Open letter by three dissident student leaders
Text of the open letter by three dissident student leaders (Ahmad Batebi,
Abbas Fakhr-Avar and Iman Sami'Zadeh),
In the name of the Almighty
my brothers and sisters, children of Adam and Eve:
Iran is my homeland. You all are familiar with it. It is an ancient land
with citizens known for gentleness, beauty and wisdom. A nation today
mired in the greatest of catastrophes. In Iran, we are today deprived of
the most vital human needs - that which is even more essential than the
most basic of foodstuff, simply because human nature is described by it -
In a nation where slavery has always been an unfamiliar term, in a country
where even the archives of its history attest to the absence of such vile
practices, an entire nation is enslaved today. Enslaved by petrifaction of
its citizens' souls, by superstition, by ignorance and the audacity of a
small clique, which some 25 years ago, took control of our nation's
destiny, killing the bravest and the most dedicated children of Iran --
supposedly to uproot dissent and eternalize its rule.
We were children in those days and unable to speak out. We were simply
witnesses, yet today, we can reveal the truth of our history:
We are two schoolmates. Upon entering elementary school, our heads were
shaven and were told that our clothing were to be colorless and dark. We
were separated from the opposite sex and we were told that women are evil
and needed to be avoided.
Joy and laughter in school were frowned upon and suppressed. In school we
queued up much like in military garrisons. We heard military orders and
irrespective of the season, we had to chant slogans - Death to America,
Down with Great Britain. Death to Israel. Any refusal would result in the
whipping of our palms with a hose or rope.
Everyday, the schoolmaster and teachers would lecture us on the evil
nature of the United States and on the righteousness of religious violence
and murder. We were children. 7 year of age. We had no idea what the
United States meant. Only daily lectures, that the US was an evil
creature, with long nails dripping with blood; A Dracula with sharp teeth,
wearing a large "stars and striped" hat. This horrific creature
we were told has an unquenchable thirst for the youth - especially Iranian
youth. Everyday we would sing a hymn: "America! America! She Fails!
She Fails! The blood of our youth drips from her nails!"
These are the stories of 20 years ago when we were only school children.
It continued during our days at the university. Insults, defamation,
slogans, speeches and punishments all continued. Yet, the difference was
that on campus we became familiar with two new terms; Intellect &
Reason. We learned that a significant number of our questions were left
unanswered. We had learned to ask the ultimate question: "why?"
We overcame great difficulty, and started communicating with the outside
world. The Pegasus of the Internet, helped us learn about the views and
ideas of our peers around the world; the other children of Adam and Eve.
Inevitably, we realized that not all in this world are
"infidels" and that not everyone living outside of Iran is busy
devising "evil plans" for our destruction. This was quite an
awakening. A contrast to what we had been taught throughout the years in
school up to college.
Emboldened by our reason, challenged by our intellect, we gathered our
courage. By the grace of the Almighty and our hearts filled with love, we
dared to stand up, speak and challenge. Friday, July 7th, 1999 was the day
the world heard our voice and learned of our rebellion. While I found
myself stitching the lacerated flesh of my classmates, at one point Ahmad
[Batebi] held up the blood-stained shirt of another friend, the world
caught our moment on camera, and came to realize that Iran is still alive!
The true history of our nation, we have extracted from amidst the worn out
books in prison and from those who mourned the decay of our motherland; we
then realized what has befallen our nation. Those who have governed during
the past 25 years, wanted us to remain "totally unaware" so they
could effortlessly eternalize their rule, yet through our rebellion we
have reached "partial enlightenment"; we are one step away from
reaching prosperity, from joining the civilized movement of modernity and
becoming "fully enlightened" citizens.
Soon after February 1979, Iranians, after having recognized the
catastrophe that had befallen their nation under the pretense of progress,
liberty, and under the guise of a "scared revolution", tried
numerous methods to rid themselves of the evil dressed in religious cloak.
All these efforts were brutally repressed by the fundamentalists. The best
and the brightest were murdered and eliminated. The prisons were filled
with those who had dared to voice their dissent. The executions, and the
inhuman nature of the clerical regime, portrayed a repugnant picture of
Iran in the eyes of the world community.
Through attractive & populist words, the religious propagandists
penetrated the soul of Iranians. They toyed with the sincere sentiments of
the kind-hearted people of my nation and when the public learned of their
vile intentions, every voice, and every whisper was silenced. Perhaps,
they thought neither Iran, nor its citizens will have the zeal to rise
In an arena filled with emotion, ignorance, regret and prejudice which
dominated the political scene in the chaotic months after the revolt in
February 1979, a small clique attacked the U.S. Embassy in the hopes of
grabbing their supposedly unpaid shares, ended up gravely damaging the
name "student", because they were identified as such. These so
called "students" facilitated and paved the path to a
"cultural revolution" with their sheer ignorance. They mobilized
the world public opinion against Iran. Today, when we ponder those 444
days of global - and especially American - anxiety, and the plight of the
hostages at the Embassy, we understand the world sentiment in perceiving
Iranians as advocates of violence & terror.
