March 22, 2012

Iranian human rights and democracy defenders on sanctions and war

Below is a compendium of public statements by notable Iranian human rights and democracy defenders regarding the impact that sanctions and threats of war have on Iran:
Iran sanctions strengthen Ahmadinejad regime – Karroubi, The Guardian, August 11, 2010:

  • “These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country,”
  • “Look at Cuba and North Korea,” he said. “Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.”
  • “On the one hand, the government’s mishandling of the economy has resulted in deep recession and rising inflation inside the country, which has crippled the people of Iran and resulted in the closure of numerous factories. On the other hand, we have sanctions which are strengthening the illegitimate government.”
  • In relation to how the current Iranian regime treats its opponents more harshly than the shah, who was sensitive to international criticism, did: “But because Iran is getting more isolated, more and more they [Ahmadinejad’s government] are becoming indifferent to what the world is thinking about them,” he said.
  • Mir Hossein Mousavi co-authored a public letter with Karroubi: “Sanctions have targeted the most vulnerable social classes of Iran including workers and farmers,” the letter said.

 Iranian Opposition Warns Against Stricter Sanctions, Washington Post, October 1, 2009

  • Mir Hossein Mousavi: Sanctions would not affect the government but would impose many hardships upon the people, who suffer enough as a result of the calamity of their insane rulers.”
  • Ali Shakouri-Rad: “The government will say that critics of their policies are doing the foreigners’ bidding” and will use sanctions as a pretext to silence opponents, said Ali Shakouri-Rad, a leading member of the opposition Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Iran’s defiant Green movement vows to fight on, The Guardian, June 11, 2010

  • Zahra Rahnavard: “Sanctions are only harmful for the people of Iran,” she warned. “The Iranian government is rich with oil money and the money is at its disposal. Sanctions would not affect such a government.”

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions, NIACinSight, March 8, 2010

  • Zahra Rahnavard issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles: “Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.”

Shirin Ebadi warns against Iranian sanctions, BBC News, March 4, 2010

  • “We oppose military attack on Iran or economic sanctions because that’s to the detriment of the people,” she said.

Iranian Nobel laureate urges focus on rights, Financial Times, March 7, 2010

  • “A military attack or economic sanctions would be to the detriment of the people of Iran,” she said, adding that the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had ways to circumvent further economic measures and their unintended impact might be to rally people behind the regime.

Iran’s Shirin Ebadi Calls on U.S. To Strengthen International Human Rights Law, Think Progress, April 22, 2011:  

  • “The worst solution is a military attack,” Ebadi said. “Democracy is not merchandise to be exported to a country, democracy cannot be purchased and sent to another country.”
  • “Dictators actually like to be attacked by foreigners,” Ebadi said yesterday, “so using excuse of national security, they can put away their opposition.”
  • Ebadi also opposed the use of economic sanctions, “because they will hurt the people.”  “Notwithstanding the ten years of economic sanctions against Iraq,” she said, “Saddam was still there, while many people died deprived of food and medication.”
  • The best tools against regimes like Iran’s, Ebadi said, are political sanctions, which she described as “measures taken against violators of human rights, [but] that do not hurt the people.”

NIAC Hosts Shirin Ebadi for Discussion on Human Rights, Engagement, and War, NIAC, April 28, 2011:

  • “Wars and military attacks in nondemocratic countries should be forgotten because dictators actually like to be attacked by foreigners so that, on the excuse of national security, they can put away their opposition.”
  • In support of sanctions focusing on human rights violators compared to economic sanctions: “These kind of sanctions are smart sanctions, meaning that it does not punish all of the people of one country, but only those who have committed the crimes.”
  • “There should not be a wall built around Iran isolating it from the rest of the world.”

Akbar Ganji Says Military Attack On Iran Would Destroy Opposition, Lobelog, May 12th, 2010

  • On democracy and human rights taking root in Iran: “A military attack (on Iran) would destroy all of that,” he declared. The Green Movement, which Ganji obviously supports, would “melt away” if such an attack took place.
  • Ganji noted that the Green Movement consists mostly of middle-class adherents and that “economic sanctions would destroy the middle class (and) … the Green Movement.” In any event, he went on, “the more economic sanctions are applied against Iran, the more the government will control the economy” due to the prevailing structures.

Open Letter from Akbar Ganji, Iran’s leading political dissident addresses the UN Secretary-General, Boston Review, November 9, 2011

  • “Even speaking about ‘the possibility’ of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran.”
  • “The people of Iran and Iranian advocates for freedom and democracy are experiencing difficult days… We categorically reject a military attack on Iran.”

Raising Their Voices: Iranian Civil Society Reflections on the Military Option, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, July 25, 2011

  • The responses of these civil society leaders overwhelmingly reflect the opinion that an attack on Iran, no matter how limited in scope, would have ruinous consequences for Iranian society by entrenching the authoritarian regime, intensifying human rights abuses and likely thwarting the democratic aspirations of a large portion of the populace.
  • With a military attack, the United States risks provoking the ire and distrust of the segment of Iranian society most open, and least adverse, to the United States and its allies. The United States would lose much of its ability to influence human rights developments in Iran, while prolonging US-Iranian hostilities for another generation.
  • …they were largely united in their view that an attack would not diminish the repression, and would instead prove fatal to civil society and the pro-democracy movement.
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