Jul 24, 2018

Ahwazi: Pompeo Underlines Ethno-Religious Diversity in Iran In Speech

Michael Pompeo, United States Secretary of State, brought up the diversity of Iran at an event held for Iranian Americans on 22 July 2018. Pompeo noted that Iran’s current power-hungry regime is to blame for the poverty of the country’s own peoples. Whilst the Iranian economy and higher-up officials enjoy stability, many average Iranians struggle to find stability in lives of their own due to lack of local reforms, or in the case of the Ahwazis, the tyrannical government’s violent silencing of voices of protest. The Secretary of State continued that among some of the most vulnerable to the kleptocratic regime are minority groups, such as the Ahwazis.

The transcript of US Secretary Pompeo’s statement below was published by the US Department of State:

(…) I recognize the Iranian diaspora is diverse. There are many faith backgrounds and many different walks of life, and that’s a good thing, and not all Iranian Americans see things the same way. But I think everyone can agree that the regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people, and it is important that your unity on that point is not diminished by differences elsewhere.

(…) Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. As I’ll spell out more in a moment, the 40 years of fruit from the revolution has been bitter. Forty years of kleptocracy. Forty years of the people’s wealth squandered on supporting terrorism. Forty years of ordinary Iranians thrown in jail for peaceful expression of their rights. Why has the regime conducted itself in such an abhorrent way over the past 40 years and subjected its people to these conditions? It’s an important question.

The answer is at root in the revolutionary nature of the regime itself.

The ideologues who forcibly came to power in 1979 and remain in power today are driven by a desire to conform all of Iranian society to the tenets of the Islamic Revolution. The regime is also committed to spreading the revolution to other countries, by force if necessary. The total fulfillment of the revolution at home and abroad is the regime’s ultimate goal. It drives their behavior. Thus, the regime has spent four decades mobilizing all elements of the Iranian economy, foreign policy, and political life in service of that objective. To the regime, prosperity, security, and freedom for the Iranian people are acceptable casualties in the march to fulfill the revolution.

Economically, we see how the regime’s decision to prioritize an ideological agenda over the welfare of the Iranian people has put Iran into a long-term economic tailspin. During the time of the nuclear deal, Iran’s increased oil revenues could have gone to improving the lives of the Iranian people. Instead they went to terrorists, dictators, and proxy militias. Today, thanks to regime subsidies, the average Hizballah combatant makes two to three times what an Iranian firefighter makes on the streets of Iran. Regime mismanagement has led to the rial plummeting in value. A third of Iranian youth are unemployed, and a third of Iranians now live below the poverty line.

The bitter irony of the economic situation in Iran is that the regime uses this same time to line its own pockets while its people cry out for jobs and reform and for opportunity. The Iranian economy is going great – but only if you’re a politically-connected member of the elite. Two years ago, Iranians rightfully erupted in anger when leaked paystubs showed massive amounts of money inexplicably flowing into the bank accounts of senior government officials.

And there are many more examples of the widespread corruption. (…) The ayatollahs are in on the act, too. Judging by their vast wealth, they seem more concerned with riches than religion. These hypocritical holy men have devised all kinds of crooked schemes to become some of the wealthiest men on Earth while their people suffer. (…) The level of corruption and wealth among Iranian leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government.

On foreign policy, the regime’s mission of exporting the revolution has produced a decades-long campaign of ideologically-motivated violence and destabilization abroad. Assad, Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, Shia militant groups in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen feed on billions of regime cash while the Iranian people shout slogans like “Leave Syria, think about us.”

Our partners in the Middle East are plagued by Iranian cyberattacks and threatening behavior in the waters of the Persian Gulf. The regime and its allies in terror have left a trail of dissident blood across Europe and the Middle East.

Indeed, our European allies are not immune to the threat of regime-backed terrorism. (…)

Today, multiple Americans are detained and missing inside of Iran. Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang are unjustly held by the regime to this day, and Bob Levinson has been missing in Iran for over 11 years. There are others, too. And we in the Trump administration are working diligently to bring each of those Americans home from having been wrongfully detained for far too long.

