Abdo: Uniting the Iranian opposition
Iranian supporters of defeated reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi carry a large green flag through the crowd as they demonstrate in the streets on June 15, 2009 in Tehran, Iran. (Getty Images)
February 6th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Abdo: Uniting the Iranian opposition

Editor’s Note: Geneive Abdo is the director of the Iran program at The Century Foundation. Reza H. Akbari, the research associate for the program, contributed to this article.

By Geneive Abdo – Special to CNN

The speculation over whether Israel will attack Iran this spring is having an unintended consequence: It’s bringing Iranian opposition groups together.

About 50 activists, including university professors, lawyers and students now living outside Iran, met on February 4th and 5th at a snow-covered retreat outside Stockholm. They were the guests of the Olof Palme International Center, a group associated with Sweden’s Social Democratic party with a long history of supporting opposition groups around the world.

I was an observer at this meeting and was struck by how factions who had been at odds for many years - from Kurds to staunch secularists to Green movement leaders - tried to reach common ground.

Most voiced opposition to a military strike against Iran, even though they all agreed that the current government should be toppled. They felt an attack would directly or indirectly harm the population, empower the regime and cause severe instability in the region when Iran retaliates.

Many here believe that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is trying to buy time in order to develop a nuclear weapon and render Iran virtually immune to an attack.

“From the regime’s point of view, there are two scenarios: Libya or North Korea and Khamenei is choosing North Korea,” said one student activist, referring to the fact that North Korean obtained nuclear weapons while Libya stopped its program.

This student expressed anxiety over whether the opposition would be able to destabilize the regime if there were a quick, isolated attack rather than a sustained military operation. “We might not have time to do anything - to mobilize. We need to start getting prepared,” he said.

The activists also agreed to work hard between now and March 2nd when parliamentary elections are held in Iran, to organize a nationwide boycott of the polls.

“We need to encourage people to stay at home that day,” said one well-known  activist. A low voter turnout, the activists agreed, would send a message that Iranians do not respect the rigged, opaque electoral process. Already, a governmental body called the Guardian Council has banned many candidates from running in the elections who do not agree with the regime.

The Iranian government considers elections to be critical to convincing the world that the country is democratic. However, after the disputed presidential election in 2009, which returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and sparked millions of Iranians to protest, the regime has lost legitimacy at home and abroad. The opposition hopes to use the March 2nd parliamentary elections to stage more demonstrations and convince the part of the population that still supports the regime to join their cause.

Inspired by the once severely divided Syrian opposition which faces a brutal regime, the activists believe that this first well-organized meeting will be the beginning to uniting with the opposition inside Iran. By the end of the two-day meeting, they had laughed and cried together, sharing their stories of imprisonment, torture and murder of their relatives in Iran for their political activity.

They issued a report at the end of the conference which states: “The cordial meeting was successful in building a consensus on the continuation of dialogue among (the) opposition, the necessity of a broad coalition against dictatorship and any type of discrimination and violation of human rights, achieving democracy based on the separation of religion and state and free elections in accordance with international standards.”

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Geneive Abdo.

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Topics: Iran

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. IRAN IS EVIL

    JOOS ESHROOF. TOF 3AL OMAHATKUM

    February 6, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
    GAG AND MAGOG

    VOICE IN THE WIND AND FU WAHABI THOSE ARE SHIIA VILLAGE IDIOTS LIVE IN USA .
    most of those shiia thigs who lives here are terrorists help iran and hizboallah and send money to them those evil shiia kelab al majoos al safween worse than kelab al wahabeen .....middleast should run by non rlegion group. keep your faith in your home and in QUM AND THE EVIL CITY OF NAJAF AND KARBALA THE HOORE CITIES WHERE MOTAA ( LEGAL ADULTERY -ZENA IS PRACTICED ). LA3ANAKUM ALLAH YA KELAB YOU DESTROY ISLAM IRAN MUST END HIZBOALLAH MUST DIE AND END AHMEDI NEJADI THE CHIEF OF THE SHIIA MUST BE ELEMENATED. HE IS RETARD LIKE ALL THE SHIIE3A WHO MARRY THEIR COUSINS AND SISTERS, INBREED NATION OF EVIL ( GOG AND MAGOG)

