Written by NIAC Staff
The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement on November 10, in response to Rep. Mark Kirk's (R-IL) slanderous allegation last week that NIAC is a "regime sympathizer."
Representative Kirk spoke last week before the US Institute of Peace, and issued his allegation against NIAC saying: "Regime-sympathizers like the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) came to Capitol Hill urging members of Congress to cut off U.S. funding for democracy programs in Iran. Democracy funding 'taints' Iranian dissidents, they claimed, and only invites harsher crackdowns on the Iranian people." He provided no explanation backing up his statement, nor did he acknowledge that the foremost leaders of Iran's pro-democracy movement have denounced the very same Congressional "regime change fund" that Kirk has championed.
NIAC communicated with Representative Kirk's office immediately after his statement, requesting a retraction. His office refused to respond.
The $75 million fund, a brainchild of the Bush administration's disastrous Middle East policy, was put into place in 2006 with the aim of funding Iranian NGOs to overthrow the government of Iran. The immediate effect of the fund, however, was that the Ahmadinejad government began targeting all Iranian NGOs, accusing them of participating in a US-sponsored color revolution.
NGO leaders in Iran, who had not requested this counterproductive assistance from the US, responded by pleading with the US Congress to dissolve the fund. Nobel Peace Prize Recipient and human rights leader Shirin Ebadi unequivocally denounced Congressional efforts--oftentimes led by Rep. Kirk--to channel funds to dissidents inside Iran, saying "Washington's policy of 'helping' the cause of democracy in Iran has backfired....No truly nationalist and democratic group will accept" State Department funds, she said, because "Iranian reformists believe that democracy can't be imported. It must be indigenous."
Similarly, Akbar Ganji, Iran's most famous political dissident, said "The US democracy fund was severely counterproductive. None of the human rights activists and members of opposition in Iran had any interest in using such funds, but we were all accused by Iran's government of being American spies because a few groups in America used these funds."
And Mehrangiz Kar, a leader of the women's rights movement in Iran, said that the fund to help human rights organizations in Iran "will destroy these newly developed organizations like a storm. It will transform the issue of continuation and expansion of human rights activities into one of safeguarding the security of these activists."
NIAC has echoed the complaints of Iran's pro-democracy leaders and sought to make US lawmakers sensitive to the demands of the foot soldiers of Iran's pro-democracy movement. Unfortunately, Rep. Kirk has disregarded the needs and viewpoints of Iran's pro-democracy leaders.
For someone who claims to support the Iranian people's fight to have their voices heard, Representative Kirk has callously ignored the public statements of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Iran and has unfortunately chosen to pursue policies that directly endanger the pro-democracy activists he claims to support.
By accusing NIAC of sympathizing with the Iranian regime simply by opposing a program that is clearly counterproductive, the Illinois congressman is in essence labeling Akbar Ganji, Shirin Ebadi and Mehrangiz Kar -- some of the Iranian government's most ardent critics -- of being sympathizers with the regime in Tehran as well.
This accusation is false, offensive and profoundly non-sensical. It reveals the disconnect between Rep. Kirk's worldview and the viewpoints of the real pro-democracy activists on the ground in Iran.
Instead of misrepresenting and passing blame on those who actually stand with the Iranian people, Representative Kirk should issue an apology and start to listen to the people of Iran.
Similarly, NIAC has not opposed funding for Voice of America or Radio Farda. NIAC has however called for stricter quality control over their newscasts since the quality of these public funded channels had plummeted during the Bush administration.
NIAC has consistently and vehemently condemned the government of Iran's flagrant human rights violations. We support the Iranian people as they struggle for their most basic rights and freedoms, and we remain committed to doing so in a way that is sensitive to the actual views of the leaders of Iran's democracy movement.
NIAC is proud to represent the majority view of the Iranian-American community, as well as the millions of Americans who wish to repair the tattered relationship that for years has threatened to ignite a disastrous war between the US and Iran.
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