The government of Iran has been through international disdain and condemnation before. The Iranian regime isn’t scared of increased sanctions, greater isolation, or harsher words. And the mullahs aren’t concerned about the American or Israeli governments taking military action against them. The Iranian regime is only afraid of the Iranian people’s collective anger.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who control him understand that if the people opposed to their rule would organize and speak out in one united chorus, their reign would be over. The anger is at a tipping point but the tools to show it are still being sharpened.
There has never been a more important time to work toward a democratic and free Iran. Tens of thousands of people around the world, including those struggling inside Iran and at camps inside Iraq, are working day and night to educate the rest of the world of their desire to bring down the Iranian regime. The United Nations Security Council has condemned and sanctioned the regime, the European Union has called for a boycott of Iranian products, and the governments of Israel, the United States, and a number of Arab states have sharply condemned Iran’s leadership. But the international community has done little to support the Iranian people in their quest to end the regime’s daily attacks on their freedoms.
Why isn’t more being done to support the one weapon that the Iranian government fears the most? Why isn’t the U.S. government doing more to support those who are ready to fight for regime change inside Iran?
As an Iranian-American born in Iran, educated in the U.S., and living with my family in Texas, I dream of the day when my family and friends inside Iran will not worry about their religion or dress, have full access to the Internet, and be able to think, speak, and travel freely.
I know their horror. While living in Iran as a young high school girl, I was picked up by government authorities for writing in my personal diary about how women should have the right to choose their own spouses and clothing and be able to live freely in a world without government minders. My punishment was one of the worst for a young person: the Iranian authorities decided to forbid me from attending college and later sent me to prison. It was a harsh punishment for a young girl dreaming of a better life.
Today, I am physically far from the regime’s reach. But its torturous ways are always close in my memory.
I often think of those inside Iran as well as the 3,200 Iranians who made their way across the border into Iraq to escape the regime. At the behest of the Iranian regime, the Iraqi government has forced most of these political refugees from an oasis they built, called Camp Ashraf, to a new area with deteriorating living conditions, called Camp Liberty. They have been deprived of freedom of movement and access to their families and lawyers. Even worse, they have to struggle in 140-degree heat without water, electricity, or basic necessities, which Iraq is denying them. The Iraqi government took control of the camps in January 2009 after the U.S. government transitioned out of Iraq. After six years of U.S. military protections between 2003 and 2009, residents of Camps Ashraf and Liberty, among them 1,000 women, are now left vulnerable. It is odd that the very people fighting against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime are not being protected by the U.S. government. America’s inaction amounts to unwitting complicity with Iran’s rulers.
There are tens of thousands of Iranians around the world committed to establishing freedom and democracy in Iran. These brave opposition forces inside Iran and at the camps inside Iraq should not only be protected but given the necessary support to bring about regime change in a country that the world condemns. It is also ironic that while the Obama administration publicly condemns Ahmadinejad and his government, the U.S. government is doing little to help the Iranian people. If Americans want to solve the problem of a reckless and dangerous Iranian government, then they should tell their leaders in Congress to continue pressuring the State Department to do more to support the very people willing to confront that government. Hillary Clinton needs to understand that the Iranian regime fears its people more than a military strike.
Homeira Hesami is an Iranian-born medical physicist living in Texas. As a teenager, she spent time in an Iranian jail for writing diary entries that were critical of the Iranian regime.