Iranian-Americans held a reception for Nowruz, the celebration of the Persian New Year, at the historic Kennedy Caucus Room in the United States Senate on March 9, 2016.
The event, organized by the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, included a full arrangement of the traditional Nowruz layout and encapsulated the true spirit of the holiday: peace and freedom. The reception featured highly distinguished, bi-partisan speakers who spoke on the current state of Iran as well as the message of the Persian New Year.
In attendance were Senators John McCain (R-ZA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY); former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., and former Chief of U.S. Military Police in Iraq General David Phillips.
“I remain concerned as you do, concerning Iranian behavior, latest testing of missiles in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Senator McCain said regarding the most recent reports of ballistic missile tests in the region. McCain also said he was confident that freedom will return to Iran. “I promise you someday we will be in a square in Tehran dedicating a statue of a brave young woman who we watched bleed to death in the stones of that square, woman named Neda,” the Arizona Republican emphasized.
In expressing his solidarity with the people of Iran in their struggle for democracy in Iran, Senator Schumer, said, “I am committed to doing everything I can to see that this regime is best case, they’re gone. Second best case, that they’re limited in the kinds of bad things they can do, both outside Iran and inside Iran.”
Former Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao commented on the Iranian regime’s recent parliamentary and Guardian Council elections by stating that “there’s a lot of speculation as to whether these are wonderful new elections…It’s not much of an improvement for the approximately 60 percent of the candidates who were disqualified from running due to lack of certification of sufficient allegiance to Islamic fundamentalism.” Chao continued to emphasize the corrupt system of Iranian elections by exclaiming that “A system in which entrenched politicians get to choose who runs against them is not democracy.”
The reception also featured a brief video message from President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, who said the recent elections in Iran were a sham because “all candidates had to prove their loyalty to the ruling theocracy.” For this reason, she added, “The election sham was nothing more than a competition between two groups of regime officials in charge of torture, execution and export of terrorism.”
“It seems to me that every major media company is afraid that if they say too much, they’ll never be able to get a reporter into Iran and who reports from the streets of Tehran,” Ambassador Bloomfield Jr. exclaimed, touching on the notion that “if you really want to focus on a future of Iran that’s worthy of the tradition of Nowruz, let’s have some real free speech. Let’s recognize the difference between self-censorship, fear of losing access, and being able to really look at the truth, and then make judgments about policy.”
Governor Dean touched on the current crisis facing members of the main Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) in Camp Liberty, Iraq, stating that it is important for the camp residents to be brought to Albania, “and the time is running out.” Gov. Dean continued with a call to action for American diplomacy, emphasizing that “We must not ever have a foreign policy that is so cynical that we can sacrifice the lives of people who are unarmed and simply exercising their rights to dissent for the sake of supposedly making a deal with an incredibly cynical group of people who support terrorism all around the world.”
General Phillips continued where Governor Dean left off, by further highlighting the atrocities in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. He ended with a strong and hopeful proclamation by stating, “On this Nowruz, let us not forget the remaining members of the Iranian Resistance still imprisoned in Iraq, and demand that our country lives up to the promises made over a decade ago. To the members of the Iranian Resistance and Madame Maryam Rajavi, next Nowruz, let’s celebrate in Iran!”
The Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri is a member of the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC).