The protests in Iran against the regime's Islamist dictatorship have largely been quelled for the time being, but the conflict remains. It is between a regime that implements medieval and barbaric laws and a young generation that wants to live in a modern and civilized society; and between a regime that rejects the notion of, and constantly defies, an international community, and the Iranian people, who are increasingly longing for Iran to become part of the international community.
The conflict is also one between democracy and dictatorship: a democracy where the mullahs' gender apartheid imposed upon the public is abolished, where Iranians would be allowed to vote in free and democratic elections, and where the government would respect human rights.
Even if the mullahs, with their robust security apparatus, manage to put down the protests in Iran yet again, they and the Iranian people's longing for freedom will not disappear. Also not disappearing are all the brave freedom fighters being tortured in the regime's prisons. These heroes must continue to be supported. Now. They must not be forgotten or overlooked.
In a speech to the Swedish parliament, this author urged the government to support the freedom fighters in Iran:
"The mullahs' regime has a robust security apparatus that targets its own population. Therefore, it will take longer for this revolution to be successful. This is precisely why it is important that the Swedish and European support for the protests in Iran does not wane, but remains even next year, the year after and as long as the Islamist regime in Iran remains."
This position is reinforced when one realizes that those who took to the streets and protested the regime were all too aware that the most inhuman punishments and executions awaited them as retaliation for their struggle for freedom. Such courage and sacrifice for democracy and human rights must not be swept aside -- these heroic people need and deserve immediate support.
More than 19,600 Iranians have been arrested during the protests; several have been executed. The information, coming from human rights organizations, about how Iran treats political prisoners is terrifying. Among other crimes against humanity, as Amnesty International documents, Iran's regime refuses to give political prisoners emergency medical care, accelerating their deaths.
Information has also emerged that young people who have protested against the regime have been tortured: not a surprise. Rape and torture are common tools that the regime has used for decades to silence the population. In addition, more than 1,000 schoolgirls have been poisoned as "retaliation" and to shut down schools in a move to stop education for girls. As the Wall Street Journal remarked, compared to Iran, Saudi Arabia is Switzerland.
Several members of parliament in Europe and North America have become political sponsors of political prisoners in Iran. The purpose of the political sponsorship is for parliamentarians to use their status and put pressure on the regime in Iran to release the political prisoners and draw attention to their cases. It is also a way to show the regime in Iran that the world sees and condemns them and cares – with action -- about those Iranians who are fighting every day for the same freedom that we take so for granted.
This author has chosen to become a political sponsor for Soheila Hejab, who is now in prison after being accused of "propaganda against the state", "gathering and collusion", and "disrupting public order to create chaos". Like many other prisoners in Iran, Hejab has not received medical care; her health is rapidly deteriorating.
This article is a plea for more parliamentarians in democratic countries sponsor political prisoners in Iran -- to show that their protests are not in vain and that the world has heard their cries for freedom, democracy and human rights.
If the brave individuals who stood up to the mullahs are now overlooked simply because the regime in Iran has a security apparatus that has temporarily succeeded in silencing them, then in the future, fewer will feel compelled to stand up to oppressors -- whether in Iran or other dictatorships -- thus empowering the normalization of dictatorships. When fewer people stand up to oppressors, dictatorships and oppression become "normal": that is the biggest threat to democracy.
The best way, therefore, to work for democracy and human rights is to support those who today risk their lives to overthrow dictatorships such as the one in Iran. If these brave people are prepared to risk their lives and the lives of their families for democracy, the least we can do is to give them totally committed support from the West.
We need to label the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a Foreign Terrorist Organization and expel Iranian supporters of the regime from Western and European countries. In addition to that, individual parliamentarians can stand behind and "adopt" a political prisoner to draw attention to their cases, legitimize the democratic revolution and above all, delegitimize the savage, expansionist regime of Iran.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a Member of the Swedish Parliament