Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'Long live a free Iran!': Paris mayor calls for Iranian democracy on the eve of June 12

Painting the Iranian people's struggle for freedom with the broad brushstrokes of history, popular Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë invoked his own city's tumultuous battles for liberty minutes before he made Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi an honorary citizen on Thursday, June 10, 2010 (video at the end of this report).

'At this particular moment in time, June 10, I would like to tell all Iranians if they are able to hear me, Paris stands alongside you. The Paris of the French Revolution, the Paris which with its people and its allies overcame Nazism at the liberation of this city on August 25, 1944,' said Delanoë, a senior Socialist leader and national figure. 'In exactly eight days, we will commemorate General de Gaulle's call for resistance, dignity, and love for the homeland, which unified, by the way, all religions, cultures, origins, and even all political opinions. The struggle of Iranians today is simply a struggle for Iran. It is a struggle for the greatness and nobility of this people.'

The press and guests had been called to Paris's city hall to attend a ceremony in honor of Shirin Ebadi. It was the third time the Iranian lawyer and human  rights activist had been officially welcomed by Delanoë. Hundreds of guests and dozens of television, radio, and print journalists attended the event.

'By bestowing honorary citizenship of the city of Paris on you, I would like to offer our support to you -- for who you are -- and beyond that to the Iranian people. When I say that I would like to proffer the support of Paris to the Iranian people, I am not speaking of politics in the partisan sense of the word. I am not speaking of this or that candidate. I am speaking of the Iranian people in all their diversity, who have the right to live upright, free to express their beliefs as masters of their own destiny.'

In her acceptance speech, Ebadi recalled the events of a year ago, when millions took to the streets of Tehran and were countered with unabated state violence. 'They expressed their opposition peacefully, based on a right enshrined in the constitution,' Ebadi reminded the audience. 'The only response they obtained was bullets and violence. Over 70 people were killed and thousands were jailed. Some died under torture and others testified that they had been raped in prison.'

And of the regime's hypocritical and cynical release of some political prisoners, the Nobel peace laureate said, 'Some prisoners have been released temporarily, after having paid astronomical bails. The threat of extremely long prison sentences still hangs over them and there are still many detainees who have no access to due judicial process.'

Asked by a blogger after the ceremony how the cyber community can help prisoners of conscience, Ebadi responded, 'Tell the world what they are doing to the Iranian people.'

Ebadi shared the stage with representatives of Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation for Human Rights, who have launched a joint campaign for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran. Before the ceremony, the groups distributed leaflets bearing the names of 40 Iranian journalists currently in prison -- from Emadeddine Baghi to Ahmad Zeidabadi -- and recounting the Islamic regime's sorry record over the past year. The web site created by the two organizations contains a petition, naturally open to the general public, which has already been signed by dozens of artists, writers, and activists. 

To date, the mayor of Paris is the only political leader to have signed the petition which demands the unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners held by the Islamic Republic. Delanoë has been a staunch supporter of the Iranian democratic movement from the start.

The day after the ceremony with Shirin Ebadi, Bertrand Delanoë published a virulent post on his blog entitled 'Long Live a Free Iran.' I invite readers to visit this page and leave a message of appreciation for this true friend of the Iranian people.

'Today, the intense hope for the future has not abated and the desire for freedom still inflames this proud people who aspire to live upright,' wrote Delanoë. 'Do we understand the extent of the courage these women and men exhibit by defying such a regime? In one year, 23 newspapers have been banned, opposition web sites have been blocked. Dozens of protesters have been arrested and torture appears to have become a sinister norm. On May 9, five political prisoners were hanged in Tehran's Evin prison.'

'Meanwhile, Iran, the one and only, the true Iran has risen up to express its yearning to live free. This is the Iran I would like to address today,' continued the Paris mayor on his personal blog.

And who represent the face of this free Iran? After mentioning Ebadi, Delanoë added, 'It has the face of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who could not break his chains in time to attend the Cannes film festival and whose empty chair we will never forget. It has the face of poet Simin Behbahani, who was supposed to come to Paris at my invitation to attend International Women's Day on March 8, and who was informed by border police that she had been subjected to a travel ban as she tried to go through Tehran airport. It bears the faces of those young men who defied an order which pretends to be immutable and demonstrated with a veil over their heads, while young women marched with their heads uncovered. It has the face of Ahmad Zeidabadi, Shiva Nazar Ahari, and all prisoners of opinion who have committed no other crime than to want to think, speak, and write freely. It has, alas, the face of those who have left us: Neda, Taraneh, Sohrab, those victims of a security force which is becoming all-powerful as the regime falls increasingly into impotence.'

'To all of them, I wish to express my admiration and affection. And from Paris, on the anniversary of the start of their revolt, we join them in their struggle and their hopes, to cry out alongside them: Long live a free Iran!' concluded Delanoë.   

Further information

Bertrand Delanoë's latest post on Iran: 'Long Live a Free Iran!' (and a previous post on Iran)
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Joint campaign for the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran

Video of the Shirin Ebadi ceremony at Paris's city hall, June 10, 2010