I would like to use this opportunity to salute the oppressed women of Iran, who for the past 28 years have been abused, humiliated and treated in the most inhuman manner by a barbaric and criminal regime.
One cannot but feel the immense weight of moral indignation at the plight of Iranian women who are putting up a heroic fight to gain back their plundered rights and freedoms. They have been plucked from the arms of human civilization and thrown back to the dark ages of repression and persecution.
Iran whose ancient rulers are honored like saints by the Bible for protecting Jews and religious minorities from persecution, in the advanced democratic age of the twenty-first century has been taken over by a regime that stands at the top of the international list of human rights violators.
The deadly virus of Middle Eastern terrorism received a great boost in the triumph of the anti-Western fanatical revolutionaries in Iran. The events that followed the 1979 triumph of Khomeini’s religious obscurantism had a ripple effect in the whole Islamic world. The poisoned propaganda of the rabble rousing mullahs appealed to that intolerant segment of the population in the Islamic world who preferred to get high on blind hatred of imagined enemies rather than work hard at the arduous task of development of their countries.
There are several ways to demonstrate the massive failure of the Islamic regime in Iran. But nowhere has this failure been more obvious and pervasive than in the realm of economics and the performance of the national economy.
An ‘analytical declaration’ signed by 565 prominent Iranian intellectuals, professionals, university professors and student leaders, issued in Tehran on March 1, 2005, reminds us of the most shocking fact that after 26 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue, today the $1,677 per capita income of Iranians is 30% less than what it was in 1978 – the year preceding the revolution. In contrast, according to a resource-based analysis of economic performance, Iran has the potential of being the world’s 20th strongest economy. Its rich reserves of hydrocarbons and other natural resources, coupled with its geo-strategic position, make it a unique economy.
The Islamic revolution of 1979 and its consequences have shared many similarities with the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 in Russia. Both have been ideological, brutal and economically counterproductive. Political, social and economic devastation followed by destructive wars are among other common features of these two human disasters of the twentieth century. In spite of immeasurable human cost, neither of the two succeeded in achieving their stated goals.
Most of today’s economic and social ills can easily be traced to the government’s domination of the national economy. Specifically, Articles 43 and 44 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic were copied from those of former Communist states of Russia and Eastern Europe. In accordance with these articles, the government confiscated practically all aspects of the national economy and placed it under central planning. Since then, the state continues to dominate at least 80% percent of the economy. Today, in spite of significant annual oil income, totaling more than 500 billion dollars in 26 years, there are more than ten million of my compatriots living under the regime’s own poverty line.
In terms of comparative purchasing power, the value of our national currency – the Rial – has been reduced to less than 1% of its value in 1978. The best illustration of that can be manifested in the foreign exchange rate of the country. Before the disastrous revolution of 1979, it was 76 Rials to one US dollar. Today it is nearly 9250 Rials to one dollar.
Widespread and chronic unemployment is another manifestation of the regime’s economic record. While Iran had a labor shortage before the revolution and hosted millions of ‘guest-workers’ from abroad, today unofficial sources put unemployment at over 20%; the official government-acknowledged rate is 16%. There is very little credibility for government statistics among the Iranian people.
It is essential to note that unemployment among the youth is as high as 30%. As far as women are concerned, there are so many obstacles raised against their full social participation that many have given up looking for work, have thus left the labor market and are therefore not officially counted among the unemployed. One estimate places the potential rate of unemployment among women as high as 50%. Widespread and officially sanctioned discrimination against women has led to severe economic deprivation causing serious social problems, amongst them an astonishingly high rate of suicide, addiction, crime and prostitution.
The nature of the world economy has changed. The revolutionary changes in the field of Information-Communication Technology have opened new horizons for all nations. The advent of global economy has made it possible for countries like China and India to jump start their economies and make more progress in ten years than others have made in a century. Yet, under the clerical regime’s tenure, Iran has in fact regressed and has further fallen behind from a fast paced global economy.
However, Iran’s highly motivated population, particularly the youth, will overcome these years of deprivation and stagnation upon successfully putting an end to the rule of theocrats. Recent events in Lebanon and what is being referred to, as the ‘Cedar Revolution,’ is a clear example of the Winds of Change sweeping throughout the Middle East. It shows that democracy is eventually reaching the Islamic world and people of that region are learning to employ people’s power to achieve their political aspirations. People of Iran and Lebanon share many common characteristics. Both countries are culturally sophisticated and have a highly educated population.
It is only a matter of time before uniting Iranians find their moment in history to overcome their repressive clerical regime and regain their freedom and self-determination. It is in this light that I once again appeal on their behalf to the international community with this simple message:
We expect moral support from and solidarity with free societies and democratic governments, and we want their assurance that they will not compromise Iranian’s human rights and political freedom by cutting deals with our oppressors in the name of commerce and economic interests.