A group of Iranian dissidents called on the U.S. to maintain pressure on Tehran and asked for American support to overthrow the nation’s theocracy in favor of a secular government.

In a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, the group of 38 dissidents called on the United States to maintain sanctions on Iran during this critical time in order to oust the oppressive regime.

“Mr. President, we firmly believe that the new political reality in Iran and the Middle East has provided the Iranian people with a historic opportunity to achieve a peaceful transition to secular democracy,” they wrote.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and Iran’s continued crackdown on protestors, Iranians nationwide are continuing to demonstrate and strike against the regime. More than 1,500 Iranians have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in protests that took place in the winter of 2017-2018 and again in November 2019. The brutal crackdowns resulted in arrests, coerced confessions and executions.

The authors — many of whom are human rights activists, political prisoners and journalists — listed their points in asking for Biden’s help:

  • Recognition of the majority of the Iranian people’s aspiration and interest for a Secular Democratic Constitution over the survival of the Islamic Republic Theocracy;
  • Maintaining maximum political, diplomatic, and financial pressure on the regime;
  • Advocacy for human rights in Iran and release of all political prisoners and those imprisoned for their personal views;
  • Supporting the Iranian’s determination in seeking a secular democratic government through a non-violent, free, and fair referendum.”

One of the authors explained the reasoning behind the message to Biden. 

“We sent this letter to the U.S. president because the U.S. is a democratic and powerful nation, while Iran is an important country because of its strategic location, resources and history,” Zartosht Ahmadi Ragheb told VOA Persian. “A dialogue and agreement between the two countries can benefit them and the world.”

Biden and his administration have expressed interest in reentering the Iranian nuclear deal, reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. Trump instead imposed a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions on the regime since 2018.

Some activists say Trump didn’t go far enough in condemning alleged human rights abuses. But in any case, this letter reflects language from the Trump administration and calls on Biden to maintain a strong posture against the Islamist regime. 

The authors explain that since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed in 2015, under U.S. President Barack Obama, with Biden as vice president, the hopes of the Iranian people for a secular government, have waned.

“Following the JCPOA agreement, when Iran received substantial financial benefits, the Islamic Republic lost a major opportunity to implement meaningful welfare reforms for its people, to stop its malign (sic) behavior, and pursue a policy of harmony and peaceful coexistence with the regional countries,” they argue. “Instead, the regime spent billions of dollars gained from the Iran nuclear deal on exporting its totalitarian ideology by providing funds to terrorist networks, developing missile technology as offensive leverage to dominate the Persian Gulf and beyond, and causing chaos in the Middle East.”

Since Biden took office in January, Iranian aggression in the Middle East has escalated. Iran and its proxy forces are believed to be responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia, American military targets in Iraq and several Israeli targets including a commercial ship in the Gulf of Oman.

Iran has also insisted it is waiting for Biden to make the first move toward diplomacy between the two countries by lifting sanctions.

Meanwhile, the letter says that “Iranians continue their protests and strikes against the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, nationwide.”

“The theocracy in Iran has lost its legitimacy with its people. In March 2020, the absolute majority of people in Iran demonstrated the lack of legitimacy of the Islamic Republic by boycotting the parliamentary elections.”

The authors say that millions of Iranians demand the resignation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “and the elimination of the Islamic Republic Constitution in favor of a non-violent transition to a Secular Democratic Constitution,” under United Nations supervision.

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