argued that human rights are international and transcend country lines, adding that others have the right to talk about human rights within Iran, just as Iran talks about human rights in other countries. The final approach taken by the Iranian government is to deflect criticism by accusing other states of also committing human rights violations. Ebadi acknowledged that this accusation may be true, but said that the prevalence of human rights violations is not a justification for these violations to occur.

Speaking on a separate panel, Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian journalist and human rights activist, discussed the current state of the women’s movement in Iran and emphasized the role of women in the Green Movement. Ghazi noted the powerful role that Madaran-e Azadar, or “Mourning Mothers”, has played in the aftermath of last year’s disputed elections. According to Ghazi, the symbolism of these women, who gather once a week in local parks in Iran to mourn the death of their children or to demand their release from prison, has been so significant that Iranian government officials have been unsuccessful in preventing the continued public displays and press coverage they have generated. Madaran-e Azadar, along with the One Million Signatures campaign, are at the forefront of the women’s movement in Iran today, Ghazi argued.

Continuing the discussion on women’s rights, Dr. Reza Afshari, professor of history and human rights at Pace University, and Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, author of Jasmine and the Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran debated the relevance of cultural relativism when talking about human rights. “The concept of equal respect was alien to all cultures in the beginning,” said Afshari. “The West had to change its culture for the rights of men to become known. It was not self relevant that ‘all men are created equal.’” Afshari and Keshavarz agreed that, in order for women’s rights and human rights to truly be successful in Iranian society, there must be changes within Iranian families and culture as well.

Friday’s conference ended with a speech from a member of NIAC’s advisory board, Ambassador John Limbert, who most recently served as the State Department as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran. Limbert, whose experience living and working in Iran dates back to the 1960’s, opened his speech by saying, “My Iranian friends deserve much better. They deserve a government that listens to its citizens.”

Limbert captivated the audience at the University of Maryland with historical pictures of Iranians from different backgrounds coming together and fighting for change within in Iran. He presented a picture of a time when Iranians and Americans were working together in the early 1900’s to help build constitutional government in Iran and compared this with a picture of “a road that goes nowhere”, illustrating the state of Iran-US relations for the past 30 years. He argued that America’s role towards Iran should be based on four principles – “do no harm, bear witness to what is happening, state the facts, and stay out of Iranian political contests that we do not understand.”

Limbert concluded his speech by suggesting that the Iranian-American community can serve two critical roles. “The first role,” he said, is to “cast the light on what is happening in Iran. Those who have declared war against their own people should know they cannot hide.” The second role is to present a balanced and accurate picture of Iran to Americans. Limbert explained, “We’re dealing with a very complex and delicate situation. Ill-considered actions could have disastrous consciences, even for those who we claim we are supporting.”




U.S. Department of State Hosts NIAC President Dr. Trita Parsi in Saudi Arabia

The U.S. Department of State recently hosted Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, for a series of events in Saudi Arabia coordinated by the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. Dr. Parsi was invited to speak and share his expertise on U.S.-Iranian relations and Iranian politics during the first week of October at several events in Riyadh, Dharan and Jeddah.

Dr. Parsi took part in a variety of talks on US-Iranian politics, including discussions at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies, Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, and with journalists at Al Eqtisadiyah News. Consulate General Tom Duffy hosted a roundtable luncheon chaired by Dr. Parsi which, according to the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah’s official release, “was very well-received by the audience, a mix of prominent academics, businesspeople, journalists, and intellectuals. There was significant audience participation and interest in the topic.”

As part of the US government’s public affairs outreach, the State Department tours prominent US-based experts and academics in the region to provide an opportunity for officials from foreign ministries, academics, journalists, and members of the business community to engage with them.




Majd Reflects on Civil Rights, Sanctions and the Iranian Challenge for Democracy


Washington, DC – Hooman Majd describes his new book, The Ayatollah’s Democracy: An Iranian Challenge, as not an academic piece, but rather a play that describes what happened in the 2009 election crisis and reveals the perspectives of top government officials and members of the opposition in the weeks and months that unfolded after June 12.

Majd, who previously authored “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ,” similarly wrote his new book based on firsthand accounts from his travels in Iran. Speaking at the New America Foundation on Thursday, he explained why he was one of the first commentators to publicly call the Green Movement a “civil rights movement” rather than a “revolution.”

Calling the movement a “revolution,” Majd says, “plays right into the hardliners in Iran who want to portray the Green Movement leaders and the Green Movement itself as a revolution, as sedition.” Majd stressed that “the ultimate conclusion from 2009 is that we made a lot of mistakes on the outside, in terms of our analysis, our thoughts; in what we were thinking was happening in Iran. And as such, we harmed, in my opinion, the so-called ‘Green Movement’.”

When the topic of sanctions was brought up, Majd assessed that the Iranian government has proved relatively impervious to the “threats” of the past 30 years. Though the recent sanctions may hurt the government, he said, they will not bring the government’s downfall and will not change Tehran’s foreign policy. Iran may become even more radical, especially if military action is taken against the country.

Majd emphasized that the future of the green movement depends on the release of foreign pressure. “The Green Movement has recognized that as long as there are external issues, it’s going to be very hard to focus on civil rights and to even fight for their rights. It’s hard to even criticize the government on their economy,” Majd explained. If nuclear pressure, sanctions, and support of Hamas and Hezbollah were resolved, this would allow for Iranian domestic issues to be confronted and more light would be shed on the green civil rights movement. Majd stressed that the people’s voice can be heard “if you take away that distraction which the government can use, saying ‘we’re under threat, we may be bombed, we have to unify, we can’t have internal dissent’. Because if you think you’re under attack, there is a good chance people are going to unify.”

The future of the Green Movement is unknown, says Majd. Through his observations on the ground in Iran, he said it seems most people spend less time thinking about the Green Movement and more time thinking about jobs and how to provide money for their living. “The Green Movement is still alive, and the leaders are still working to make their civil rights heard, but they are working in ways that are not obvious to the media or government.”

When explaining the title of his book, Majd stated that “it’s hard to say what an Islamic democracy is, because even inside Iran, even among the ayatollahs, they can’t agree what an Islamic democracy is…but what most Iranians agree on is that they will have a democracy in the future and it will have an Islamic veneer.” He explains further that “it is impossible not to have an Islamic veneer, in the same way that there is a Judeo-Christian veneer in our democracy.”

“When I wrote this book, I was thinking it was important for Americans to understand the political culture of Iran, which is very complex,” explained Majd. “I have always felt it’s not my place to be activist, but it’s my place to observe. I also try to talk to all kinds of people, not just supporters of the system or just opponents of the system, but all kinds of people.”