WASHINGTON — The former crown prince of Iran on Monday urged foreign leaders to condemn more forcefully the Iranian regime's crackdown on more than a week of mass protests in his homeland over the alleged rigging of the June 12 presidential election.
While it's "admirable" that they aren't interfering in Iran's internal affairs, world powers can't ignore human rights violations, said Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late former shah.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights "knows no national boundaries," he said in an emotional speech at the National Press Club. "No one will benefit from closing his or her eyes to knives and cables cutting into faces and mouths of our young and old . . . no one but tyrants and their thugs."
The late shah of Iran governed the country from 1953 until the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Pahlavi said this month's elections had triggered a movement reminiscent of the revolution that ousted his father from power.
Pahlavi compared Iran to a "sinking Titanic" headed in the direction of becoming a police state. He said that the protesters were reacting to more than a single election, responding rather to decades of oppression. "It is not Islamic or anti-Islamic. It is not for capitalism or socialism, nor any other ideology or specific form of government. . . . It is about the sanctity, even more, the sovereignty of the ballot box."
There will be far-reaching consequences if the protesters aren't supported, Pahlavi said. "At the very least, it will threaten regional tranquillity and global economic recovery through fears of terrorism, slowdown of globalization and steeply higher energy prices," he said. "At worst, fanatical tyrants — who know that the future is against them — may end their present course on their terms: a nuclear war."
Pahlavi said he was happy that President Barack Obama was finally "catching up" with other international leaders who've been more outspoken in condemning the Iranian government's harsh suppression of internal protests. Obama, who promised to build bridges with Iran on the campaign trail, has been criticized — chiefly by Republicans — for not taking a stronger posture toward the Iranian government. On Saturday, he changed his tone, calling on Iranian government to stop its "unjust actions" and affirming U.S. support for the protesters.
"The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights," Obama said.
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