This article was last updated on May 25, 2022
‘It is now your turn’
It is now Obama’s turn to take steps at ending the 35-year long hostilities in US-Iranian relations, say a group of more than 500 Iranian dissidents, intellectuals and public figures.
In a letter to US President Barack Obama, more than 500 Iranian intellectuals, former and current political prisoners, as well as civil society and political figures, said that the administration of President Hassan Rouhani had taken “substantial” steps at reform in the country.
Last week Iran released eleven political prisoners, amongst them well-known human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, as well as veteran reformist politicians Feizollah Arabsorkhi and Mohsen Aminzadeh. On Monday, the spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary announced that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had agreed to pardon around eighty political prisoners who are either serving their sentences or are waiting for their sentences to be carried.
“Some of these individuals were sentenced after the 2009 sedition and some others were sentenced due to security-related charges,” Mohseni Eje’i added.
“Sedition,” is the Iranian regime’s epithet for the opposition Green Movement that was born out of the 2009 presidential election. The leaders of the movement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are still under an illegal house arrest, which began in February 2011.
Recent months have witnessed a softening of Iran’s official position regarding relations with the West and in particular the nuclear issue.
During an interview with NBC, Rouhani described Obama’s recent letter to him as “positive and constructive”. He maintained that he was at full liberty to negotiate a deal over nuclear programme with the West.
On Monday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would be meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday as part of talks between Iran and foreign ministers from five other major powers over the nuclear dossier.
The signatories to Monday’s letter to Obama called on the US president to “take advantage” of Rouhani’s upcoming trip to New York in order to “repair Iran-US relations and thus improve the regional prospects for peace which requires further cooperation between the two countries.”
“This is an important historical opportunity that must not be exhausted. It is now your turn, and that of the international community, to reciprocate Iran’s measures of goodwill and pursue a win-win strategy that encompasses the lifting of the unjust economic sanctions on Iran,” the letter continued.
It said that the failure “to seize this golden opportunity … will aid the cynics of both countries and make it more difficult to believe in the willingness of the United States to improve relations. Any success that Rouhani achieves in foreign policy, will help his domestic agenda in opening the political, social and economic spheres.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, author and satirist Ebrahim Nabavi, the founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council, prominent reformist prisoners Mostafa Tajzadeh and Issa Saharkhiz, leftist activist Farrokh Negahdar were some of the well-known names on the list of signatories to the letter.
The full text of the letter:
It is now your turn.
By holding credible and trustworthy elections earlier this year and through other recent developments, the Iranian government has taken substantial steps towards reform in Iran. The people of Iran seized the opportunity to elect Hassan Rouhani, a reform-minded lawyer and proponent of normalization of Iranian international relations. And as a result, we have witnessed the release of several political prisoners and relative progress in the country’s public and political atmosphere over the past days and weeks. It is often claimed that important decisions in Iran are made, not by the President, but by the Supreme Leader. But today even the Supreme Leader is speaking of “heroic flexibility” and Iran is now united to engage in constructive engagement with the world.
The promising trends in our country has set the stage for cutting the Gordian knot of more than three decades of Iran-US alienation and specifically resolving disagreements over Iran’s nuclear program. In the prospective negotiations, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have the support of not only the Iranian government, but also a majority of Iranian voters as well as a wide spectrum of political and social activists and many political prisoners.
Greater economic and political engagement with the world will be essential in increasing political freedom in Iran. If the government of the United States and the international community fail to seize this golden opportunity, they will aid the cynics of both countries and make it more difficult to believe in the willingness of the United States to improve relations. Any success that Rouhani achieves in foreign policy, will help his domestic agenda in opening the political, social and economic spheres.
We call upon you to take advantage of President Rouhani’s presence in New York to repair Iran-US relations and thus improve the regional prospects for peace which requires further cooperation between the two countries. This is an important historical opportunity that must not be exhausted. It is now your turn, and that of the international community, to reciprocate Iran’s measures of goodwill and pursue a win-win strategy that encompasses the lifting of the unjust economic sanctions on Iran.
A group of Iranian intellectuals, former and current political prisoners and civil society and political activists
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