Among the tyrants and thugs who venture every year to the UN General Assembly, which began Tuesday here in New York, is the autocratic and anti-Semitic president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who always uses the event to spread hateful ideas and insane conspiracy theories.
Last week, Ahmadinejad’s regime released the courageous Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had spent nearly three years in prison after having been convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010 . Don’t be fooled, though: The timely release of innocents is a time-honored regime public relations tactic, particularly in the run-up to the General Assembly.
Anyone paying attention to what the regime is up to can tell you that its bad deeds are more pernicious than ever. Its nuclear program is getting closer to weaponization, its human rights abuses continue unabated, its facilitation of bloodshed in Syria is ongoing and it is increasingly trying to throw its weight around geopolitically.
New Yorkers don’t simply have to grouse and bear it. The General Assembly can be an opportunity not only for the likes of Ahmadinejad to broadcast his message to the world, but for our city — which millions of Jews call home and where thousands of immigrants of all faiths have settled seeking better, freer lives — to return rhetorical fire at a man who exudes hate.
To this end, we at Iran180 have launched a campaign that we are calling “Most #UNwelcome.” By using digital tools and some old fashioned protesting, we hope to allow everyday New Yorkers, and Americans in general, to tell Iran’s leader how they feel about his toxic presence — a right, we should note, that he denies his own people.
From now through the end of the month, you will be able to visit www.mostunwelcome.com to sign our petition and send Ahmadinejad a personal message. You can also use Twitter, and the hashtag #UNwelcome, to tell him why.
If you are not sure about how we should receive Ahmadinejad, please consider these sins of the regime:
Bolstering brutality in Syria . Iran is actively supporting Bashar Assad’s crackdown in Syria, where civilians have taken the brunt of the violence. The UN has placed the death toll at over 20,000, most caused by Assad regime forces.
This unwavering support was most recently highlighted by Tehran’s decision to falsify the translation into Farsi of a speech by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Translators for state-owned media altered statements by Morsi expressing “solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime” to “we must support the ruling regime in Syria.”
Ignoring the IAEA. The Iranian regime has continued to flout standing UN Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iran’s uranium enrichment activities. Despite these clear demands, and the continued insistence of the UN nuclear watchdog on access to suspected weapons facilities, the regime has only grown more intransigent. In fact, the IAEA has voiced concerns that Iran’s enrichment activities have been quickening in pace over the last several months.
Human rights under assault. Ahmadinejad’s regime is a major human rights violator. From its violent crackdown on the activists following the fraudulent 2009 elections, to its unconscionable use of the death penalty (it has the highest per capita rate of execution in the world, and virtually none of the due process Americans treasure), to its censorship of free speech and dissent, it has shown itself to be one the most authoritarian and oppressive governments in the world.
Women are treated unequally, homosexuals are executed and religious minorities are discriminated against.
Incitement to genocide . Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel, a member of the UN and a close ally of the United States. Such language precludes dialogue. It violates the principles of diplomacy and undermines efforts to achieve peace and security, the very purposes of the body before which he will speak. The fact that he is expected to speak on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, is the cruelest coincidence of all.
Terror’s pocketbook. Ahmadinejad and the regime he represents support terrorism with materials and rhetoric. Hezbollah, which is listed by the U.S. Department of State as a foreign terrorist organization, has received financing, training and arms from the rogue regime in Tehran. There is ample evidence that Iran has also sponsored terrorism against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have no choice but to put up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence for a few days. But we sure don’t have to make him feel comfortable. In fact, as supporters of democracy, cultural, religious, ethnic and sexual diversity — all anathema to the Iranian regime — we are obligated to make Ahmadinejad feel unwelcome.
So, get to it, New York.
DeVito is the executive director of Iran180, a nonprofit organization.