In February, a conference hotel outside Stockholm, some 3,500 kilometres north of Teheran, was the scene of the largest meeting of its kind with leading exiled Iranian opposition figures.
”There they were. All of them. Party leaders, guerrilla soldiers and liberal economists. Student activists, women’s right activists and leftists. Academics, lawyers, journalists, bloggers and intellectuals. Reformists, royalists and revolutionaries,” writes the Swedish news magazine Fokus, which was the only media allowed to cover the gathering.
Host of the meeting was the Olof Palme International Center, and the two main topics of discussion were the risk of war over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and today’s parliamentary elections.
No one in the room doubted that Teheran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons and will continue to do so in order to get a deterrent against foreign attacks.
“If the regime has the choice between becoming a North Korea or a Libya, it will chose North Korea,” said one man at the meeting according to Fokus.
But despite their desire to bring down the theocratic regime, not a single one of the roughly fifty participants wished for a foreign military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, fearing for the safety of their friends and family.
Fokus describes a disorganised and fractured opposition that has trouble finding a common route. “The parameters that separated the participants – ethnicity, ideology, political party and gender – seemed to outnumber the issues on which they shared the same view.” With regard to the parliamentary election, the only thing they could agree on was that it should be boycotted.
This weakness of the opposition gives the answer to why, despite the massive external and internal pressure on the Iranian regime, it seems relatively unthreatened.
But there may still be hope. After a very difficult start with the meeting about to collapse after six hours, a glimmer of light seemed to appear with more and constructive proposals being brought up. According to Fokus, an older man whose grandfather was executed by the Shah and father executed by Ayatollah Khomeini, noted that “the mere fact that the opposition is here today shows that the opposition has developed. Before we couldn’t even sit next to each other.”
“This is just the beginning. Many steps remain,” said a younger student activist who has been sentenced to death by the regime.