    February 6, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
    IRAN IS EVIL

    iraqi government of NORI AL HALEKI ,KILLING CHRISTEANS

    لا يتعلم العملاء من دروس التاريخ ، فهم مدفوعون باحقاد متجذرة في نفوسهم على كل ما هو عراقي وعربي ، فمع اقتراب موعد الانسحاب الامريكي المفترض من العراق تسارعت خطوات المهزومين باتجاه التخلص من قادة العراق في الاسر في اقرب وقت ، سواء باساءة معاملتهم اكثر مما سبق بمنع الدواء والعلاج عنهم لاجل قتلهم ، او التهديد بتنفيذ الاعدام بهم كما حصل مع شيخ الاسرى المناضل طارق عزيز . ان المزيج الواضح من الحقد والرعب من تحرير العراق هو الذي يدفع العملاء في بغداد للتهديد باعدام قادة العراق الاحرار والشرعيين ، ولكن هؤلاء لا يفهمون التاريخ ولذلك لا يأخذون العبر منه ، فالتاريخ يقول بان الاعدامات التي تنفذ للتخلص من الاحرار تزيد لهيب الثورة اشتعالا بدل اخمادها ، وامامنا مشهد اغتيال سيد شهداء العصر القائد صدام حسين حيث تحول الاغتيال الى مناسبة لزيادة عزلة الاحتلال والعملاء وتوسع شعبية القائد الشهيد والبعث .

    واذا كان العملاء يعتقدون بانهم سيفلتون من عقاب الشعب فهم واهمون ، لان جرائمهم اكبر من ان تمر بلا عقاب ، ومنها اغتيال مئات القادة وتصفية الاف الكوادر المقاومة للاحتلال ، واعتقال عشرات الالاف من معارضي الاحتلال ، بالاضافة لتدمير العراق وتبديد وسرقة ثرواته علنا بحيث اصبح العراق المحتل في مقدمة الدول الفاسدة والفاشلة . ومهما اعتقد العملاء بان الاغتيالات سوف تضعف الثورة المسلحة ضد الاحتلال فان النتائج ستظهر لتؤكد بان الدم كلما سفك زاد لهيب الثورة وعجل موعد الحسم .

    ان طارق عزيز يمثل احد اهم الوجوه المشرقة والمشرفة للعراق الحر والمستقل والسيد وصانع انجازات التقدم العلمي والتكنولوجي ، وهو كان يعد من افضل الديبلوماسيين في العالم ووصل امر الاعتراف بقدراته حد ان جورج بوش الاب حينما كان رئيسا ، وبعد فشل المفاوضات في عام 1991 بين وفد العراق برسائة طارق عزيز والوفد الامريكي برئاسة جيمس بيكر وزير خارجية امريكا وقتها ، قال امام بيكر وغيره بانه يتمنى لو كان لديه وزير خارجية بمواصفات طارق عزيز . هؤلاء هم رجالات العراق العظام سواء الاسرى منهم او من استشهد ومن مازال يقاوم الاحتلال بلا كلل .

    ان اسرانا يخطون بتضحياتهم تاريخا مشرف للعراق ةوالامة العربية ، بصمودهم ورفضهم الانحناء لغطرسة الاحتلال ووحشية عملاءه ، وهم يعرفون منذ البداية بان درب تحرير الوطن وتحقيق اهداف الشعب ليس نزهة وانما هي تضحيات كبرى لا تنتهي الا بتحقيق اهداف الشعب ، ولذلك كانت وقفة رفاقنا وهم في الاسر مشرفة وتجلى ذلك في تمسكهم بمصلحة الشعب ورفضهم الرضوخ لتهديدات بالموت رغم ممارسة ابشع انواع التعذيب معهم وحرمانهم من ابسط حقوق الانسان الاسير ومنها العلاج وتوفير الدواء .

    البعث الذي كان ومازال يناضل من اجل تحرر الامة وتحقيق المجتمع الخالي من الفقر والامية والمرض ...الخ وهذه الاهداف لا تتحقق الا بتضحيات مناضليه الذين يعرفون ان الاعدامات والاغتيالات مصير متوقع ومحسوب ، مثلما يعرفون ان الموت دفاعا عن الوطن هو خير خاتمة للحياة ، ففي النهاية جميعنا سنموت في يوم ما ولذلك فان اختيار الموت المشرف هو احد سمات صناع التاريخ والحضارات والتغييرات العظمى في مسار الانسانية . في ضوء ما تقدم فان التهديد بتنفيذ الاعدامات او تنفيذها فعلا لن يوقف مسيرة تحرير العراق واعادة العراق الى حالة الدعالة والاستقلال والامن وامان لمواطنيه كلهم بل على العكس سيزيد اصرار الثوار على التعجيل بالنصر وطرد الاحتلال وعملاءه .