But the truth lies elsewhere. A small group forced their short-sighted and
horrid views, upon us. Every single effort by the public toward liberty
had turned fruitless. People were no longer participating in the
elections. The will to live had gravely deteriorated. Poverty was rampant
and in a nation as wealthy and, as rich as Iran, we were desperately
struggling to make ends meet. All of this was due to the incompetence and
ignorance of the ruling clerics, although, the fact that our fathers were
not innocent either when they were emotionally deceived & eventually
became mere tools to shape the revolution.
The lack of public participation in the elections did not phase the ruling
clerics. Those who governed Iran in the post-revolutionary era, were
unfamiliar with the concept of "political dignity" and as such,
do not and will not have any respect for the will of the people. If they
had a shred of dignity, they would have grasped the meaning behind the
lack of interest by the people to participate in the elections before May
During all these years, via various deceptive methods, they would steal
the vote of the people. "If you do not vote, your children will not
be accepted in the University" - "If you do not vote, you will
not be eligible to receive food coupons" - "if you fail to vote,
you'll end up losing your job" - and similar platitudes were
On May 23rd 1997, the astute people of Iran, isolated in the world because
of the ignorance and mismanagement of the incompetent ruling clique,
resorted to their common sense and through massive presence at the voting
booths, modified the method of their struggle such that various flanks of
the regime were shoved at each other's throat so the power of the ruling
clerics will corrode and the world would then end up hearing the voice of
the Iranian people.
Khatami came to power and spoke of grand reforms. To a certain degree, the
voice of our people resonated in the world. But before long, Khatami and
his so called reformist team showed their true colors. In both elections
we voted for Khatami. Our generation in fact, voted for him because we
aspired for change through nonviolent methods. We opted to side with the
reform movement so that they could not label us as "knit
pickers" who will shy away from offering second chances. That is
precisely what our generation did. The generation I speak of, constitutes
70% of the population today and is all under 30 years old and had not come
of age in any of the two previous "referendums," neither in
April of 1979 nor in July of 1989, for the amendment to the constitution.
Today this generation of the "70 percentile" who thinks quite
like us and has numerous unanswered questions, has opted for a grand
Our demands are minute. Iranians are gentle people without greed. We wish
to be embraced, once again, by the global human family. We want to enjoy
life with the rest of humanity and share in their sorrows. We wish to
openly and overtly express our dedication to all universal covenants. We
want to show our respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Universal Peace, Nonviolence, Environmental Protection, Permanent
Progress, and all the other noble covenants sanctioned by the mankind.
We hope to alleviate despotism and totalitarianism, setting the vote of
the people as the gauge for governance. We aspire to redeem the rights of
our sisters that have been ignored for so long, and establish an
all-encompassing equality between men and women. We want to rid our nation
from hypocritical rulers and promote and re-establish the age old Persian
creed of "good deeds," "good speech" and "good
thoughts." We want everything that is good for our ancient homeland
and for this earth and its inhabitants and we strive, as humanly as
possible, to rid mankind of all that is evil. All this, for a people who
have paid a grave price in self-sacrifice and a nation which has been
victimized, is very little to ask for.
Violence has absolutely no place in our struggle, neither in our words nor
in our deeds. Our goal is to reveal the un-masked face of the Islamic
Republic and for the whole world to see the level of its unpopularity
amongst Iranians. We are of the belief that with the pure grace of
Almighty God and support of international public opinion, the evil of
theocracy will be brought to its knees.
We have bore the burden of endless tortures. We actually witnessed
executions of our friends. Others have plunged to their death after being
thrown off dormitory buildings. Many have been shot or tortured for
months. Some have been in solitary confinement for years and endured great
sufferings at the hands of the regime.
We have faced these perils without fear hoping to lessen the pain of our
tired people in struggle and as a price for freedom. In return, we expect
nothingójust that our people do not lose hope.
If this letter is long in length, it is because the depth of our pains is
as grand as the history of our homeland.
Ahmad Batebi, my dear schoolmate, shares these words and the expressions
of the pains of our people. Ahmad's voice emanates from a throat which has
twice felt an executioner's rope; and I, write these words with the same
hand crushed and shattered under the most ruthless of tortures.
While in solitary confinement, Ahmad awaited his execution for 7 months.
Insofar as myself, throughout 2001 - the same year of "dialogue
amongst civilizations" - I also experienced confinement in a solitary
cell in the same dungeon.
We are not alone. Many of our schoolmates also chose to revolt and have
sacrificed much so that Iran can one day be free.
We call on our brethren to join us in a complete and total boycott of all
elections - unless it is a free and fair referendum on the type of the
future regime. This collective boycott will demonstrate to the world the
level of the regime's unpopularity. And also call on the international
community to support our goal, namely, a referendum with United Nation's
In honor of all those who have sacrificed so much through their gallantry
and all pain endured by our freedom loving nation, we owe it to keep the
faith that we shall prevail! And keep our hope alive that:
Iran shall never die!
Amir-Abbas Fakhr-Avar (Siyaavash)
27 year old Univ. Student
Sentenced by the Revolutionary Court to 8 years in prison
25 year old Univ. Student
Sentenced by the Revolutionary Court to 15 years in prison
Iman Sami' Zadeh