Here is an excerpt of the speech by Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan, Executive Director, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Baltimore:
I am proud to stand with the Iranian people in their quest for freedom and democracy in Iran! As I stand before you today, there are many reasons for the world to be concerned with Tehran’s violent arc of influence… …But nothing compares to the horrors experienced by the Iranian people at the hands of their own rulers.
This summer, I had the great privilege of joining a bipartisan delegation of senior U.S. officials who embarked on a fact-finding mission at Ashraf 3, the MEK’s new home in Albania. Our U.S. delegation included four-star generals, Democrats and Republicans, independents, liberals, conservatives, foreign policy experts, sitting members of Congress, former cabinet members, ambassadors, intelligence experts, military officers, governors, academics, and noted human rights advocates. Joining us in Tirana were more than 350 dignitaries from 47 countries. During our trip we gathered firsthand insights about the principle opposition to clerical rule.
We conclude what scholars have long understood but policymakers have been reluctant to acknowledge: The ayatollahs are not permanent fixture of the Middle East landscape. Iran fears its own people… And the regime Tehran is more vulnerable than ever before. What our delegation witnessed was truly extraordinary and deeply promising: We saw with our own eyes a cohesive, organized political opposition movement, with a long history of struggle against fundamentalism and dictatorship, guided by gifted female leadership, with a well-defined political platform, and an intricate network of passionate supporters inside Iran and across the globe. It was like looking into Iran’s pluralistic and democratic future.
During our visit with residents of Ashraf 3 we encountered evidence of both horrific acts of tyranny by the regime…but also, valiant acts of resistance by the people of Iran. Our observations are more important than ever before. For decades, Washington has regrettably ignored the most vital aspect of an effective Iran policy: The Iranian people themselves. During our visit we were given unfettered access to the camp’s facilities and residents. I want to share one brief story with you that exemplifies what we saw during our 5 day stay. After a long day of speeches, panel discussions, and media appearances, the members of our delegation were invited to dinner that was hosted by the young woman at Ashraf.
We had no idea to what to expect. But the women we encountered that night were gracious and intelligent, cosmopolitan and independent, Confident and deeply committed. The woman we encountered told stories of the unspeakable horrors they and their families had encountered at the hands of ayatollahs. They spoke of the regime’s torture and executions, human rights abuses and violence. But these women didn’t want our pity. They wanted solidarity.
We witnessed their bravery, courage, resilience, and their abiding commitment to the cause of freedom. I will never forget that night. All of us were inspired and humbled by what we saw. Following our trip, I went to the American delegation and I told them that I want to write a book about what I had witnessed over the course of 5 days with the opposition. The leaders of the American delegation looked me in the eyes and said: We want you to write a book about what WE ALL SAW! This week, I am proud to report that this book – titled Iran’s Resurgent Resistance – was published by the Iran Policy Committee. The book has already received praise from senior leaders in the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State. I am immensely grateful to Senator Lieberman, Senator Torricelli, Ambassador Joseph, and Colonel Martin for their invaluable contributions to this timely book.
I hope that leaders in the White House and Congress will read it. Here is what they need to know: • Freedom and tyranny have always been at war; • Justice and oppression are always incompatible; • Brutal regimes cannot without the consent of the governed… • And the people of Iran will never be free so long as this regime is left intact! And when democracy does come to Iran, I look forward to visiting you and the individuals I met this summer in a free and peaceful Iran.