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Politics

Jailed Dissident Asks the Opposition to Respect Liberal Values

January 22, 2024
3 min read
Bahareh Hedayat, a well-known human rights activist imprisoned in Iran, has called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, which she said is conducting a civilizational war against the West
Bahareh Hedayat, a well-known human rights activist imprisoned in Iran, has called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, which she said is conducting a civilizational war against the West

Bahareh Hedayat, a well-known human rights activist imprisoned in Iran, has called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, which she said is conducting a civilizational war against the West.

In a letter from Tehran’s Evin prison that was made available to IranWire, Hedayat says that the consistent self-identification as "revolutionary" by the Islamic Republic and its leader, Ali Khamenei, means an unwavering commitment to war that has been accompanied by corruption, injustice, killings, inefficiency and environmental degradation in the country.

 "The Islamic Republic and Khamenei made a fundamental choice, the consequences of which are destructive," says Hedayat, who is serving a four-year sentence for participating in protests after the Islamic Republic Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down a Ukrainian airliner in January 2020.

Stressing the need for those endorsing liberalism in Iran to be represented politically in the country, she calls for subversive groups backing this political doctrine to unite and garner support from all Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic. 

She insists, however, that the liberals should distance themselves from leftists, Islamists and the authoritarian right.

She urges liberal political forces to unify their discourses and to strive for the establishment of distinct political representation. 

"The liberal idea must attain a clear political identity independent of the left, Islamism, and authoritarian right. Integration is insufficient; we, as liberals, must stand independently,” she says. “The liberal idea should be prepared for a coalition detached from other ideologies.”

Hedayat points out that a coalition between the left and Islamism had led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, during which the concepts of democracy or freedom were not discussed, and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. 

Regarding Tehran’s response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Hedayat highlights that Iranians perceive the government's hostility toward Israel within the context of the Islamic Republic's civilizational war with the West. 

She criticizes political forces that fail to acknowledge this, asserting that such forces are not alternatives to the current status quo but rather seek to perpetuate it. 

Hedayat advocates for an alternative opposition force rooted in Western values. 

In another segment of her letter, Hedayat says that the protesters’ demands during the 2022 Woman, Life, Freedom uprising were in line with liberal ideas.

"In the major political movements in Iran over recent decades, one faction sought liberal freedoms and aspired to align with the West," she says, referring to the women-led protest movement sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. 

"In my view, liberalism signifies a return to its roots, a prelude to revolution, and the establishment of freedom," the activist stresses. 

Concluding her letter, Hedayat highlights two political models within the realm of subversion, emphasizing that "constitutional monarchy and republic both stem from the liberal idea." 

"Constitutionalism that questions democracy is not liberal, and a republican who links their libertarian heritage to 1979 lacks an understanding of the enemies of freedom," she adds.

Hedayat's letter spanked widespread reactions among Iranian social media users.

"Bahareh Hedayat's letter stands as the manifesto for the Women, Life, Freedom revolution. Make sure you read it thoroughly," one post reads.

"I hope that Bahareh Hedayat's significant letter marks the start of the organization of the right bloc within the Iranian opposition," another user said on the social media platform  X. 

"When liberalism in Iran is championed by intellectual warriors like Bahareh, I take pride in being a liberal," another Iranian wrote. "Her recent letter from prison is worth multiple readings, prompts deep thought and extensive analysis."

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