By Trita Parsi. Originally published on Huffington Post.
The Obama administration is clearly winning the battle over the Iran deal. Momentum is so strong in its favor that Obama may even be able to prevent a resolution rejecting the deal from coming to a vote in the Senate. Indeed, despite spending $20-40million on ads disparaging the deal, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its allies have thus far only managed to win over two Democratic lawmakers to its side. The entire affair is turning into a massive embarrassment for a lobby that previously was believed to be invincible.
The Obama administration has gained this momentum largely by focusing on the undeniable non-proliferation benefits of the deal. Put simply, the deal ensures that two disasters are avoided: The disaster of Iran getting a nuclear bomb and the disaster of going to war with Iran.
There are, however, numerous other benefits with this deal. Dividends that the Obama administration have not relied on to sell the deal, but that are equally valid. One of them is how it improves the prospects for Iran moving in a positive direction internally – in terms of democratization and human rights.
This is precisely why an unprecedented group of Iranian human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists have come out in a massive wave in support of the agreement. Led by Mohamadreza Jalaeipour, who led the Green Movement’s youth campaign with half a million young supporters in Iran in 2009 and himself a former political prisoner, prominent leaders of the Green Movement, human right defenders and civil society leaders have begun posting videos on their Facebook pages expressing their support for the nuclear agreement – from a human rights perspective.
The list includes Iran’s most respected human rights defender, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer that has spent several years unjustly in jail. Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has also posted a video, as has Mehrangiz Kar.
Perhaps the most moving one comes from Zia Nabavi, a renowned Iranian political prisoner sentenced to ten years of prison, who taped his voice recording in support of the deal from inside his prison cell. And then there’s Ghoncheh Ghavami, who become known worldwide for having committed the laughable crime of attending a volleyball game.
Taghi Karrubi, the son of Mahdi Karrubi, one of the leaders of the 2009 Green movement who remains in house arrest, and Ardeshir Amir-Arjomand, the spokesman for the other leader of the Green Movement, Mirhossein Mousavi (who also remains in house arrest.)
For some, it is surprising that Iranian opposition figures and human rights defenders would back this deal. But for them, this is the only logical choice because a continuation of the nuclear stand-off would only further worsen human rights conditions in Iran. These respectable human rights defenders know that their efforts only will get harder under the threat of war or the pressure of sanctions.
“We did this to show the American public and the world that not only the overwhelming majority of Iranians, but also almost all leading Iranian human rights and pro-democracy activists, political prisoners and independent voices of Iran’s civil society wholeheartedly support the Iran Deal,” Jalaeipour explained to me.
“Those who have paid the highest price for the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran support the nuclear deal, not despite their pro-democracy and human rights activism, but precisely because of it,” he pointed out.
This may not be an argument that the Obama administration will use to win the debate in Congress. After all, few in Congress truly care about the Iranian people’s human rights, particularly those on the hawkish pro-Israeli side of the spectrum.
But for those on the ground in Iran fighting every day for a more democratic Iran that respects the rights of its citizens, the nuclear deal is a clear win for their noble struggle.
· Jafar Panahi, a leading Iranian film director (who has won numerous international awards including the Golden Bear in the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in 2015) and former prisoner of conscience
· Nasrin Sotoudeh, arguably the most prominent Iranian human rights activist and a former political prisoner –
· Reza Kianian, a superstar Iranian actor
· Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a lawyer, prominent human rights activist and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran
· Zia Nabavi, a renowned Iranian political prisoner sentenced to ten years of prison in exile (six years of which he has endured), in a voice message from the prison
· Taghi Karrubi, Professor of law and son of Mehdi Karrubi (one of the leaders of the 2009 Green movement currently under house arrest)
· Ebrahim Yazdi, the general secretary of the Freedom Movement of Iran and a former political prisoner and foreign minister of Iran
· Parvaneh Fahimi, mother of Sohrab Arabi (who was killed in the post-election street demonstrations in 2009)
· Taghi Rahmani, a prominent pro-democracy activist who spent 14 years in prison for his human rights activism and the spouse of Narges Mohammadi (a prominent human rights activist currently in prison) –
· Mehrangiz Kar, a leading Iranian human rights lawyer and former political prisoner
· Farrokh Negahdar, a former political prisoner and prominent pro-democracy activist
· Mohamadreza Jalaeipour, the leader of the largest reformists’ campaign with almost half a million young campaigners during the 2009 presidential elections, and a former political prisoner
· Ghoncheh Ghavami, a women’s right activist in Iran (known as the “volleyball girl” in the western media) and former political prisoner
· Ahmad Shirzad, a former reformist member of Iranian parliament and outspoken Professor of physics opposing nuclear weapons
· Emad Baghi, a prominent human-rights activist and a former political prisoner
· Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University
· Emad Bahavar, a former political prisoner and pro-democracy activist (spent 5 years in prison after the 2009 election)
· Ebrahim Nabavi, a former political prisoner and leading Iranian political satirist
· Ahmad Salamatian, a leading Iran analyst and former member of Iranian Parliament
· Hamidreza Jalaeipour, a former prominent political prisoner and the publisher of a number of the best-selling pro-democracy newspapers (e.g. Jame’e) that were closed by the Iranian government
· Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a prominent reformist political activist in Iran and the former head of the president’s office under Mohammad Khatami
· Reza Alijani, a prominent pro-democracy political activist and former political prisoner
· Ali Abdi, an Iranian pro-democracy activist living in exile
· Daryoush Mohammad Poor, an Iranian academic and pro-democracy activist
· Ardeshir Amir-Arjomand, the spokesman for Mirhossein Mousavi and one of the leaders of the Green Movement after 2009
· Koohzad Esmaeili, a pro-democracy political activist and former political prisoner
· Kouhyar Goudarzi, a human rights activist and former political prisoner
· Hamzeh Ghalebi, a pro-democracy political activist, head of the youth branch of Mousavi’s presidential campaign in 2009 and former political prisoner
· Saeid Shariati, a pro-democracy political activist and former political prisoner
· Javad Akbarein, a pro-democracy political activist and former political prisoner
· Abdolreza Tajik, a political journalist and former political prisoner
· Mojtaba Najafi, a pro-democracy political activist and former political prisoner
· Amin bozorgian, a pro-democracy political activist and former political prisoner
· Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former reformist member of Iranian parliament, now in exile
· Noushabe Amiri, a prominent Iranian journalist
· Mehdi Aghdam, a former political prisoner
· Masoud Meshkin, a former political prisoner