IRAN PROTESTS: WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FREE WORLD?
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IRAN PROTESTS: WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FREE WORLD?
26 February @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Late last year, and for the second time in a decade, Iran was rocked by nationwide protests.
While the scale of the protests is undeniable, the extent to which outside countries should provide support and assistance has proven contentious. Though a democratic and peaceful Iran is in the West’s interests, many governments have remained cautious. Advocates of this approach argue that being seen to take the side of the protesters could strengthen the hand of the regime, by strengthening its claim that events are being manipulated by external actors. However, supporters of democratic change reject such caution, noting that the failure of the 2009 protests to bring about meaningful change demonstrates the need for international solidarity at this critical time.
By kind invitation of Bob Blackman MP, The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to an event with Mariam Memarsadeghi, Co-Founder & Co-Director of Tavaana. Ms. Memarsadeghi will argue that, contrary to conventional wisdom, staying silent undermines the forces campaigning for democratic change, and aids the Iranian regime’s crackdown. She will also present a number of practical measures that Western governments and civil society institutions can adopt, in order to provide practical support to popular protests.
Mariam Memarsadeghi is co-founder and co-director of Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society. Launched in 2010, the virtual institute offers secure democracy and human rights educational opportunities, from graduate level seminars to animated PSAs, short tutorials, case studies of democratic transitions, panel discussions, translated ebooks, comedy skits and more. Now a household brand, Tavaana reaches millions of Iranians each day via live e-classrooms, correspondence learning, satellite TV, robust social media networks and a mobile app. TavaanaTech provides the Iranian people with digital literacy training, digital safety alerts and tech solutions for access to a free, safe internet. Ms. Memarsadeghi is an outspoken advocate for the principles of liberalism, women’s rights, civic education and internet freedom, particularly in Islamic contexts. Her writings have appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other publications. She is a frequent speaker at think tanks and has appeared on the PBS NewsHour, NPR and other English, Persian and Arabic language news programs. Ms. Memarsadeghiis a 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar and has been recognized by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the German Marshall Fund as a TransAtlantic Young Leader for her work promoting democracy and human rights internationally.
On 26th February 2018 the Henry Jackson Society hosted Mariam Memarsadeghi, who is the co-founder and co-director of Tavaana, which is an e-learning institute.
She focused her talk on the responsibility that the West has on the recent protests in Iran. She outlined what the protests were about, and why they happened. She argued that their slogans and chants were unmistakably secular and liberal, that the protests came from the urban working-class, and that the attention of their anger was on the corrupt credit institutions, and importantly the regime itself.
Previous protests were targeted at hardliners, but because the moderate President Rouhani is in charge, their target was the entire theocratic regime. Not were only this, but these were the biggest protests since the 1970s, and in over 80 cities. The size and organisation of these protests is partly because 40 million Iranians have smartphones, which makes obtaining information on government corruption and global news easier, and importantly to organise protests.
Having given us a picture of the protests, Mariam Memarsadeghi went onto argue what the West should do. Firstly, the United States under Barack Obama made an error by allowing such a relaxed deal with Iran. By lifting some sanctions, the regime, rather than the middle-class, benefited most. The deal didn’t cover Iran’s involvement in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, either. And in fact, she argues, that the regime cynically uses the situation in Syria as way to show the Iranian people, ‘look at the chaos when people want change, is that what you want?’ This argument has sustained the regime, but these protests show that this picture is perhaps crumbling.
Secondly, the West has to isolate Iran economically if it is to try to get some social or regime change. The European Union has to be stricter with European company’s access to the Iranian market. The E.U.’s mantra of, “If you’re nice to them, they will be nice to you,” is not a policy that helps civil society in Iran, but that it is naïve to Iranian ambitions. Thirdly, the West must stick to its values. She highlighted the Swedish government, which has called itself a feminist government, but still decided to wear headscarves during their meeting with Iranian leaders. She said that this sends the wrong symbolic message to the Iranian civil society. She asked, “What is Britain, the E.U., and America if it turns a blind eye to global suffering?”
The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank Mariam Memarsadeghi for an enlightening discussion of the Iran protests.
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