|Ruth Wedgwood - Arab Spring won’t last unless there’s Persian Spring|
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 11:55|
Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. And I have to say, I haven’t seen this many wonderful women in one place since my days at Radcliff College of two, three, four decades ago when we were trying to get the Harvard men to treat us equally. So, this is really an extraordinary gathering. [applause] [French] Now I know where Joan d’Arc got her strength, not from the French army but from the French women, so. [applause] But finally let me, before I cut to the chase, let me just give credit to one man which is Antonio Cassese, who just passed away, who was a wonderful Italian jurist, did human rights and war crimes, was the president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal and then later the Lebanon war crimes tribunal. And it’s he who first alerted me to the issue of Ashraf and the human rights situation of the people who were imprisoned there. So I want to pay homage to him in doing this.
Now where we are, obviously an extraordinary moment in the Middle East. And frankly, Arab Spring won’t last unless there’s Persian Spring [applause] because the mullahs will spread their money around and they’ll do to the rest of the region what they have so successfully done for so long now to Iraq and to Lebanon. So, I worry not only for the security and stability of the region, but for the possibility of some stability for Arab Spring if Persian Spring does not succeed. So I don’t think we should suppose that any of the recent achievements are stable so long as the mad mullahs remain in power.
I also want to, forgive me, but I’m American, give some credit to the good faith of American officials even where we disagree with them if we do. Still one should suppose that they’re seeking to do what they think is best. And the question is how to inform them of facts and circumstances they may have not have taken account of. And there have been women involved in this, as you know, Hillary Clinton, who as my favorite, when Barack Obama said, “You’re nice enough, Hillary,” I shot an e-mail to her campaign manager late at night saying, “That does it for me.” [laughs] But Hillary Clinton I think wants to be seen as a historic Secretary of State. Samantha Power, who wrote several books on the human rights problems of the UN, including the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, is in the White House. So there are women in positions where they can make decisions that advance the ball.
What’s currently in play in the U.S. is whether the MEK will be taken off the foreign terrorist list. And I take it from informal conversations I’ve had with various European friends, that perhaps it’s our decision on that that is keeping European countries from being more proactive in admitting their quantity and share of people from Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. Frankly, I think the Europeans are silly to wait for us because if Belgium and France and Holland and Germany and Italy and Romania and Spain and Britain would each admit 50 to 75 people each, the pump would be primed, the water would flow, and you wouldn’t have to wait for the U.S. So to the Europeans here and the parliamentarians I would suggest you think about what Europe can do proactively and admitting people so that they’re not trapped. I’m half Jewish and the history of World War II where nobody would admit the Jews who were refugees, where they were stuck in Europe—and the U.S. had a terrible visa policy at the time I have to say, and as responsible as anybody for shutting the door—but if some countries in Europe would admit a modest number of people who would not be an economic burden, this would give the mullahs no excuse to attack the camps or put them in inhumane conditions because of the assertion that nobody else wants them, that they’re human trash to be thrown out to do everybody a favor. So Europe, I really do challenge you, as a friendly American, to think through why you haven’t acted, why each government whose parliamentarian citizens are represented here are content with European parliamentary resolutions instead of a small adjustment to your immigration policy. That would be a very good thing to do, in my view, to try to seek a timely resolution that will prevent a catastrophe.
On the FTO—and I’m not involved in the court case, I’m just speaking here as a law professor—it is, I’ll say, a future-oriented test, not what happened in the past. Because I’ve been doing polls of cab drivers and limousine drivers and friends and merchants in the U.S., and you get all kinds of opinions on all kinds of people. But what’s interesting about the test for the foreign terrorist designation in the U.S. under our law is it’s future-oriented, it’s what will happen in the future. And I have to say, if I was still a prosecutor like I used to be, the character witnesses you’ve heard today would be the most extraordinary set of witnesses that one could ever hope for in front of a fact finder. But I do think that what’s relevant for everyone to keep in mind, certainly in Washington too, is that this is a future-oriented test. What has the movement become? Not what was it in 1960 or ’65 or ’70 or ’80 or ’90, but now? So either everyone in this room is very naïve or else perhaps the future may look even different from the past. And that too would moot out and put to the side some of the quarrels I think you get in various of the consequential communities.
Finally, let me just say about humane treatment, I did spend my eight years of penury on the U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva and New York. And we looked at both the customary law of human rights, the covenant on civil and political rights, principles of internally displaced persons, the IDP guidelines that Swiss colleague Walter Kalin so brilliantly championed, and we also looked at the art law of armed conflict from time to time. And by every one of those sets of standards humane treatment is non-negotiable. And one can imagine there’d be transitional problems in setting up a new camp, but if Camp Liberty becomes the opposite, if it becomes a camp of punishment, then it will indeed reflect very badly on our capacity to conform to the human rights principles that we preach to everyone else. So I do think indeed, that one can’t suppose that the transfer of people from Ashraf to Liberty solves the problem. The problem is to give them decent accommodations wherever they are [applause] and to make sure they have some place to get to. Because I don’t think the mad mullahs are going to cease and desist in their influence on Iraqi politics. I don’t think Iraq is going to be at all a hospitable environment. And therefore, to save lives and save freedom of thought, it’s essential I think that Europe act to admit people in a timely fashion.
And finally, let me just say that again, if I may feel sentimental for just one more moment, because I teach at a faculty that just tenured its second woman in history. I’ve battled for women’s rights at Harvard as I said, and sometimes tore my hair out—what little remains—to try to make sure that we got equal treatment with men. So one of the most proudest qualities of the current movement is the graceful leadership it has and the way it has celebrated the moral constancy, the moral fervor, the long-suffering nature of women, both in sustaining their families but also in sustaining the moral commitments that all of us hold dear, that most of us believe came from God but certainly came from the best qualities of human beings. So in making sure that this problem resolves itself in a fashion that makes a difference in Iraq, a difference in Iran, it really calls upon the kind of fiber that each of us, as a female—and a few of you males out there too—have and have had to use to endure through life.
And finally, I guess I would just say given the commitment of Iran in my reading to produce a nuclear weapon as Linda Chavez said before, more is at stake here simply than the important welfare and human rights of a large collection of human beings in two countries. It really is the entire stability of the Middle East. The people I know who have come back from the State Department say, “If Iran gets a bomb, Egypt will get one, Saudi will get one, Turkey will get one, everyone will have one.” It’ll be like the old Tom Lehrer song, you have to have a bomb in your pocket. And therefore, seeking transition in Iran is not simply an issue for the region but an issue for nuclear safety on the entire globe. So I do think that the commitment of women here is one that has the largest consequences for the future of the human race. Thank you. [applause]
[End of audio]
Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites