Washington DC, July 28, 2005 – Poet, writer, and documentary filmmaker, Roya Hakakian, emphasized the need for creating a historical record of human rights abuses in Iran as a first step toward creating accountability for the Iranian government. She made her remarks at a book launch event sponsored by the International Republican Institute last Thursday at the US Senate.
“Observation and documentation of human rights abuses creates a consciousness in human rights advancement in Iran,” stated Hakakian, co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC). The Center’s work makes Iranians “believe that they have rights,” she said.
IHRDC, established earlier this year through a $1 million grant from the United States Department of State’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund, aims to document human rights violations committed in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Hakakian read passages from her new book, Journey From the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, to an audience of Capitol Hill staffers. The book tells her story of growing up as a Jewish girl in Iran after the 1979 revolution.
Hakakian said that the revolution gave the clergy of Iran an opportunity to rewrite history and shape Iran’s policy and culture. In her remarks, she also commented on the recent Iranian elections and US-Iran relations.
Pointing to the the large turnout in Iran’s recent elections, Hakakian said this was a positive sign of Iran's democratic potential. She added, however, that the public was forced to select from a list of candidates that included “a bunch of jerks,” and therefore, she respected those who boycotted the vote.
Citing Iranian President-elect Ahmadinejad’s intent to investigate former president and presidential candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani for embezzlement, Hakakian credited the success of Ahmadinejad to his ability to galvanize the veterans, the clergy, and the rest of the Iranian public against Rafsanjani’s prior record.
She noted that for the first time, a gap between the elected president and the power elite in Iran no longer existed, and that the current consistency of views within the Iranian government would make forging a policy consensus between the US and EU easier.
"President Clinton’s administration exhausted all other rhetorical possibilities,” said Hakakian, citing Madeline Albright’s public apology for the 1953 coup in Iran, which, she said, produced no positive results.
Hakakian described the Bush administration’s rhetoric toward Iran as “proper," but said she opposed military invasion. She said that the optimal strategy would be to continue to allow the EU to pursue diplomacy, but did not state what specific actions the US or EU should take.
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