We are aware of the problems of Iran, but the way to solve these is not by resorting to war.
The recent parliamentary and presidential elections showed that people are distancing themselves from the government.
There are 49 million eligible voters in Iran, but during the second round of the presidential elections the new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won just 14 million votes.
When Mohammad Khatami won the presidential election in 1997, 22 million people voted for him. This gap is a sign of the growing dissatisfaction with government.
The first reason for this dissatisfaction is economic – at least ten million people live below the absolute poverty line of $1 a day, out of a population of 70 million.
For a country rich in resources, such as oil, gas and uranium, this is a calamity. This poverty is due to wrong economic policies.
People are demanding a more advanced form of democracy. People are not free to vote for who they like. The suitability of candidates must first be approved by Iran’s guardian council.
The first step in democracy is free choice and free elections. During the past 28 years Iran’s people have experienced a revolution and eight years of war with Iraq.
They are tired of violence. They are looking for reforms. The reform movement has depth. It is a movement fighting for democracy and is not in favour of violence and weapons.
Civil disobedience comes at a price, and this means having political prisoners. I want to express my support for them.
What are the solutions? The first is that there must not be a military invasion or bombing of Iran.
Any attack would mean that people have to give up their desire for greater democracy. People would defend the security and integrity of the country.
There would be harm done to the democracy movement, which has been nourished and continued by Iranians for many years.
When governments face a foreign threat they suppress freedoms and those fighting for freedom.
The West and particularly the US expresses an anxiety that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons the security of the Middle East will be threatened. They say that Iran is not democratic and if fundamentalists have access to nuclear weapons the whole region will be set on fire.
If the US is sincere, I should tell them that there is already danger in the region—Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons.
Its president Musharraf did not come to power through democracy.
The only difference is Pakistan is a close friend of the US, while Iran does not obey US diktats.
These double standards show why the people of the world have lost faith in the US. Saddam Hussein fought against Iran for eight years. He used chemical weapons against Iran and Iraqi Kurds. He was a close friend and ally of the US.
The US attacked Iraq under the pretence that it was establishing democracy and because Saddam Hussein was a dictator.
Were there no other dictators in the world? Unfortunately the world is full of dictators, but they do not have oil in their country and Saddam Hussein did.
Please do not conclude that I am favour of Iran possessing nuclear weapons – they were not manufactured for humanity’s happiness. No country needs nuclear weapons – not the US, Israel or Pakistan.
Countries should cut their military expenditure in half and spend it on the welfare of the people. That would make a much better world.
Iran has claimed it wants to use nuclear power peacefully, but the world does not accept its word.
The solution is to establish a more advanced form of democracy so that the world trusts Iran’s word.
As a first step people should be allowed to vote freely by annulling the law that allows the guardian council to check candidates’ credentials.
We will defend our country. We will never allow it to become another Iraq.
Over 700 people, including a large number of Iranians living in Britain, attended the meeting in central London on Friday of last week, at which Shirin Ebadi spoke. It was organised by the Action Iran group.
Tony Benn, Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition and academics Elaheh Rostami Povey and Zibir-Mir Hosseini spoke alongside Shirin Ebadi.
Historian John Newsinger writes
All out for Palestine