John Baird, former Foreign Minister of Canada, addressed a panel discussion on the subject of “Protests in Iran and the Role of the Opposition” in a Paris suburb on June 29, 2018. The event was jointly organized by FEMO and APA. His remarks follow:
I was asked, why are you going to Paris? And I said, well, it’s that time of year where pro-democracy activities from around the world come together to support the Iranian people, and for me to give a speech tomorrow with my annual drumming of the mullahs. I have met so many great friends, people of Iranian background, people from here in France, from the United States, from around the world, and I am so pleased to stand in solidarity with you and with the Iranian people. The people of Iran will remember who was with them in these darkest hours. Why does it matter that people from around the world who come together and share the same values, freedom, human rights, democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, pluralism, why does it matter that we speak to the people of Iran, whether it’s online or through video right now? I had the opportunity to meet Natan Sharansky. Natan Sharansky was a Soviet refusenik, and he was sitting in a gulag somewhere in Siberia being held in prison by the then Soviet Union. And an American president had the courage and the guts to reject the foreign policy establishment, an American president had the courage and the guts to push aside the advice that he got from the State Department, an American president named Ronald Reagan had the courage to say that the Soviet Union was an evil empire. And when they heard that, languishing in that gulag, it give them hope, it gave them courage, it gave them strength to soldier on to seek a better way. And in many ways what we’re all doing here is to give hope to the people of Iran.
You know, Iran has a phenomenal history, it has a phenomenal culture, it has the potential to take its place, its rightful place, as one of the leading nations of the world. It has great people, great education, and great potential, great natural resources. The only thing holding the people of Iran back are the mullahs and we must come together to stand with the people of Iran. Our challenge is to inspire these disparate parts of the opposition, some 142 communities. Whether it’s those who are oppressed because of the poor economic conditions and deteriorating economic conditions, whether it’s those fighting the political battle in Tehran, whether it’s on a bridge in Tehran, in a market in Tehran, or throughout the country, we must rally these people to come together and fight for a better life, a better quality of life and a better future for their country. When change comes, the change will happen very, very quickly. And I am convinced that a brighter day lies ahead for the people of Iran. And when it happens, all of us will be able to say we played a small part in making that happen.
Thank you so much.