Monday, November 12, 2012

Post #372 - Damned If You Don't

Because I am no longer actively affiliated with the National Iranian American Council, I feel free to share this.  It is an unsolicited letter to the founder and manager (Jahanshah Javid) of, a well-respected on-line magazine featuring subjects of interest to the Iranian-American community:

Dear Jahanshah, 

When your blog post was brought to my attention I felt compelled to respond. I am Sarah Shourd, one of the three Americans that was held as a political hostage by the Iranian Government in 2009. I spent 410 days in solitary confinement at the factory of horror known as Evin Prison. When I heard about Sattar Beheshti’s death by torture my mind went back to the screams of pain I would sometimes hear coming from down the hall and the injured women prisoners that I saw limp past my cell.

In my opinion, to say that Trita Parsi and NIAC don’t care about Sattar Beheshti and other political prisoners/ prisoners of conscience in Iran is wrong. This is becasue my own experience was quite different. I spent the year after my release campaigning for my now-husband Shane Bauer and good friend Josh Fattal. During that time, I called Trita Parsi for support and advice on an almost weekly basis. Everything NIAC did for me, they did discreetly, behind the scenes, simply because we didn’t want the Iranian Government to know who our contacts and advisors were. NIAC never once asked for credit for their help on our case, even after Shane and Josh were released and there was no longer any need for secrecy.

What I want to say is that there is a lot more to doing human rights work than releasing statements. The work NIAC does advocating against war and harmful sanctions is crucial because trying to curb harmful sanctions and prevent large-scale death and catastrophe IS human rights work. Also, if NIAC and other organizations were public about everything they do to promote human rights in Iran, they simply wouldn’t be as effective. For these reasons, I would like to ask you, Jahanshah Javid, to reconsider your position on NIAC and Trita Parsi.
Lastly, I would like to make it clear that the real issue here is horrific murder of Sattar Beheshti while in custody at Evin. My heart goes out to his family, his loved ones and to the Iranian community around the world. I pray that justice is still possible. Your loss is a loss for all of us. 

Thank You, Sarah Shourd

NIAC has been criticized, since its founding, from all sides.  The supporters of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) have tried to portray the group as being in league with the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the fact that NIAC has sponsored a number of events  featuring speakers that are quite critical of that government and its human rights record.  Others have accused NIAC of being too timid in its opposition to sanctions, since its position has allowed for targeted sanctions designed to impact the leadership of the IRI itself. When NIAC has attempted to aid civil society in Iran, it has been attacked for promoting "regime change" engineered from outside.  When it has not, it is attacked for failing to support freedom movements inside Iran.

With Rep. Jim Moran, at a NIAC event
In my opinion, NIAC reflects the great majority of the Iranian-American community, whose members wish to see improvement in governance and respect for human rights in Iran,  a sanctions regime that does not simply penalize the innocent who happen to reside in Iran, and avoidance of military intervention, with all the division, destruction and death that it would inevitably bring.

Walking the center line often means that you have no place to hide, but at least you stay well out of the gutter on both sides of the road. 

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