Opinion article by Issa Saharkhiz (source: Rooz Online)
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this year Iranians celebrated two grand events: one for Nowruz (the Persian New Year which falls on the first day of spring) and the other at the end of the two-week Nowruz holidays, when the release of kidnapped Iranian soldiers was announced.
But what made these festivities even more joyful, despite the loss of one of the kidnapped solders Jamshid Danaifar, was the solidarity of the Iranian nation in its demand for the release and return of the four remaining kidnapped soldiers. Iranians of all walks, regardless of their religion, color or language rallied around this call.
Through this incident, Iranians demonstrated that they would unite and stay resolute if they have a common goal and a humanitarian responsibility.
Who would have believed that Iranian Kurdish political prisoners would unite in their calls for the unconditional release of the Shiite border guards? Who would have imagined that a Sunni cleric whose in-laws and many other family members and friends are spending time in prison and who himself is on the exit-ban list and cannot even perform his pilgrimage to the Hajj ceremony and is the target of daily tirades by ultra-conservatives such as cleric Mesbah Yazdi would take the initiative and sends his message demanding the release of the Shiite guards?
A gathering outside Pakistan consulate in Mashhad demanding release of the border guards.
Who would have perceived that the majority of Iranians would unite in their call for the release of the guards while prominent clerics in the city of Ghom would remain silent and not raise a finger over the issue?
There are many more examples of such dedication and commitment rising from various sectors of the Iranian population but the key issue here is the capacity of the nation, and particularly the Sunni citizens and religious leaders in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan under the leadership of Moulavi Abdol-Hamid. This cleric put all the well-known and publicized deprivations and discriminations facing this Sunni province aside and put the humanitarian call for the release of the kidnapped guards on top of his agenda.
Included in this extensive effort were artists, sportsmen and sports commentators who through their long reach influenced the hearts of so many and asked their viewers and listeners to sign a text message that asked the kidnappers to release the hostages. More than a million and a half people signed on this call which is unprecedented and historic. The statements and signatures issued by Mohammad-Reza Taghipour, a wheel-chaired war veteran who is also the director of Tehran’s Peace Museum, along with Ali Nasirian and Reza Kianian, both cinema industry artists, among so many others which were registered at the United Nations office in Tehran played a major role in spreading the word to the international community and ultimately the kidnappers themselves.
Of course one cannot deny the impact of the official diplomatic efforts in this regard. It is for this reason that one can accept the unofficial conclusion that the release of the Iranian border guards by the remnants of Righi’s gang took place after complex efforts, the most important of which was the measures taken by the Sunni religious leaders of Sistan and Baluchistan province.
This incident is now history. But perhaps with greater insight the only fatality in the case could have been avoided, especially if inaccurate reports had not been published. The absence of such bad reports may have disarmed the calls for revenge and violence, thus creating an atmosphere where violence would have been more difficult to commit.
This incident also demonstrates the futility of the argument of not talking to the kidnappers regarding the life of the guards because this would imply granting Jeysh-al Adel some form of formal recognition. Representative Ahmad Bakhshayesh from the national security committee of the Majlis had said that “since the Islamic republic did not want to recognize the Jeysh-al Adel group, it had asked Sunni clerics for help.
The statement issued by the group has confirmed the influence of the Sunni clerics who negotiated with the group. It praised the efforts of clerics.
With the events and efforts behind us, it is time for the leaders of the Islamic regime to fulfill their rhetoric of uniting the Shiites and the Sunnis of this country and allow people and their true representatives, including clerics, political and social activists, take the burden of freely engaging themselves in addressing the people’s needs.
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