The Hill: Suppose they held an election and nobody voted. This is not just wishful thinking; it happened in Iran. Despite the regime’s lies and propaganda, millions of Iranians who care about their country’s future refused to go to the polls.
The Hill – Congress Blog
By Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.)
Suppose they held an election and nobody voted. This is not just wishful thinking; it happened in Iran. Despite the regime’s lies and propaganda, millions of Iranians who care about their country’s future refused to go to the polls. After all, the winner, Hassan Rowhani, like the rest of the candidates, was vetted by the regime’s Guardian Council.
It’s ironic that even the two main candidates barred from the ballot are loyal regime supporters. Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani helped Khamenei ascend to his position, and even though he is seen as sympathetic to reform for reasons related to questioning the electoral process, he’s not what anyone would really consider a reformer. In fact, he called the June 14 election “the most democratic in the world.” And Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei subscribes to the views of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
These actions finally led the United States to question the credibility of Iran’s presidential election after the Iranian people did so nearly three decades ago. “The (Guardian) Council narrowed a list of almost seven hundred potential candidates down to … officials of their choice, based solely on who represents the regime’s interests,” Secretary of State John Kerry said. Rowhani was one of them.
“That is hardly an election by standards which most people in most countries judge free, fair, open, accessible, accountable elections,” Kerry said.
Of course, no one expected a fair election in a country ruled by a diminishing circle of leaders. In 2009, the “defeat” of so-called reform candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi led to months of demonstrations protesting the results, and these two men remain under house arrest.
That’s why Khamenei and the other mullahs have tightened their inner circle. They know the noose is closing on them and they’re trying to survive as long as possible.
Kerry hit the nail on the head when he said, “Ultimately the Iranian people (will) be prevented not only from choosing someone who might have reflected their point of view, but also taking part in a way that is essential to any kind of legitimate democracy.”
The election of Rowhani hasn’t changed any of this. He has been part of the regime’s security and military apparatus for over three decades. He is Khamenei’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council, and has been instrumental in suppressing the democracy movement.
So long as the clerics remain in power, human rights will be systematically violated, women will still be considered second-class citizens, political freedoms will be suppressed and national wealth will be funneled into terrorism and the nuclear weapons program. Change has to come from outside the regime.
That is why there is a strong movement of Iranians seeking a very different kind of Iran. They advocate the overthrow of the clerical regime by Iranians at home, spearheaded by the organized resistance led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the charismatic leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
They believe neither appeasement nor foreign military intervention holds the solution to the Iranian crisis. Mrs. Rajavi has been advocating a nuclear-free secular democratic republic with separation of church and state and gender equality.
This message has been gaining strength year by year and month by month. Last year, some 100,000 Iranians from all over the world gathered near Paris to echo this demand. And another huge throng will rally in Paris on June 22, again joined by political and human rights personalities from the US, France, Europe, and the Muslim world to include hundreds of parliamentarians. I am planning to be there as well.
The Resistance has been emboldened by the removal of the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), from the US terror list. After a 15-year legal and political battle to shed this unjust label, it is reorganizing its vast network inside of Iran to set the grounds for the big change.
Despite the mullahs’ brutal repression, they have not been able to stop – much less slow – the inevitable return to freedom of the Iran they took over 34 years ago.
The young population is disgruntled; the economy is in shambles; and the rule of the mullahs is nearing its end. This is why Khamenei is stepping up his opposition bashing and warning about the plans of the organized resistance in Tehran’s state media.
But the Resistance won’t be stilled. By quietly staying away from the polls, Iranians have made a loud and clear statement. The time for change is now.
Kennedy represented Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2011.