Kim Campbell-Paris, June 2014 – The Grand Gathering of Iranians

Kim Campbell-Paris, June 2014 – The Grand Gathering of Iranians

Kim Campbell – Former Canadian Prime Minister

Good evening. Good evening. I’m not sure what surprises me most—that we’re still here or that you’re still here, but it’s great that we’re all still here. I’m honored to be here with my colleagues who are current and former members of the Canadian Parliament and one of my colleagues is going to address you as well, so I’ll be brief because you don’t need more speeches. And in fact I was trying to think what I could tell you that you hadn’t already heard.

All of the grisly news about how terrible things are in Iran. You don’t need me to repeat it, but one of the themes that we’ve been hearing all day is that the mullahs’ regime has to go and it will go, and that we all believe.

But even though we know that Madame Rajavi and all of you wonderful people are going to someday be able to have this meeting in Tehran, nobody’s been able to tell us exactly how the change is going to take place. Now, I’m not going to tell you either, but I’m going to tell you something that might be kind of thought provoking.

In my youth, back in the 1970s I was a Soviet specialist and in 1972, when I was doing my doctorate in Soviet studies at the London School of Economics, I went to the Soviet Union for three months and traveled around there, and it was a very interesting experience, but at that time, even though I could see that the country was poor and it was backward in many ways. None of us had any idea that the Soviet Union would come to an end. And when the Berlin Wall came down and when the Soviet Union came apart and the Soviet satellites flew off, none of the experts, none of the people who’d been giving the seminars and writing the books had ever predicted it. None of them knew how it would happen. How did it happen? Well, a man called Mikhail Gorbachev became head of the party and you may remember, there are a couple of old guys that died, and so he came along and was sort of the youngest. And Mikhail Gorbachev knew that the Soviet Union needed to reform its economy, that it was very poor, that it couldn’t maintain its defense budget, and so he brought in glasnost and perestroika. But the most important thing was that when there was resistance, when there was disruptions in eastern Europe, he made it clear he was not prepared to use military force to hold it all together, and then it all just kind of came apart. And the rest as they say is history.

So when we look at Iran, there are a lot of similarities. The same kind of highly centralized, brutal government, and the Soviet Union was a very brutal place. When I was there in the early 1970s it was Brezhnev’s time and dissidents were sent to mental hospitals where they were given psychotropic drugs to zap their frontal lobes. Now you can imagine if you’re an intellectual, the last thing in the world you want is for someone to destroy your mind and so it was a pretty good deterrent for people to get too disruptive.

So when we look at Iran, the question is how will it come apart? We know now that the sanctions against Iran are the toughest sanctions that have ever been imposed on any country in the world, and we know they’re hurting. We know there’s a crisis now with the uprisings in Iraq and Syria and Iran has issues, etcetera. We just don’t really quite know how it will happen. But I think it is important for us all to understand that the break may come when we’re least expecting it. And we have to accept the fact that we don’t know how it’s going to happen. And that’s why we have to be ready. We have to be watching, because something somewhere is going to give. It might be in the military.

You know, it’s interesting. When President Rouhani was elected, one of the reasons I think that so many countries in the West were prepared to give him a little bit of room is because they thought, “Do you think he might be the Iranian Gorbachev?” And he sure did a good job of trying to, you know, “I’m a new guy. I’m going to be kind of moderate.” Well, just earlier this month the Foreign Minister of Canada, John Baird, published an article in Foreign Policy Magazine, where he reviewed the year of Rouhani’s presidency and made it very clear that not only were no promises kept, but everything is worse and the betrayal is very severe. And you heard about it today. I don’t have to tell you about twice as many executions and political prisoners and all of that kind of stuff. We know that. So, so much for the Iranian Gorbachev. But it’s understandable that people are looking for that and all I can say to you is, “You’ve got to keep looking. You’ve got to keep watching, because it may happen very quickly.”

I look out at this wonderful rally and it reminds me about 21, 22 years ago when I was running for leadership of my party and there was a governing party in Canada. When I ran for leadership, it looks a lot like this, but the hats were pink, because if I won I’d be the first woman Prime Minister of Canada. And every one of us here, every elected politician from a democracy that’s been here today has been part of a rally like this, and we waved signs at you, you know, you have funny noisemakers and you have crazy hats. But the nice thing about our experience is that we went from those rallies into election campaigns, into making our democratic institutions work. You don’t have that luxury. You go from this wonderful rally back to the situation where you’re watching, hoping, concerned about your countrymen and women. And all I can say is, “It will happen and this rally will be one day an election rally…” So I want to just say to you all as an old Soviet hand and somebody who didn’t know any better than any other expert how it was going to come to an end but it did. All I can say to you is, “Pay attention, be brave, and be ready. We’ll be there with you.”