A Time for Change? Dr Behrooz Behbudi, Founder of the Council for a Democratic Iran, Talked to Pat Lancaster about His Recently Published Book and His Aspirations for the Land of His Birth
Lancaster, Pat, The Middle East
In your book you paint an idyllic picture of your childhood in Iran, where your father was a trusted member of the Court of the Shah, what is your current status with regard to the Islamic Republic?
During the presidency of Mr Khatami, I travelled to Iran on a charity mission following the Khorasan earthquake, after being away from my country for many years. After that trip I wanted to create more links between the Iranian and American people. I did extensive work but eventually realised that Iran needs fundamental, not cosmetic, change and with the current regime it is impossible to achieve any substantial and lasting links between the people. Therefore, I decided to change my approach from a humanitarian and cultural one to a political one.
Since becoming involved in politics opposing the ruling regime in Iran, the regime looks upon me as an exiled political dissident.
Where, in your opinion, did things begin to go wrong for Iran, beth domestically and within the international community?
We must go back to the time of the rule of Reza Shah and then follow it to the time of Mohammad Reza Shah. The clerics did not appear on the stage overnight. They thought long and hard about their plans to gain power in Iran. The problems of contemporary Iran began the moment the clerical establishment looked upon itself as the new rulers of the nation. The clerics came to power on the basis of the nation's sincere religious beliefs, although without any real understanding of politics, economics, sociology, international law, diplomatic relations or any other aspect of running complicated affairs of state. The consequences of their ignorance are right in front of our eyes.
What makes matters worse is the way world powers have been lenient towards a regime whose reactionary and destructive nature is very well known to them, putting their own financial interests before the interests of the Iranian people whose basic human rights have been trampled upon by one of the most tyrannical regimes in the history of mankind.
Do you believe the majority of Iranians are in accord with the current ruling regime?
To answer this question one needs to have access to information gathered through independent surveys and polls taken in a free society. None of these are currently possible in today's Iran because the regime controls every aspect of the nation's public life through repressive measures.
However, there are plenty of indicators that prove the majority of the Iranian people oppose the present regime and its policies. Such objections can be measured, for example, by the protest march of as many as three million people through the streets of Tehran, who gathered without any prior organisation or call from opposition leaders.
Compare this number with the regime's paltry rent-a-crowd supporters, bussed in to take part in pro-government rallies, and one can only conclude that the opponents of the regime far outnumber its supporters. This popular opposition does not surface frequently because of harsh and bloody crackdowns on any shows of opposition, perpetrated by the regime's organised, repressive gangs.
Add this ever-present threat to the harsh economic conditions--poverty and deprivation--the regime's interference in the private lives of its citizens, the lack of freedom of speech and public assembly, censorship of the media, the problems of women, youth and the discrimination faced by religious and ethnic minorities, then the obvious conclusion must be that this regime does not have any mandate from the Iranian people.
The threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapons programme has dominated global news and caused international consternation, How can this issue be best addressed diplomatically?
Iran will not make a U-turn on the nuclear issue. It cannot do so because it has spent a great deal of political capital on this venture. …