Press Conference With Rep. Bob Filner And Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Co-Chairs Of The Iran Human Rights And Democracy Caucus, And Soona Samsami, Executive Director, Women's Freedom Forum Inc.
Subject: Human Rights In Iran
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MR. : Thank you very much, everybody. Well, we are going to start the press briefing in the name of Neda, the young woman who was gunned down by Iranian regime thugs -- her name, Neda, who in her innocent death became the symbol of this uprising, and the uprising of the youth are asking for a democratic change by the Iranian people.
I'm delighted, very well -- I'm really -- to say anything about the bravery of these women and men on the street of Iran. It's a -- it's hard to do that. You have seen it on TV screens.
I don't waste my time, because I'm going to introduce you to the co-chairs of the Iran Human Rights/Democracy Caucus, that we are honored to have them here. Congressman Bob Filner is the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs -- and the co-chair of the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the ranking member of the Subcommittee of International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. He's also the co-chair for the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus.
REP. FILNER: Good afternoon. My name is Bob Filner. I represent San Diego, California. And as the co-chairs of the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus, Congressman Rohrabacher and I are here, standing in solidarity with the brave people who are resisting a repressive regime in Iran. We stand in solidarity with them. We stand in solidarity with Neda. We stand in solidarity with democracy and human rights.
Now people have said, "What can we do? What can we in the United States do?" Well, there are several choices, given the situation. Sometimes we have invaded countries, but that is not an option today. Sometimes we've done the reverse and tried to mollify or appease those in charge. And we have done some of that in Iran up to now.
So if we're not going to invade and we're not going to appease, what should we do? There is a third way, a third way that has been advocated by one of the biggest resistance groups in Iran, the so- called MEK, or Mujaheddin.
They say, "Let us do the job; get out of our -- just get out of our way," because we have not helped the internal resistance movements.
For example, we have put the MEK on a terrorist list here, which means that we cannot support them and we hold up any financial kinds of transactions that they may want to do. The MEK is a democratic, non-nuclear, secular group fighting for freedom for all the people in Iran, and we should be doing what we could to help them and not get in their way.
There is another example of us getting in their way. With the invasion of Iraq that took place, there was a resistance community of Iranians living in Iraq who we took over the protection of them in a place called Ashraf, Camp Ashraf in Iraq, which has three or four thousand Iranians there. They have provided us, by the way, with a lot of intelligence with what's going on in Iran.
The Iranians want to get rid of their protected status, and we are about to let them do that; which puts those 3,000 people in grave -- in harm's way, in fear of their lives.
So, yes, we stand in solidarity with the students, with the women, with those who want freedom. And we say, yes, the United States can do something. We can help internal resistance movements in Iran, and we should not stand in their way of trying to get rid of the present regime. So let's -- let's educate the American people about what the United States in fact can do.
My colleague from California, Dana Rohrabacher, is here to join me in these messages.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Appreciate being a co-chairman of a caucus that is attempting to stand for those principles of the United States of America that are not Republican principles or Democrat principles, but are at the heart of our very liberty and justice of our society. And so I'm very pleased to be here with Bob Filner who -- we disagree on so many other things -- (laughs) -- but I can assure you that, when it comes to the fundamentals like this, all Americans should be standing together in unity with the people of Iran in their demand that the mullahs go back to the mosque and the mullah dictatorship be ended.
And hopefully, just hopefully, this message from us will weaken the will of the mullah dictators, and encourage those people in Iran who want to live in peace with the United States and want freedom and prosperity for their own people. We are on the side of the people of Iran.
Now, so many times, people have been saying, well, are you advocating then that we send in the military? No. No one is advocating military action being taken, in order to try to have an outcome of what's going on in Iran. But there are things we should do. And there are definitely stands we should make at moments like this.
One stand that should be made that there be very clear and aggressive words, rather than the apologetic tone that we've heard from this administration, the Obama administration, on our wholehearted support for the cause, of a Democratic Iran, and support at least, in terms of our emotional and our philosophical support, for those people who are struggling there, in harm's way, willing to put their lives on the line in Tehran.
Well, that's number one. But number two, you know what else we can do? The mullahs have been looting their country. The people of Iran not only want their freedom. They want honest government back and they want competent government back.
The mullahs have been looting the country. They've been incompetent. And yes, they've been corrupt as well as being oppressors and tyrants and monstrous ghouls, in the way the suppress their own people with such bloodshed.
We need to make sure that the loot that they have taken out of their country and put into overseas bank accounts are frozen. In other words, if the mullahs keep killing the people, their own people, to maintain power, the least we can do, in the West, is track down where they put their loot and freeze those bank accounts.
We need also to make sure that no corporations from the West, especially from the United States, high-tech corporations that in some way have been dealing with the mullah regime; that we end up working with them. We have an option of working, with these high-tech companies, to make sure that what they're doing is not assisting in the repression of the mullahs.
How disheartening would it be to know that American technology developed here is being put to use, in Tehran, to track down those people who want to bring democracy and are trying to fight the mullah dictatorship?
We must move quickly to make sure that any cooperation -- economic cooperation with American companies, especially at high-tech companies, is cut off.
We can also make sure that, if the mullahs continue murdering their own people, that we make sure that other Western countries like the United States ratchets up the economic embargoes that we have currently in place, to make sure that we aren't assisting them in, for example, exploiting the oil, so they can use the oil to what? To buy weapons to repress their own people and threaten their neighbors.
So it's -- support for human rights in Tehran is not just a philosophical statement, and it's certainly not a -- certainly not a threat of military violence. It is something that we Americans can do and be proud of, in standing for the right and doing those things that we can do.
