Iranians for International Cooperation
On March 9, a dialog was held for the first time in 20 years between representatives of the government in Iran and exiled Iranians living in Sweden. About 45 Iranians participated in the discussions and presented their views regarding the situation in Iran and the relations between the expatriate community and the government in Tehran. Bijan Fahimi, member of the Swedish People’s Party’s executive committee, had taken the initiative of this dialog.
To hold a dialog with the government in Iran has for long been a taboo, not only for governments in the West, but also for those Iranians who have fled the Iranian theocracy. Furthermore, there are few indications that the representatives of the Iranian government have been keen to conduct this dialog. But much has changed during the course of these past three years. Especially when it comes to the willingness to solve existing problems through dialog, a willingness that was manifested in Thursday’s meeting.
The panel consisted of Abdullah Norouzi, Iran’s Ambassador to Sweden, Dr. Massoud Kamali of Uppsala University and Bijan Fahimi of the Swedish People’s Party. Another 45 Iranians of various social and political backgrounds also participated in the talks. This variety of backgrounds contributed to the very candid and open atmosphere that prevailed during the meeting.
The exiles did not refrain from criticizing the Iranian government, and then in particular the very strict interpretations of Islamic laws. It was pointed out that political activism is still a privilege for those adhering to the regime’s interpretation of Shi’a Islam. Furthermore, the government was criticized for still not treating exiled Iranians justly, and others called for exiled Iranians to be allowed to vote in parliamentary elections.
Ambassador Norouzi countered some of the criticism and showed great understanding for the feelings expressed. He gave a brief presentation of the current political situation in Iran and answered detailed questions regarding recent events in the country. He also emphasized the importance of dialog and said that all Iranians, regardless of their political views, must come together and cooperate in order to help develop Iran. He also criticized the exiled community for being too passive in resisting against extremist groups who through violence tries to quell the voices of dialog.
Both groups expressed joy over finally being able to conduct a dialog and through it be able to present criticism, understand the other side and together solve common problems.
Unfortunately, an element of violence was still present. Dr. Massoud Kamali, one of the members of the panel, had the night before the meeting received death threats from the National Council of Iranian Resistance (also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq) and from Iranian communist parties active in Sweden.
It is very regrettable that a person in today’s Sweden can receive death threats simply for wishing to conduct a dialog with the Iranian government. At the same time, it is highly regrettable that extremist organizations use their freedom of speech in Sweden to through violence quell other people’s right to express their views.
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Babak Talebi, President:
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