Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran Human Rights Advocates: Obama's Doing It Right

I spoke this morning with Hadi Ghaemi. He's the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, headquartered in NYC. He's currently in Paris with Roxana Saberi, whose insights into Iran's attempts to shut down information coming out of the country are particularly apropos in the wake of the upheaval following last week's election.

My first question was simple - did you, at least, see this coming?

Ghaemi said he didn't. No one did, most importantly, he says, not even the Iranian government. He thinks the protesters have surprised even themselves since the election, and created the beginnings of a movement toward real change in Iran by the strength of their outrage.

Ghaemi says from a human rights point of view, neither of the candidates were a welcome choice - but there was a third candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, who had promised important human rights reform. According to blogs claiming to have official figures leaked by the Interior Ministry, Karoubi came in second to Mir-Hossein Mousavi...with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a distant third.

Ghaemi now describes the people of Iran as waiting to find their way...he believes a movement has been born. He doesn't expect Mousavi to continue as its leader, but he equates what's happening to the creation of the women's movement, the student movement, the labor movement. Now that they've discovered their power, he thinks they'll next start planning how to flex their previously undetected muscle. He says things may grow quiet for a while - but he believes that doesn't mean this is over. Just how bloody the confrontation is depends, he says, on the Iranian government's response.

How about the flack America's president is taking for his response to the bloodshed in Tehran? "America's response so far is absolutely correct," Ghaemi says. He points out that the US has absolutely no relationship with Iran - no trade, no diplomatic relations, political relations - and the US has no leverage. There is nothing the United States can do in a practical way, and inserting itself into the events on any level other than moral grounds is unrealistic and unproductive.

Listen to the full interview here: http://tinyurl.com/nrqmbd

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