Washington, DC — On Monday, PAAIA briefed over 150 congressional staffers and members of the public on the latest developments regarding the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran and what the U.S. can do to support the Iranian people.
Our esteemed panelists, Dr. Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Dr. Hadi Ghaemi, and Holly Dagres, reconvened from last October to provide insight into Iran’s internal and international affairs as they relate to the protest movement. These experts discussed women, youth, and diaspora involvement in the protests, the movement’s outlook for the future, the latest executions, the poisonings of schoolgirls, and where we go from here.
The panel was moderated by PAAIA’s Executive Director, Neda Bolourchi, and followed a presentation by PAAIA’s Director of Government Affairs & Policy, Morad Ghorban, on the Iranian American community’s view of the protests based on PAAIA’s 2023 National Public Opinion Survey.
Takeaways from the Briefing
The majority of Iranian Americans support the protest movement in Iran and want the U.S. to do something to support the Iranian people.
PAAIA’s survey results show that 91% of Iranian Americans support the protest movement in Iran, and the majority want the U.S. to prioritize the promotion of democracy and human rights (51%) and regime change (41%) in Iran. The respondents are split on how best to show support for the Iranian people, but the top two choices were to expand funding and remove legal barriers to Internet access in Iran and to ban Iran’s leadership and their families from obtaining visas to live in the U.S.
The Iranian diaspora is very engaged with the current situation in Iran.
“This is the first time we’ve seen the diaspora mirror what the people in Iran want,” Dagres explained. “Yes, they’ve always had solidarity protests… but to see us come out in full force [internationally] — that’s new.”
This movement is different from previous movements in Iran.
“This is not something that can be easily reversed. We are already seeing the breaking of many taboos,” Dr. Boroujerdi said. “This movement was much more radical in its demands than anything we have seen in the past. It was not objecting to this particular event, this particular policy; it was targeting the entire state, the entire system.”
The regime is not addressing the Iranian people’s grievances.
Panelists cited the Iranian government’s incapabilities as one of the reasons they expect these protests to continue. “They absolutely have not been able to address any grievances of the protesters or put forward any programs moving forward,” explained Dr. Ghaemi. “Besides repression and holding on to power, what is their priority? You really don’t see any policies.”
The Woman, Life, Freedom movement is not over.
“The reality is that the clerical establishment is in a tinderbox situation. It’s only a matter of time before the protesters pour out onto the streets again en masse because the people of Iran have had enough,” added Dagres. “I think we’re just sitting in a situation where things are really going to pop off very soon again.”
Dr. Boroujerdi agreed, stating that “This was not the last protest. There are bound to be more crises coming up because the regime is fundamentally incapable of addressing the fundamental challenges that it faces.”
People are trying to find a solution for what happens afterward, but the opposition is composed of many groups and beliefs.
“Behind the scenes, there is a lot of internal brainstorming inside the country for a roadmap, for a Bill of Rights, for a vision of the future… that is probably the biggest challenge for the protests right now,” Dr. Ghaemi said.
“The fact is the Iranian opposition for a long time, over the last four decades, was engaging in what could be described as a ‘Dialogue of the Death.’ Nobody was listening to one another,” Dr. Boroujerdi explained. “The opposition is a rainbow. There is no one individual that can claim to be representing the diversity of the Iranian opposition. The sooner we come to that recognition of the rainbow nature of this opposition, I think the better we will be in terms of accomplishing the goal that everyone is after — a better future for the country.”
The U.S. should take an active role and support human rights and Internet freedom.
All three panelists agreed that the U.S. must show its support for the Woman, Life, Freedom movement and do so through actions, not just Tweets and statements. However, Dr. Ghaemi cautioned that this active show of support does not mean that the U.S. “has to take rein of the regime change process or decide who should be the replacement.” Instead, the U.S. should focus on having a consistent policy of promoting human rights in Iran and use international pressure with like-minded countries to do so.
The United States also must work to expand Internet access for Iranians. “The U.S. government can very easily subsidize the companies that would help Iranians to get access [to free or affordable Internet],” said Dr. Ghaemi. Although the government may not be able to directly interfere with these private companies’ manufacturing processes, it can provide incentives for tech companies to make their products available and affordable for Iranians.
“Amplifying what’s happening in Iran is very important,” Dagres reiterated as she turned her attention to how we as Iranian Americans can support the Iranian people. “Call your members of Congress, write to them, keep talking about it, share it on social media.”
Overall, the panelists agree that the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran will continue to grow, the Iranian regime will fail to address the many problems facing Iranians, and the U.S. must take action to support the protesters in their fight for freedom.