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Woman Sentenced 14 Years in Prison for Drawing Political Cartoons

More to the point, the anti-contraception bill is part of a broader trend to reassert conservative Islamist control over the society and people of Iran. Other examples of that trend from the past year include the introduction of a bill to expand the power of the civilian militia controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, efforts to more strictly and comprehensively separate men and women in the workplace and in public spaces, criminalization of the supposedly Western practice of dog-walking, and crackdowns on live music performances and other social activities deemed out-of-keeping with traditional Islamic values.

At a time when Western policy toward Iran has been narrowly focused on an ostensibly pragmatic approach to curtailing the regime’s nuclear weapons program, it is important to keep in mind some essential facts about the very nature of that regime. President Obama himself has rightly said that the reason why a nuclear deal is important is because of the dangerous and destabilizing ideology of the Iranian system.

I would argue that the president has dramatically underestimated the effect that that ideology has on Iran’s trustworthiness and the prospects of a deal by the June 30 deadline, but his simple acknowledgment of the nature of the regime seems to encourage other policymakers and activists to be aware of other ways in which the regime exhibits its nature.

That’s not to say that this awareness has been sufficient. Indeed, it will never be sufficient until it motivates the world community as a whole to support the project of regime change in the Islamic Republic. But of course, this awareness and this goal have been embraced and promoted for a long time within certain circles. Diverse representatives of this strategy will come together in Paris on June 13 when the National Council of Resistance of Iran holds its annual grand gathering of Iranian expatriates and their international supporters.  More information about the gathering and participating speakers, including Maryam Rajavi, is available on the event website. 

Based on last year’s figures, attendance at the event is expected to exceed 100,000, and confirmed speakers include numerous European and American political and intelligence figures, as well as American military officers. At the same time that these Westerners have a keen awareness of the policy implications of the continued rule of the Iranian theocracy, most of the on-the-ground activists have direct experience with the consequences of that rule, in the form of lost loved ones, forced exile, and the scars of past repression.

These people understand that even if the Western powers can afford to delay the nuclear negotiating process and gamble on the implementation of any agreement that is reached, the Iranian people cannot afford to continue living under the thumb of a brutal regime, especially one that is legitimized by the international community and is not seriously challenged over its well-recognized abuses.

The continuation of those abuses will have particularly pronounced impacts upon women in the midst of Tehran’s crackdown on what it perceives as Western values. This fact has been illustrated by Atena Farghadani, first through her activism and subsequently through her prosecution and sentencing.

By contrast, the NCRI rally on June 13, will illustrate how fully a new government would reverse these trends and this discrimination. The NCRI itself is headed by a woman, Maryam Rajavi, and her ten-point plan for the future of the country unsurprisingly includes references to gender equality, the end of institutional discrimination, equal participation of women in public life, and even the freedom to choose their own clothing, in contrast to the forced veiling of the Islamic Republic.

The final list of speakers has not yet been announced for the Paris gathering, but we can trust that the list of participating Western political figures will continue to grow, as well it should. Regardless of what one thinks of President Obama’s strategy in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program or the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East, this event deserves political support, if only because it gives voice to some of the people most directly affected by Tehran’s domestic and international activities.

It gives a voice to Atena Farghadani and the hundreds of other political prisoners held by the Islamic Republic. Support for this event, with its explicit message of regime change, can help to make it clear to Tehran that there are serious consequences looming, should it continue with this same sort of political repression.