And so I would suggest that we have a lot of work to do. I'm anxious to work with all of our friends. Now is the time, as Bob Filner stated, to make -- to reach out, whether it's the MEK or anyone else who is opposed to that mullah dictatorship, to bring them together, work together with as many people as we can, and bring them out a democratic Iran. Because a democratic Iran will be an Iran that is at peace with the world. There will be mutual prosperity between us and the Iranian people, and that is what we need to try to go for. So thank you very much.
REP. FILNER: Thank you, Congressman Rohrabacher.
I'd like to introduce to you Soona Samsami, who's the executive director of the Women's Freedom Forum, and she has represented the National Council of Resistance, which is the umbrella Iranian internal resistance movement in the United States, up until 2003.
MS. SAMSAMI: I thank you, Congressman Filner and Congressman Rohrabacher, to be here on this event today that's on saluting Neda, which is the voice of the thousands of women in the streets today as we witnessing something very important happening in recent history of Iran, that you see widespread, women in all the streets, you know, coming and talking about change in Iran. And they're asking for a secular, democratic government in power, and they're asking to get rid of the entirety of the system of the Velayat-e Faqih, which is the system of supreme jurisprudence.
And today we understand that this negotiation policy is no longer effective. It's no use.
And any sort of giving legitimacy to Ahmadinejad government is really sending a wrong message, to the Iranian people and to the whole world, after we're seeing so many, more than 200 people, slain in the streets, and as the world is witnessing the whole people of Iran looking to the world community -- especially United Nations, members of Congress, members of Senate -- to come forward and stand on their side.
In Saturday, there was a gathering of 90,000 Iranians, from all over the world, in Paris, saluting the uprising of the Iranian people in Paris. And they were joining -- (inaudible) -- call for empowering the Iranian people for regime change in Iran.
Thank you very much.
MR. : Okay. I think this is a time to use, if any of the media representatives have any questions.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Do you have any questions? We'll take them now. I've only got about five minutes and then I've got to run.
Q What kind of assistance do you mean exactly, with regard to the MEK? (Off mike.)
REP. FILNER: Well, mainly get out of their way.
I mean, we have put obstacles in their organizational efforts, by declaring them a terrorist organization, which weakens them. And we should follow the example of both Britain and the --
What do we call it, the common market?
European Union, sorry, which has taken them off a terrorist list, which comes from a sort of long-ago history.
In addition, we need to -- under the United Nations conventions, we have protected this Ashraf community in Iraq. And we seem to be -- when we are changing our relationship with Iraq, we seem to be leaving these people unprotected and subject to Iranian agents and deportation.
We should be protecting those 3 or 4,000 Iranians who are part of the resistance, as is required under the Geneva Conventions. But mainly get out of their way. And I think Dana has something additional.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Let me just note this, that the most important thing right now, in terms of the MEK, is that we should not be throwing to the wolves, meaning the mullah dictators, anybody right now who believes in democracy and is trying to use their -- you know, their organization to undermine the mullahs.
And whether the MEK is perfect or not, obviously it's not. During the American Revolution, there were a lot of imperfect organizations around too. But the fact is, the mullahs are what now -- they are the ones who are murdering their people. They are the ones who are threatening world peace.
We must have a broad coalition, including the MEK. And let me just note that changing their status in some way that permits them to be vulnerable, to the mullahs, is exactly the wrong message, will be again taken as a sign of weakness, by the mullahs, and will undermine the cause of democracy.
So there's no question about that.
Any other questions there?
Q Hi. I'm Talilah Bunyan (ph) with CNN. This question is for Representative Rohrabacher.
REP. ROHRABACHER: There you go.
Q You suggested that the administration take on more aggressive rhetoric in dealing with Iran. Do you think something like this might hinder the prospect for bilateral cooperation with Iran in the future, especially in dealing with -- (off mike) --
REP. ROHRABACHER: Well, it depends on who you define as Iran. If you say taking -- using strong language against Adolf Hitler is going to really hinder our ability to cooperate with Adolf Hitler, yeah, that was probably true. Who wants to cooperate with Hitler or the mullahs who are murdering their own people?
We don't want to cooperate with those bums. They're murdering their people. They're threatening to blow people up with nuclear weapons. We don't want any -- to establish a relationship with the mullahs that's going to make it more cooperative with them. We want to cooperate with the people of Iran who hate their dictators and hate their oppressors.
Let's make it more likely that we'll be able to cooperate in the future with a democratic Iran that's at peace with the world and working with us to build prosperity among all of us, rather than with a -- trying to kowtow to a group of mullahs who should be in the mosque but instead have taken their authority to the streets of Iran and are murdering their own people to stay in power.
Now, we don't -- I think strong rhetoric against dictators is a good thing. I think silence or apologetic tones in favor -- in the face of dictatorship is taken as weakness and leads to a worse world, not a better world.
REP. FILNER: Thank you all very much.
REP. ROHRABACHER: God bless.
MR. : Well, it's -- by this uprising that is continuing, it's obvious that there is no U-turn in Iran policy. That means there is no going back to the -- this theocracy. Iran will be changed by the Iranian people.
And there are other issues that, on behalf of the Iranian communities here in United States, we have to emphasize: recall all political and diplomatic relations with Iran until such time that -- such time it completely cease the ongoing crackdown; refrain from recognizing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president; impose restrictions against Iranian leadership travel abroad; impose economic, diplomatic and arms sanctions against the political regime; issue international arrest warrant for Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and others responsible for the brutal crackdown. They must be investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Nobody -- nobody should shake hand of the bloody mullahs in Iran for any reason. Iran now under the ayatollah is a threat against not just Iranian people, it's a threat against the peace in the region and stability in the region, and safety everywhere as far as United States.
Thank you very much for coming.