By Patrick J. Kennedy
On July 4, 1776, 236 years ago, Americans declared that they no longer would be ruled by others, and the Revolutionary War began.
Just a few days ago, Egyptians celebrated their newfound freedom and inaugurated their new president. In Syria, there are growing signs that the end of the reign of Bashar Assad is almost in sight.
In all of these cases, people stood up for freedom, defying all odds, and generated the momentum that inevitably leads to victory.
A similar situation is building up among the Iranian people – inside and outside their homeland. The same attitude will bring the same result. The only question is: When?
Six months after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Just two days later, George Washington’s troops crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack on the enemy in Trenton, N.J., and it was a resounding success.
No surprise military victories are in sight in Iran. But they aren’t needed, as the Arab Spring has shown. People power can overcome all odds, and the Iranian Resistance is abundant in people power.
Even on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, citizens are defying the mullahs’ oppressive regime to voice their opposition to rigged elections, oppression and a deteriorating economy. Outside Paris last month, more than 100,000 Iranians who live in freedom, plus hundreds of supporters from around the world, gathered to demand freedom for their brethren inside their country.
Their expectations from the rest of the world – and especially the United States – are quite simple.
They want support for the mistreated refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq. Those thousands of innocent people are being used as pawns in the mullahs’ geopolitical war and are suffering at the hands of the pro-Tehran government in Baghdad. A significant number of the residents of Camp Ashraf are former political prisoners who survived years of torture in Iranian jails. Also, there are many student activists who left Iran before the mullahs were able to arrest them. Others who had degrees from universities in Europe and the United States joined them in Ashraf to be a united voice against the tyrants of Tehran.
It’s now six months since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began pressuring to relocate them out of their home, presumably to be processed by the United Nations as refugees for transfer out of Iraq to third countries. Yet not a single one has been freed to go, and all of them are living in much more miserable conditions than they were last year. They are in a prison euphemistically called Camp Liberty, an abandoned former U.S. military base near Baghdad International Airport.
Also, the main Iranian opposition movement, Mujahedin-e Khalq, to whom these 3,200 dissidents belong, remains on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations – a list to which it never should have been added and from which it should have been removed long ago. The European Union and the United Kingdom delisted the resistance years ago, and a U.S. federal court of appeals in Washington has the State Department on notice to act by Oct. 1 or it will order the delisting.
The broad support shown at the Paris rally by Americans and people from all continents – leaders of all stripes and political beliefs – is indicative of Thomas Paine’s rallying call. They know that tyranny is not conquered easily but that it will be conquered, and the triumph will be ever so sweet.
The Iranian resistance is not asking for troops, arms or money. It just wants the United States and the world to subscribe to another famous plea by Thomas Paine: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
The U.S. views itself as a special nation, a nation that has a mandate to stand with good and against evil. The Fourth of July is a perfect time to apply that concept to Iran. The United States should stand with the Iranian people and their aspirations. It is not only in the interest of the Iranian people, but also in the interest of the U.S.
Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the House of Representatives and son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.