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U.S. activists meet with Iranian president

Published Sep 30, 2010 7:27 PM

More than 100 activists and journalists from a variety of organizations, religious groups and media outlets attended a gathering with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Warwick Hotel here Sept. 21. The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran was in the city to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly.

These prominent leaders of grassroots social justice and human rights movements within the U.S. consciously rejected a well-funded campaign to demonize Iran and whip up a pro-war climate. Ahmadinejad’s visit had been preceded by incendiary billboards, ads in buses and newspapers, hostile media coverage and demonstrations against Iran, much of it funded by the CIA-connected U.S. Agency for International Development and private corporations.

After an Iranian-style dinner, the gathering moved to a conference room where representatives from various organizations spoke on the plight of people inside the United States. The displacement of African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the burgeoning prison-industrial complex, conditions facing political prisoners, the crisis in U.S.-Iranian relations and the overall economic crisis dominated the discussion.

Among the individuals and organizations in attendance were Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. House of Representatives member from Georgia and the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2008; poet and activist Amiri Baraka; MOVE Minister of Information Ramona Africa; International Action Center co-director Sara Flounders; Ardeshir and Eleanor Ommani, co-founders of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee; former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; Million Worker March Movement organizer Brenda Stokely; Shafeah M’balia of Black Workers for Justice; Phil Wilayto of Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality; Larry Holmes of Bail Out the People Movement; Don DeBar of WBAIx.org; Ryme Katkhouda of the People’s Media Center; Michael McPhearson of United for Peace and Justice; and Rev. Graylan Hagler.

After listening for an hour and a half to 22 different speakers, President Ahmadinejad addressed the guests for approximately 45 minutes. He touched on the international struggle for peace and justice, saying that “trying to build peace is the most important and comprehensive struggle that mankind can have.”

He added, “Those who are opposed to justice are a few, a minority.”

At the same time that the corporate media were strongly criticizing the Iranian government on human rights, the state of Virginia was carrying out the execution of a mentally disabled woman, Teresa Lewis, despite outcries from human rights organizations both inside the U.S. and abroad.

Iran enhances relations with Africa

A week before the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, Iran hosted a forum on African-Iranian relations. Leaders from various African states gathered in Tehran for serious discussions on ways to enhance economic cooperation.

Ahmadinejad, in an address to this Iran-Africa Forum, had said: “We are ready to welcome our brothers and sisters for an African Union summit in Tehran. We have the honor to declare that we are ready to share all our experiences and power with Africa to build the future.” (Fars News Agency, Sept. 14)

During the two-day conference four working committees examined ways to build relations in the areas of health and medication, industries and mines, politics and trade and economics.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, current chair of the African Union, affirmed at the gathering that “the relations between Iran and Africa will grow remarkably in the next five years and many Iranians are due to establish a large number of industries in Africa.”

There has been virtually no improvement in U.S.-Iran relations since the ascendancy of the Obama administration. Even though President Barack Obama had hinted at a willingness to reopen dialogue with Iran, U.S. State Department officials have continued with threats and accusations in regard to the Middle Eastern nation’s nuclear technology program, as well as its ongoing support for the Palestinian struggle for national liberation.

The Iranian masses rose up in 1979 and overthrew the U.S.-backed regime headed by the Shah. The Shah had been installed in 1953 after the CIA engineered a coup against Iranian nationalist leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had announced plans to nationalize the country’s oil industry.