As Iranian Americans, we must meet this moment for Iranians demanding freedom

For we Iranian Americans the past few weeks have one hand really inspiring and hopeful — the women from across Iranian society refusing the mandatory hijab and turning that CHOICE into an act of liberation and revolution that strikes fear in the heart of an oppressive regime.

On the other hand, its scary — these women are leading a movement to confront a system that was designed — above all else — for one thing and that’s its own self preservation by all means necessary no matter how grotesque. And so we stay hopeful and inspired but we also pray for these women and this movement — and that they can prevail.

But when we take a step back and see what’s happening outside of Iran in our own community.

It’s sad.

We’ve had civic leaders in our community — overwhelmingly women — women in elected office, women in public service, journalists, women who run philanthropic organizations — being harassed, maligned, and threatened, their children have been threatened. All because, supposedly, they have not hewn to some ideological line that some believe should be enforced and policed and imposed on all of us.

And let’s just call it out — some are trying to make NIAC and any association with NIAC a liability. They’re trying to turn NIAC, the largest Iranian American grassroots organization, a boogeyman.

This is happening through misinformation — the spread of information that is false but those spreading it believes to be true; and through disinformation — information that is false and that bad actors with their own motivations spread to manipulate people.

Some have spread clips of people who, while fine people who I respect but may have different opinions than some of us or may have said things 10 years ago that today feel totally out of sync with whats happening in Iran. They don’t work for NIAC, they’re not our spokespersons. They’re just Iranian Americans in public life and their words or opinions are being used to incite hate and violence against them and any Iranian American who has worked for peace or pushed for a US policy that takes into account the Iranian people as human beings and not pawns on a geopolitical chess board. That is central to what NIAC is all about.

From the start, NIAC has been committed to serving the interests of many if not the vast majority of the Iranian-American community and listening to the Iranian people.

In 2009, this meant standing with the tens of millions of Iranians who thought maybe their vote could fundamentally change the system in Iran.

In 2015, many of us saw a glimmer of hope when Barack Obama reached out for diplomacy with Iran.

And as tough a pill to swallow as it was for many of us — to engage a regime that has killed, tortured, imprisoned, and threatened those we love — most Iranians inside Iran at the time thought maybe change could come through diplomacy and easing broad sanctions that were hurting Iranian society and helping the regime repress them.

And so NIAC and many if not the overwhelming majority of our community stood with the Iranian people and their right to choose their system of government and how they want to achieve it.

We can debate whether people were proven right or wrong, We can debate what is and isn’t the best way to engage American decision-makers.

But what is not up for debate: here in the United States, we must always remain open to the freedom to express different perspectives without fear of violence, intimidation, or harassment.

So when we see our volunteers threatened, our allies harassed, and our organization’s name used as a slur, we have to say ENOUGH.

We as a community have seen this movie before. Outsiders come in, define us, they divide us, and turn us against one other to prevent Iranian Americans from having a strong voice that our community needs and deserves.

All of us, of all political stripes, must stand up to harassment, violence, intimidation, disinformation, and anything else that distracts from or silences people from supporting the women and girls and the people seeking freedom in Iran.

Because this moment isn’t about ourselves.

This isnt about NIAC

This isnt about any of us over here,

Its about zan, zendegi, azadi.

Woman, life, freedom.

So let’s embody those principles and let’s make sure our community is giving Iranians in Iran the best possible chance so that their movement can prevail.

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