    وهنا لابد من تكرار التنبيه الى ان ما يسمى منظمات حقوق الانسان التي كانت تنظم الحملات الضخمة ضد العراق تحت واجهات خرق حقوق الانسان وكانت حملاتها احد اهم ممهدات غزو العراق تلتزم الصمت المطبق الان تجاه معاناة اسرانا وتعرضهم لاشد انواع خرق حقوق الانسان وعلنا ، ومع ذلك لا تفعل هذه المنظمات شيئا وكأن الامر لا يعنيها ! واذا كانت الدعوة لحماية حقوق الانسان جادة فان من الحتمي معاملة كل البشر بصورة متساوية لا ان تجري عمليات انتقاء وتزوير وتضخيم من اجل الدفاع عمن تريد امريكا حمايتهم لكن مناهضي الاحتلال الامريكي لا ينالون اي قدر من كشف ما يقع عليهم من مظالم .

    وبهذه المناسبة فاننا نكرر دعوتنا للكتاب والصحفيين الاحرار في العراق وفي الوطن العربي لرفع اصواتهم دفاعا عن اسرانا وكشفا لما يتعرضون له من مظالم فظيعة ، وذلك احد اهم واجباتهم الوطنية والاعلامية والاخلاقية ، والصمت بازاء ما يحصل لاسرانا ليس سوى خيانة للامانة ونكوص عن مسار النضال الوطني والتحرري ، والتاريخ الان يسجل كل شيء .

    المجد لاسرانا الشهداء الاحياء وفي مقدمتهم شيخ الاسرى القائد طارق عزيز .
    تحية لرفاقنا الصامدين في سجون الاحتلال والعملاء .

    February 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  2. IRAN IS EVIL

    shiia are thugs killers, bashar al kalab, iran and iraqi shiia nori al maleki are helping the terrorists like hizboallah and bader army , qodos army, ashab al haq, al mahdi army all those killers came from iran. we must stand united aganist those evil ...

    February 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    I'm optimistic that the current regime under Ayatollah al Khamenei would be crippled by the urban and educated opposition. It's a matter of time that an implosion will lead to a regime change in Iran. I bet many young Iranians must have shaken their heads to see the cardboard cut-out of the late Ayatollah Khomeini recently and the bizarre re-enactment of his return to Iran in 1979. I doubt if they want to be reminded of their revolution in 1979, which had gone terribly wrong.

    February 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Both the C.I.A. and the notorious British MI-6 have been working overtime to bring all of these Iranian Quislings together in order to bring down the current Iranian regime and deliver Iran to the West. Let's all pray that this never takes place. Besides, haven't we done enough to that country like putting in the much dreaded and hated Shah back in 1953???

      February 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
      • USMC Forever

        Well said, George. You know much more that all these ignorant, mindless Tea Partiers here who consider war to be no more than another sporting event like football or hockey! The grievances Iran has against us are great indeed!!!

        February 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  4. Hahahahahahahahahaha

    I'm just waiting for the doilie heads and the towel heads to start flying. Hahahaha

    February 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  5. Editor

    To my knowledge, the elephant was not in the room. Ms. Abdo mentions the Green movement leaders in her piece, but who were they? Even the representatives of the leaders were not physically present.

    Based on the reports, this small group of activists, journalists, lawyers and professors represented a small part of the Iranian opposition, so how how does an agreement between these individuals who cannot represent the whole body of the Iranian diaspora and the Iranian foreign based opposition, be legitimate to create a wider coalition against the Iranian regime?

    It seems that the participants were cherry-picked in order to reach an agreement without any serious discussions and answering to critical questions. Could a possible alternative for the rulers of Iran come out of such meetings? If so, how could a non-democratic process, create a democracy in Iran?

    On the other hand, a number of invitees did not go to the conference. Why? This is a big question that needs to be answered.

    Ms. Abdo writes: "The speculation over whether Israel will attack Iran this spring is having an unintended consequence: It’s bringing Iranian opposition groups together." Is that true? So if the Stockholm was a continuation of the meetings in Paris and London and had been planned from a months ago, how could it be considered a response to this speculation?

    February 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  6. Benedict

    It seems that it has taken the threat of military action to forge a common front for the Iranian opposition to speak as one. The rigged elections was the last time such unity was witnessed in the political circles opposed to the hard-line administration of Ahmendinijad and Ayolltah Khameni;which goes to say that Israel's threat, is to some purpose,bringing out the voice of those who aren't afraid to tell Iran that there are other ways of doing business without being belligerent to people who different views as to how the world turns.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:19 am | Reply

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