Mustafa Hijri’s speech at the XXVI Congress of the Socialist International in Madrid
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are witnessing an uprising in Iran that is unprecedented for several reasons.
First, peaceful demonstrations have taken place in all 31 provinces of the country. While millions of people took part in the demonstrations of 2009, they were confined to the major cities. The leaders of the Green Movement were regime loyalists and did not seek any meaningful change, let alone regime change. For this reason, the Green Movement was doomed to fail and never became a movement for the majority of the people in Iran.
Second, and more importantly, the demonstrators are calling for regime change. It is why the recent uprising is different and promising. All segments of society, irrespective of ethnicity, faith, age and gender are actively participating in the uprising. Women, youth and the national minorities have been at the forefront of the uprising.
Third, the liberation of women, dignified life and freedom rather than any traditional ideological vision have unified Iranians in pursuit of regime change. This uprising is progressive and its aims are in line with the values of the Western democracies and the United Nation’s universal declaration on human rights.
Fourth, there is an emerging solidarity between Iran’s ethnic groups, in spite of the Islamist regime’s decades-long policy of enticing enmity between Persians, Kurds, Arabs, Turks and Balouch. In particular, we are witnessing expressions of solidarity with the Kurdish people and their struggle for freedom in the central parts of the country.
This uprising, it should be reminded, started in Iranian Kurdistan following the death of Kurdish women Jina Masha Amini. Jina’s tragic death vividly reinforced the intersection between the oppression of women and Iran’s national minorities.
Our party and other Kurdish political parties played a major role in organizing the demonstrations in Kurdish cities that later spread to the rest of Iran.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This uprising is likely to usher in yet another revolution, similar to the revolution of 1979.
We, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, have for a long time expected the downfall of the Islamic Republic. We are now more convinced than before that the Islamist regime will fall in one way or another.
Very briefly, I want to draw your attention to the following factors to explain why the people of Iran are demanding regime change:
First, the Islamist regime has become more exclusionary and repressive over time. Even regime loyalists are marginalized. From the mid-1990s many citizens took part in the sham elections of the regime and voted for the so-called reformists in the hope of changing the regime within. However, the so-called reformists are regime loyalists who want to preserve rather than change the Islamic Republic. We have been warning about this since the 1990s. Eventually, people inside Iran have realized that this regime is not reformable.
Second, the destructive domestic and foreign policies of the regime have magnified the political, economic and environmental crises facing the country. While poverty and unemployment have increased, corruption has become endemic in the Islamic Republic. The regime’s financial support of various militias and terrorist groups in the Middle East, including the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, have generated popular discontent. The regime’s nuclear and missile programs as well support for terrorism have invited international sanctions.
Third, as the people of Iran have become aware of the fact that Islamic Republic not only disregards their welfare and security, but in fact constitutes a threat to their welfare and security, they have become more resolute in their demands and have grown impatient with the status quo. Although the regime has invested heavily in indoctrinating post-revolutionary generations with Islamist ideas, they have in fact become anti-Islamist. Women and national minorities in Iran are subject to systematic oppression. Frankly speaking, the younger generation is fed up with the regime and willing to risk their lives to achieve liberty.
In short, in every respect, the Islamist regime has failed and the effects of its destructive policies are felt by Iranian citizens on a daily basis. Therefore, we should not be surprised that the Iranian people are demanding regime change.
We hope the downfall of the regime will be peaceful. We are realistic and expect this regime to use violence to the very end, notwithstanding the fact that some members of the armed forces are refusing orders to use lethal force against peaceful demonstrators. We hope that the armed forces will eventually abandon the Islamist regime and join the people.
To avoid past mistakes, we believe it is important that the emerging movement for regime change in Iran is committed to liberty, gender equality, secularism and democracy. Without a commitment to democracy and the formation of an inclusive opposition, the political history of Iran unfortunately teaches us that there is a risk that a successful revolution for liberty could be hijacked by anti-democratic forces. This is what happened in 1979 when the Islamists imposed their religious dictatorship on Iran.
It is primarily the responsibility of us as Iranians to make sure that the next revolution will safeguard liberty and democracy. Nevertheless, we need the political support of the Western democracies to achieve these progressive goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me, as the leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, to inform you that our party has struggled for democracy in Iran and self-rule for the Kurdish people since 1945. We are not, contrary to the Islamic Republic’s propaganda, aiming to divide Iran.
Our vision for the future of Iran is a secular, democratic and federal democracy in which the rule of law is upheld and Iran’s various national minorities – which together make up half of the population – enjoy self-rule within their regions. In terms of foreign policy, we believe that Iran should be at peace with its neighbours in the Middle East and have constructive relations with democracies around the world, in particular the Western democracies. For this vision to be realized, Iran needs to be at peace with itself. Without freedom, secularism, democracy and a federal system that reflects Iran’s diversity, it is not possible to achieve peace at home or in the Middle East, let alone constructive relations with the Western World.
We are calling on the democratic countries could take practical steps to support the Iranian people’s uprising. They should bring the opposition together. They should initiate dialogue with and aid the Kurdish democratic forces.
The democratic countries should take immediate steps to facilitate secure access to the internet for the Iranian population. Targeted sanctions against the regime should be maintained and expanded.
A renegotiated nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic will only benefit the Islamist regime – as we witnessed when the Western powers reached a deal with Iran in 2015. The economic benefits of the previous nuclear deal were used to expand existing military programs, such as the missile program, and to further prop up the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and other entities that supress the Iranian people, but also to fund militias and terrorist groups in the Middle East.
We are therefore demanding a change in Western policy toward Iran. Instead of prioritizing the nuclear issue, Western democracies should support the Iranian people’s struggle for liberty and democracy. It is only through regime change that a lasting and peaceful solution to the nuclear issue can be reached. It is only when Iran becomes a democracy that it will cease to destabilize the Middle East.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Support for democracy in Iran is not only morally justified; it is also prudent policy!
Thank you for your attention.