Ahmadinejad’s Freedom of Speech

On Wednesday the 26th of September the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the UN general assembly in New York. While there is no question that he will undertake his usual anti UN/West/USA/Israel-bashing rhetoric, there is a question what angle/s will this bashing take in this instance?
The Iranian president is (in)famous for his speeches in the UN general assemblies. Some of the most controversial statements uttered by him had included – blaming the US for staging 9/11 (as “an excuse for launching attack on Muslim regions”), denying the Holocaust (“a myth”), and championing human rights for gays (“in Iran we don’t have homosexuals”) and women (“more rights than men”).

These sort of outrageous comments were also seen on other stages. For example; he accused the West of hijacking clouds in order to impose drought on Iran, accused the West of spreading HIV in African countries in order to make money from pharmaceuticals, and claimed the West is to blame for Iran’s drug problems.

Although these claims could be considered comical, they do point towards very important issues. First, these farfetched claims show the depth of obsession (even paranoia) of the Iranian regime towards the West/US/Israel. Second, they reflect the attitude of blaming all the Iranian internal problems on the West, without even a hint of introspection. Third, they point towards the incapability of accepting people who hold different values to them.

With Ahmadinejad’s 8th and final address to the UN general assembly coming up this Wednesday many speculate upon the next outrageous claims that will come out of his mouth. He will definitely attack the UN and its agencies for being “defected” and “illogical”, “one-sided”, “undemocratic”, “sabotagers”, “outdated” etc… aiming for no less than an “overhaul of the global management system”.

Based on Iran’s rhetoric at the NAM summit in Tehran last month, Iran views itself as the hero of the Third World countries against the “Imperialist/Colonialist” forces (guess who…), a champion of Human Rights (Iran is “a pioneer” in human rights), the self-designated leader of the nuclear agenda (supposedly peaceful but definitely not transparent) and the visionaries/instigators/defenders of an Islamic Awakening (“this is the century of Islam”).

As usual, all these themes are thoroughly mixed together into one big messy accusation such as this reaction from Khamenei regarding the infamous and racist “Innocence of Muslims” movie: “Behind this evil move lie the antagonistic policies of the Zionists and the US and other heads of the global arrogance…The prime suspects in this crime are Zionism and the US government…Muslim brothers and sisters must know that this desperate move by the enemies in the wake of the Islamic Awakening is a sign of the grandeur and importance of this uprising and heralds its increasing growth.”.

The reaction to this movie in the Arab streets is nothing to be scoffed upon; two years ago, during the Arab Spring, Arab citizens took to the streets to topple their tyrants, instill democracy and fight for their freedom. Now they take the streets again, with the same violent fervor, in what could be called the Arab Storm, to hunt down and kill innocent Americans disregarding the basic element of freedom of speech. It is not only ironic, but also profoundly sad, that these protesters have gone from fighting for democracy to denying others from some of democracy’s pivots- freedom of speech and expression.

It is these same freedoms that Iranian leaders abuse to vilify the UN/West/US/Israel in ways beyond the rational imagination. Theses Iranian leaders know full well that no Western/American/Israeli mob will try to attack Iranian Embassies for these hate-speeches. It is precisely because of this knowledge that President Ahmadinejad will allow himself to say whatever he wants regardless of how ludicrous, far-fetched, hate-filled, paranoid or weird it may sound.

We cannot change the Iranian diplomatic strategy, but we can certainly change our reaction to it. We are not calling for a violent reaction to Ahmadinejad’s impending hate speech, rather we should be proud that we react peacefully to such rants. We call diplomats attending the UN conference, and indeed people world-wide- turn your backs on Ahmadinejad’s address, protest his presence in New York, take his accusations seriously and convince as many people as you can to do the same.

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