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By Rhonda Spivak

Twenty-nine year old Sayah Hassan, an Iranian pro-democracy activist and criminal lawyer living in Toronto, told a student conference here that “Iranian people are no longer satisfied with reforming [Iran’s] existing Islamic regime, but want regime change entirely.”

She said  that this is the case, notwithstanding that main stream media has often tried to paint Mir Hossein Mousavi, [ the  rival to Iranian President Ahmadinejad] as a ‘reformer.’

Hassan, noted that all Iranian presidential candidates, including Mousavi, were “hand picked by the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader [of Iran],” and would not have been approved if they had been advocating “for real change in Iran”, including “entire regime change.”

Hassan spoke at a conference organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, as part of Raul Wallenberg day, with high school students from the Gray Academy, St John’s Ravenscourt, and Grant Park.
In Hassan’s view, if he were to come to power in place of Ahmadinejad “Mousavi will just extend the life of the Islamic regime but not lead to real reform,” which would mean the formation of a democratic republic of Iran.

Hassan noted that Mousavi himself was the prime minister of Iran “when 10,000 political prisoners were summarily executed in the summer of 1988.”

In her view, “The Islamic Regime with its history of 30 years of gross human rights violations is not capable of reform.  Complete regime change is necessary.’

Hassan told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that by openly calling for Iranian regime change in Canada, and writing on her blog, shiro-khorshid-forever, has “received a lot of threatening anonymous email from people associated with the Iranian regime.”  The mail says, “if you don’t shut up, we’ll shut you up.”

Demonstrator with Sign that says 
“I did not vote, I did not come here
to take back my vote, I came here
to take back my country.”


Hassan told students “In the recent times even main stream media have started writing about the fact that people no longer want reform, they want regime change.”

Hassan added it is often difficult for journalists reporting from Iran to speak about the  desire for “regime change, “ as  the reporter  could “be thrown out” of Iran.

Hassan, who left Iran with her family to live in Turkey when she was 7 since her father was “a political activist who had to leave,” said that it “was good I left Iran, otherwise I’d be in prison now.”

In her talk, Hassan said that  from being in contact with  activists in Iran and seeing slogans on  youtube videos from inside Iran, it is  clear that people are  directly “attacking the  foundation of the Islamic regime”.  Slogans such as “Mousavi is an excuse the entire regime is targeted,” “Down with the Islamic Regime,” “Death to Khamenei”, ‘‘Death to the Guardian Council,”  all   make this point.  ?

Additionally, Hassan noted that the people have been calling for “independence, freedom, Iranian republic,” rather “than saying Islamic Republic.”

She also noted that “for the first time “in Iranian universities “students have raised Iran’s flag … without the Islamic Regime sign in the middle.”

She added that activists in numerous cities including Shiraz, Tehran and Karaj have also raised “the green, white and red Iranian flag which has the symbol of a lion and sun in the middle.   The “Lion and Sun flag,” was the national flag before the [1979] revolution [when the Shaw of Iran was overthrown].”

Hassan explained that the appearance of Lion and Sun flag indicates people are not wanting reform of the existing regime, but are harkening back to days when Iran wasn’t controlled by an Islamic regime at all.

Hassan noted that “religious minorities including Bahai’s, Christians and Jews are systematically oppressed and abused by the Islamic Regime. ”

When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review who she thought might be able to form a democratic Iran, in the event regime change were to occur, Hassan answered “There are many different political parties and groups abroad, numerous monarchist groups, communist groups and the Mojahedin, but those are just a few…the Shah's son [son of former Shaw of Iran]  is one of the opposition abroad.  In my opinion if there is a revolution and people are able to participate in a free and democratic election a secular and democratic leader may rise from inside Iran. That would be impossible at this point because any opposition will be jailed and eliminated immediately.”  

When asked about U.S. President Obama’s approach of dialoging with Iran, Hassan said, “I think it’s terrible.  By saying let’s have a dialogue he is accepting the legitimacy of the regime.  Many countries, including those in the European Union have been dialoging with Iran for years and nothing has happened.”

When asked about Iran having nuclear capabilities, Hassan queried “What’s to stop them if they have it [the bomb].”

Hassan also spoke of Kurdish dissent in Iran saying “Since November 11, 2009 two Kurdish political activists have been executed by the Islamic Regime.  Currently there are at least 17 known Kurdish political activists who are on death row.”
Why don’t we hear a lot about what’s happening to the Kurdish people? Hassan asked the students.

She explained that not only is it the case that the Iranian government censors this subject, but “ most mainstream media, such as CBC, and CNN, have reporters in Tehran…it is harder to get to Kurdistan because of the military presence, it’s not so safe and it’s not where reporters are based, so they don’t get there.”

Hassan, who is in close contact with dissidents inside Iran, also said she supports economic sanctions against Iran.  “I know a lot of people in Iran who support this because it shows that the international community is watching … and  it gives them hope.’

[To read Hassan’s blog go to]
Shimon Fogel, director of the Canada-Israel Committee [CIC], also addressed the students, telling them “that a society that is not safe for Jews, is not safe for democracy.”

He added “What started off as a threat to Israel and the Jewish world has extended into every single segment of Iranian society.”

He told them that the conference would be a failure unless they walked away taking some action, including signing a petition, or posting something on line about Iran’s threat to Israel, its state sponsored terror, and ongoing human rights abuses.  He suggested that a group of students could go to talk to a member of Parliament.

“If you begin to start something on your blog, or twitter of facebook about this, and track it for two months you’ll see the impact it will have,” he said.

“You [young people] have an edge over most of us-you understand modern technology,” he said.

He said “If there is one thing that we have learned from history, it’s this: in the absence of meaningful action to confront or defeat a threat, you become the enablers of it.”  

[Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler also addressed the student conference on Iran. For details of hiss proposals relating to the Iranian Issue, please see David Bedein and Arlene Kushner’s article in the Israel Section of the Winnipeg Jewish Review, entitled  "Canadian MP Prof  Irwin Cotler Spearheads Campaing For International Sanctions on Iran].? ?

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.