The government of Iran as exemplified by President Ahmadinejad has gained a reputation for being aggressive, supporting terrorism and denying its people basic human rights. Two months ago, a delegation of Muslim Americans who foster peace and conflict resolution, visited Iran. They met with peace-practitioners, lawyers, human right experts, scholars, religious leaders and students. In Qom, they m et with three Grand Ayatollahs who served on the Council of the Judiciary. These men expressed a commitment to peace, improved relations with all nations and dialogue with Americans about current issues of dispute. the three Ayatollahs specifically wanted it known they opposed religious violence and terrorism which they regarded as antithetical to Islamic values.
Qamar-Ul Huda, Mohammed Abu-Nime, and Ayse Kadayifci, who authored this report, met with human rights representatives who were frank about difficulties they experience fostering such values in the current Iranian society. The Islamic Commission on Human Rights admitted the public space for human rights has shrunk, but they are still active working to protect women and children’s rights. Despite Iran’s poor record on human rights, it is a positive sign such organizations still exist and are able to express their views.
The delegation encountered considerable debate among Iranian students who want to meet Americans and discuss issues of mutual concern. Many were well read in terms of their knowledge of American political, social and literary concerns since many books are being translated in Farsi. At a meeting with the Bar Association of Isfahan, 400 students joined in discussing legal issues as part a forum on “Islamic Dialogues On Peace. Students were aware of recent publications such as the National Intelligence report on Iran’s nuclear program and hoped Americans would learn more about Iran.
The authors comment in concluding their article: “Let us learn from these exchanges so that we might prevent ignorance. and let us open the channels of communication between these two nations so that we might become wiser.”
This blog is aware of the terrible record of Ahmadinejad regarding human rights. A tragedy of American foreign policy was the Bush rejection of the Khatami reform faction which not only assisted US forces in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but wanted to open avenues for dialogue. Bush rejected their offers. We need positive steps, and it begins by talking with, not demanding from Iran.