Most British and American citizens have no idea that a constitutional revolution is underway in Iran. Paradoxically, 40 years of life under religious rule has produced a large young Iranian population that is not hostile to Western democracies, but friendly; not fanatically attached to fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, but alienated from them and often from Islam itself. In 2010, with little media notice or public visibility, a group of dedicated Iranian patriots initiated a series of Iran Democratic Transition Conferences in Washington to educate about the establishment of a secular, pluralistic, democratic government in Iran over the next nine years. A number of these Iranians with a strong core belief in freedom and democracy created the National Iranian Congress (NIC) as a catalyst for organizing a Constitutional Revolution in Iran and establishing an interim Transitional Government. The NIC is now a leading Iranian opposition group. In December 2017, millions of Iranian citizens followed their call to mobilise against the regime in over 100 cities and call for a popular Constitutional Revolution. Momentum continues to build.
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to this highly relevant event in the fortieth year of Iran’s theocracy, in which Amir Abbas Fakhravar, the founder of the National Iranian Congress and President of the Iranian Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C., will reflect on possible futures in Iran.
Amir Abbas Fakhravar is an Iranian jailed dissident, award winning writer, and the recipient of the prestigious Annie Taylor Award. He is the founder of National Iranian Congress and President of the Iranian Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C. Currently, he is an adjunct faculty at the Texas State University who teaches Comparative Constitutional Law, Political Crimes and International Crimes. Fakhravar spent over five years in jail and suffered brutal torture in jail in Iran. His treatments in the Islamic Republic jails have been described as first known example of “white torture” in Iran by Amnesty International. According to Amnesty International, the cells had no windows, and everything was entirely colored creamy white. The meal was white rice on a white paper plate. If he wanted to use the toilet, he had to put a white slip of paper under the door of the cell to alert guards who reportedly had footwear designed to muffle any sound. Amir Fakhravar has testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on U.S-Iran relations, Foreign Policy, U.S. government broadcasting and Iran’s Nuclear issues. Fakhravar among his CIS team briefed members of the European Parliament and the parliaments of Finland, The United Kingdom, Israel, Germany and Canada. He has been a foreign affairs and Iran expert at FOX News, Alhurra, CNN, CBN, VOA, Radio Farda and CBS.
Emma Fox is a Research Fellow in the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism. Emma’s work specialises on UK extremist networks and their exploitation of institutions within civil society. She recently published Islamic Human Rights Commission: Advocating for the Ayotollahs an investigative report into the activities and status of a London-based extremist organisation. She was previously the Director of Student Rights – analysing the vulnerability of students to extremism within Higher Education. As Student Rights Director, Emma published the ‘Extreme Speakers and Events: 2017/18’ and ‘Profiting from Prejudice: How Mend’s ‘IAM’ Campaign Legitimised Extremism’ reports. Her work has been published across the national media; including in The Daily Telegraph and The Times. Emma holds a first-class degree in Classical Civilisation from the University of Leeds.
On the 23rd of October the Henry Jackson Society was delighted to host the event An Iranian Constitutional Revolution: the Possible Futures of Iran, in which Amir Abbas Fakhravar, the founder of the National Iranian Congress, President of the Iranian Freedom Institute and jailed Iranian dissident, and Emma Fox, a Research Fellow in the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, spoke on the possible futures in Iran in light of the ongoing constitutional revolution in Iran. The event was chaired by Andrew Bowie MP, a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Politician.
The event began with Mr Bowie MP welcoming the audience to Parliament and introducing both speakers. Mr Fakhravar’s opening remarks described the context of the current Iranian constitutional revolution with respect to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. He noted that 40 years ago, a nightmare happened; before 1979 the country had been moving in the right direction, and then everything stopped. Mr Fakhravar recalled the circumstances of his imprisonment and his eventual escape with the help of some of his American friends, after which he started researching the events of 1979, and discovered that the revolution had been designed by the KGB. Mr Fakhravar noted that he was surprised to find that the Russian communists who did not believe in God, had been the ones training the mullahs to overthrow the Iranian shah prior to 1979. He noted that the current Iranian regime has no legitimacy both inside and outside the country; the European states who have recognised the current leadership have only done so in order to establish economic relations with the mullahs without any regard for human rights abuses in Iran. Mr Fakhravar stated that he had been lucky because people outside Iran had been aware of his predicament during his imprisonment, he noted, that there are many more people, including young people and students, still in Iranian jails whose names are unknown to the West.
Mr Fakhravar recalled how, when he and the National Iranian Congress started campaigning for oil sanctions against Iran, people, including even close friends of his, warned him against doing so, saying it would damage his reputation. Regardless of the relentless attacks on himself and NIC, in 2012 their goal seemed to have been achieved, until the adoption of the JCPOA in 2015, which, according to Mr Fakhravar, only served to create the possibility of the doing business with the Iranian regime once again. One year after the election of President Trump and after continuous campaigning for the repealing of the JCPOA, NIC implored the Iranian people to come out and protest. Mr Fakhravar stated that he believes the huge protests all over Iran were what gave the President of the United States the final push to abandon the JCPOA, to the detriment of the Iranian regime. He noted that the money that some European states continue to give the Iranian government is harmful to the population and only helping the regime extend its survival for another couple of months.
Mr Fakhravar continued with a discussion on the history and current state of the Iranian constitution. He noted that both the 1979 Constitution and the 1906 Constitution were flawed, and far too imbued with religious language and concepts, effectively making any non-Muslims second-class citizens, in addition to concentrating the power in the hands of a single entity, it being the shah in the 1906 Constitution and the supreme leader in the 1979 Constitution. Mr Fakhravar noted that both the US written and the UK unwritten constitutions place the power in the hands of the population, and that this is the model that Iran should follow, instead of simply going back to the 1906 Constitution. He added that the separation of church and state is also a crucially important aspect of any good constitution. Mr Fakhravar then said that the NIC have drafted their own proposed Iranian Constitution, and talking to Iranians within the country via social media, and they, especially Generation Z, are accepting the proposed Constitution; he noted that young Iranians have been asking for fundamental constitutional rights, creating a grass-roots movement, very much unlike the Revolution of 1979. Mr Fakhravar then expressed the wish to question BBC Persian about their lack of reporting on the ongoing Iranian constitutional revolution, but there were no representatives present, so instead he implored Mr Bowie MP to bring the issue to Parliament, underlining the importance and urgency of the matter.
Mr Bowie MP responded by saying he would make an attempt to divert the Parliament’s attention from Brexit, and introduced Emma Fox, who expressed gratitude for Mr Fakhravar sharing his experiences and insights, and noted that her own research has been more focused on Western apologetics for Middle Eastern regimes, including Iran. Ms Fox specifically mentioned the UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, an organisation which ignores human rights abuses in the Middle East in favour of focusing on supposed islamophobia in the West. Ms Fox concluded with noting that accusing Western journalists of islamophobia for researching discriminatory and harmful practices in the Middle East does harm to people like the citizens of Iran, who are fighting for freedom and regime change.
The event then concluded with a Q&A session.