(…) The regime’s absolute adherence to the Islamic Revolution mean it cannot endure any ideas in the Iranian society that would contradict or undermine it – unlike we just did here this evening. It’s why the regime has for decades heartlessly repressed its own people’s human rights, dignity, and fundamental freedoms.

It’s why the Iranian police detained a teenage Iranian gymnast for posting an Instagram video of herself dancing.

It’s why the regime arrests hundreds of Ahwazis, members of Iran’s minority Arab community, when they speak out to demand respect for their language and for their basic beliefs. The government’s morality police beat women in the streets and arrest those who do not wish to wear the hijab.

On “White Wednesday” activist recently – one activist was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for protesting compulsory hijab wearing.

The desire to uphold the Islamic Revolution has especially resulted in gross suppression of the freedom of religion in Iran, often to barbaric ends.

Last month, a simple man, a bus driver, a father of two children, and a member of the Iranian Gonabadi Sufi Dervish Community, was convicted and sentenced to death. His sentence came on questionable grounds following violent clashes between security forces and the Dervishes. He was reportedly denied access to a lawyer before, during – before and during his grossly unfair trial. This man, Mr. Salas – and his supporters – maintains his innocence throughout, reportedly stating he had been tortured into a forced confession. Sadly, on June 18th, the regime hanged Mr. Salas in prison.

His death was part of a larger crackdown that began in February, when at least 300 Sufis demanding the release of their fellow faith members were unjustly arrested. Right now, hundreds of Sufi Muslims in Iran remain imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs, with reports of several having died at the hands of the regime’s brutal security forces.

Among those imprisoned is the 91-year-old leader, Dr. Noor Ali Tabandeh, who has been under house arrest for at least the last part of four months – the greatest part of four months. He is in need of immediate medical care.

The religious intolerance of the regime in Iran does not only extend to Sufi Muslims. The same goes for Christians and Jews and Sunnis and Baha’is and Zoroastrians and members of many other groups inside Iran who live with the fear that their next prayer may be indeed their last.

What grieves us so badly about the treatment of religious minorities in Iran is that their presence far pre-dates the regime. They are a historic part of the rich fabric of an ancient and vibrant Iranian civilization. That fabric has been torn by intolerant, black-robed enforcers. When other faiths are suppressed, the image of Iran becomes a self-portrait of the ayatollahs and of the IRGC.

In response to myriad government failures, corruption, and disrespect of rights, since December Iranians have been taking to the streets in the most enduring and forceful protests since 1979. Some shout the slogan, “The people are paupers while the mullahs live like gods.” Others choose to shut down the Grand Bazaar in Tehran. The specific grievances do differ, but all those voicing dissatisfaction share one thing: They have been ill-treated by a revolutionary regime. Iranians want to be governed with dignity, accountability, and respect. (Applause.)

The regime – this is important. The regime’s brutal response to these peaceful protests reflects the intolerance that its revolutionary worldview has produced. Last January, the regime welcomed in the new year with the arrests of up to 5,000 of its own people. They were peacefully calling for a better life. Hundreds reportedly remain behind bars, and several are dead at the hands of their own government. The leaders cynically call it suicide.

(…)Ordinary Iranians know that their government’s torture of its own people is not normal.

Earning multiple rounds of sanctions by the UN Security Council is not normal.

Inciting chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” is not normal.

Being the number one state sponsor of terror is similarly abnormal.

Sometimes it seems the world has become desensitized to the regime’s authoritarianism at home and its campaigns of violence abroad, but the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses. (…)

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of State@ Flickr

*If you wish to continue reading the transcript of Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo’s remarks, kindly follow the link. Additionally, it ought to be noted that when this briefing was translated in to Farsi, the Ahwazis were left out of the translation, as if they were not mentioned at all by Secretary Pompeo.