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The Iranian Struggle for Freedom: A Call for Global Solidarity

February 1, 2023
The Iranian Struggle for Freedom: A Call for Global Solidarity
Protesters march in solidarity with protesters in Iran on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2022. (Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

[Editor’s Note: This statement of support for Iran’s pro-freedom, pro-democracy Azadi movement is being released today. The Bulwark’s William Kristol was among its organizers, and our Sarah Longwell, Charles Sykes, Mona Charen, Tim Miller, Eric Edelman, and Eliot Cohen are among the signatories—along with an extraordinary assemblage of Nobel laureates, former heads of state and government, and prominent cultural and intellectual figures from around the world. Among these are Hillary Clinton, Stephen Harper, Ban Ki-moon, Shirin Ebadi, Natan Sharansky, Toomas Hendrick Ilves, Reza Pahlavi, Azar Nafisi, Garry Kasparov, Mario Vargas Llosa, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Enes Kanter Freedom, Richard Gere, and Molly Ringwald. The full list of over four hundred signatories can be found on the website of Freedom House.]

Iranians have taken to the streets in rebellion. The vanguard are young women, but they have been joined by men and people of all ages. With breathtaking courage and unarmed, they have kept coming, even as the regime has shot, hanged, tortured, blinded, raped, beaten, and arrested many thousands.

The spark was mandatory hijab, but the target of the uprising is the whole theocratic system. Their slogan is Woman, Life, Freedom. The goal they chant is “Azadi, Azadi, A-za-di,” meaning “Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.”

Their victory would mean deliverance from a regime that denies free elections, free speech, due process of law, and personal autonomy in matters as simple as the choice of clothing.

Victory would mean even more than that. The end of the Islamic Republic’s system of misogyny would constitute a global landmark in the long march toward a world in which women are treated equally.

The triumph of freedom in Iran could renew the global tide of democratization that was so strong in the latter twentieth century but has ebbed in the face of authoritarian counterattack.

The Azadi movement addresses no demands to the regime, which it regards as fundamentally illegitimate and beyond reform. The protestors chant “down with” it. They want theocracy and dictatorship replaced by freedom and democracy. They proclaim a “revolution.”

They deserve unstinting support from freedom-loving people around the world:

  • Governments, civic associations, and individuals should speak loudly and often in support of the protestors and in condemnation of the regime’s repressive actions. Legislators and others should “adopt” individual arrestees, especially those facing execution, and spotlight their plight.
  • Governments should take diplomatic, economic, and symbolic measures to punish the regime and bolster the protestors. All officials involved in the repressions, from Supreme Leader Khamenei down to local Basij commanders, should be sanctioned. The Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) should be added to terrorism lists.
  • High level officials of democratic governments should receive leaders of the opposition, in publicly-announced meetings.
  • Accurate, reliable, fact-based reporting via international radio, television, and social media reaching Iran should be enhanced, as should assistance to private Iranian exile broadcasting.
  • Technical assistance, including equipment, should be given to help the demonstrators counteract censorship and surveillance and to communicate despite the regime’s disruption of Internet service and blocking of websites.
  • Labor unions, governments, and others in the international community should express solidarity with Iranian workers, should share the experiences of other labor struggles for worker rights and democracy, and should also seek ways to provide practical assistance, such as VPNs, other means of communication, and contributions to strike funds if safe and effective channels can be found.

We pledge to do all in our power to support the Iranian struggle for Azadi and call upon all people of good will everywhere to join us.