Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi said in Munich that his country can play a positive role in the world if opposition forces get support from friendly countries.
Pahlavi told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that the people of Iran are united and they expect the international community to support their ideals.
Women’s rights activists Masih Alinejad and British-Iranian actress and human rights activist Nazanin Boniadi as well as Hannah Neumann, a member of the European Parliament, and Bob Menendez, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke at a meeting called “Woman, Freedom, Life: Visions for Iran” on the second day of the conference.
Pahlavi told the forum that “We need to make a transition as fast as possible because the opportunity costs grow every day that goes by — it becomes more and more costly for Iranians and not just for us but the rest of the world.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, he said millions of Iranians, who have fled the country since the Islamic Revolution to become German, French, Canadian, and US citizens can be back home serving their homeland.
“What keeps them from contributing is a regime that doesn't even listen to them because they're not interested in the welfare of Iran,” he noted.
He called on the West to work with a different Iran, arguing that “a different Iran would mean that you will have true allies who believe in the very same principles of human rights and liberty.”
Prince Reza Pahlavi during the Iranian forum at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18, 2023
“So, the minute this regime disappears, not only you instantaneously eliminate the combination of the problems that this regime has cumulatively created in four decades, but the replacement or the people who think like you and want to work with you.”
He added that a secular free Iran can satisfy the energy concerns that the West has, where Iran can be the greatest provider.
Talking about the significance of inviting Iranian opposition to the Munich Security Conference he stated that “this is a perfect opportunity as we engage with parliamentarians or leaders of different governments to discuss what exactly can be done besides maximum pressure.”
"We are also hoping to have maximum support for the people in Iran … in areas that can be immediately done, for instance, internet access or a strike fund to support striking workers and the funding of it."
Pahlavi said what Iran needs is solidarity in the principles that people are fighting for, raising hope that the countries who hold talks with Iranian representatives understand that their task is to be unified.
Alinejad also said she is very happy that for the first time she will not see dictators from Iran at the Munich Security Conference and the conference has invited people's representatives.
Well-known Iranian activist and women's rights campaigner Masih Alinejad, Feb 18, 2023
Talking about the uprising of the Iranian people against the regime, Alinejad said “clearly, we're not just fighting against compulsory hijab. As we all know, compulsory hijab is the main pillar of a religious dictatorship.”
“Compulsory hijab is like the Berlin Wall. If we tear this wall down, the religious dictator with Islamic Republic will be gone. So, women are in the streets, shoulder to shoulder with men. They're saying that enough is enough…Counting women like second class citizens, killing, torturing, assassinating is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic. And that is why this protest is taking place across Iran, to bring the Islamic Republic down.”
“We want the West to stop shaking the hand of this murderous regime. We want the West to stop saving this regime. In 2009 people were in the streets calling on Obama to support them, but at the same time, Obama's administration was trying to get a [nuclear] deal.”
She stressed that it has been two decades European countries trying to have a deal with Iran, but so far they have achieved nothing.
“This is the time that the Europeans, Americans, they have to sign a deal with Iranians, with the people of Iran, not with the government... The plan B is very, very clear now. Iranians want regime change. We don't want you to say regime change if you're scared of the word. But this is very, very important to stand on the right side of the history.”
Alinejad also warned that if the West does not take strong action against the Islamic Republic, the IRGC is going to come on US and European soil and assassinate non-Iranians.
“Believe me, people of Iran are better allies than these backward mullahs. You can count on us.”
She underscored that Iran without the Islamic Republic can be a better place and it can help the rest of the world to be safe.
“We are ready to have an Iran without the Islamic Republic. We are wondering whether the West is ready or still they sanction the Revolutionary Guard, the clerics and the other day they want to negotiate with this murderous regime. Be ready for an Iran without Islamic Republic.”
Talking about the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA, Alinejad said after the deal, its economic benefit did not go to the people of Iran but instead to the dictators.
“The benefit of the deal went to the terrorist organizations, to Hamas, to Hezbollah, to Bashar Assad, to Hassan Nasrallah. So clearly, we do not want the West to sanction the people of Iran,” underlining that she strongly believes a strategic sanction can help.
Leading Iranian activist, actress Nazanin Boniadi
For her part, Nazanin Boniadi emphasized that women played a central role in the recent movement reiterating that Iranians have become accustomed to mass uprisings nearly once a decade for the past 40 years, but nothing really compares in fervor or magnitude to what has been seen in the past five months.
“Of course, people are out on the streets, as they've been in the past few years opposing the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. But not only that, they're now tearing down and burning photos, knocking down effigies of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Qasem Soleimani, but really, the thing that sets these protests apart is that it's female led.”
She said the spark and the engine of the protests have been women because of the murder in custody of Mahsa Amini.
“Courage has been contagious and really what women have managed to do in Iran has galvanized Iranian society at large to understand gender equality and every other basic human rights. And it has turned into a pro-democracy movement and really the greatest threat to the Islamic Republic that we've seen in 44 years.”
Elsewhere in her statements Boniadi said the reform movement is dead in Iran and it is just not possible. She also added that the very pillars that keep the system up in Iran ensure that it's wrongs cannot be made right.
She also added that Iranian people are not looking for foreign intervention, but support and those two things are completely separate.
In this panel, Senator Bob Menendez, emphasized the difference between this uprising of the Iranian people and the previous periods of protests saying that this difference stems from the leadership of the movement by women.
Senator Bob Menendez speaking at the US Senate in February 2022
Highlighting that the international community should support people's protests, he called the uprising of the Iranian people an “opportunity”.
“I do believe that this process is an opportunity if we grab it. We lost the green revolution (Green Movement). We cannot lose another one…. I think the international community needs to wake up to the tear gas and start acting resolutely against the regime on behalf of the Iranian people. This can be a defining moment for a difference.”
The Senator from New Jersey said he did not vote for the first nuclear agreement with Iran because he thought it was a mistake noting that the deal known as the JCPOA did nothing about Iran's other “nefarious” activities.
“It did nothing about its missile development, did nothing about the destabilization of its neighbors and the region. It did nothing about its proxies, violent proxies in different parts of the world and it did nothing about violating the human rights of its own people.”
Menendez added that the iteration of the deal that was being contemplated did not make any sense, because it was even worse than the first deal.
He further raised hope that the Europeans would join the United States in sanctioning the regime entities because they should understand that only sanctions against regime leaders can work so that the people are not hurt.
Hanna Neumann, the representative of Germany in the European Parliament, also said that the protests showed “how brutal this regime is towards its own citizens.”
Neuman said the European Parliament has been very clear regarding its stance towards the Islamic Republic, but on the other hand, “for the celebrations of the 44th anniversary of the revolution, we had the ambassadors of Hungary and Poland shaking hands with President Raisi.”
“We have those who are very clear saying this regime does not represent the people of Iran anymore. And we have those who still try to figure out how to deal with the regime. And it's an internal debate that we're having. But I really have the impression it's shifting more. The more we can see what could the alternative vision be,… the more I think we see a shift,” she stressed.