A U.S.-based organization is working with groups and governments around the globe, as well as Iranians themselves, to effect a regime change in Iran through strictly peaceful means.
S.O.S Iran, based in Southern California, has a detailed, systematic plan, outlined on its website, to see the Islamic government of Iran ousted and replaced with a constitutional monarchy or free republic.
States the group on its homepage: “We support the people of Iran for the removal of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the establishment of freedom, human rights and a democratic, secular and modern government in Iran.”
While the organization registered as a nonprofit just eight months ago, its leadership has been working on like-minded projects for two years.
Iman Foroutan, an Iranian-America, is the executive director of S.O.S. Iran. He explained what kind of government his group would like to see in Tehran. Whatever actual form a new Iran takes, it must have basic human rights, the right to vote and other personal freedoms, he told WND.
Most of the recent resistance to the ruling mullahs in Iran has been by pro-freedom student groups there.
“We have indirect ties with quite a few student organizations inside Iran,” he said. “Most of them are underground.”
Foroutan says, however, what is key to attaining freedom in Iran is the mobilization of the non-students in the country.
“What Iran really needs is for the rest of the people – 80 to 90 percent of whom are against the existing regime – to be organized and coordinated so that pretty soon they can come alongside the students and move forward to basically overthrow the regime,” he said.
Foroutan pointed to the fact that only 28 percent of the population voted in the last election in Iran – proof, he says, that people are not hopeful about the current system. Though elections are conducted in Iran, the dictatorial Guardian Council decides who is eligible to actually appear on the ballot, so anyone opposed to the regime can be easily silenced.
“If you read the constitution of [Iran], basically you start laughing,” Foroutan said, “because all the powers of the government … are given to one person, and that’s Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader.”
Foroutan mentioned Iran’s Parliament passed two laws last year, one to bolster the rights of women and one to outlaw torture, and the Guardian Council summarily vetoed them both.
“It’s all a game,” he said. “There is no democracy there.”
Foroutan says most Americans and Europeans don’t realize how little freedom there is in Iran, which is why his organization has an aggressive public-relations campaign to expose what’s going on in the country, including “the torture, the killings, the beatings, the cutting of the hands and gouging of the eyes and hanging people from a crane,” he said.
The activist mentioned that recently a 14-year-old Iranian was given 85 lashes for failing to fast at the right time during Muslim Ramadan.
“They beat him up so bad he died,” Foroutan lamented, “just 14 years old.”
Foroutan says there are three options for how to deal with the oppressive Iranian regime.
One is the status quo – dialoguing with the rulers there to try to effect positive change. The second is a military invasion, which Foroutan calls “unacceptable,” saying it’s not needed.
The third option is the one S.O.S. Iran is advocating: non-violent civil disobedience.
“We have put together a nine-month plan and have adapted it to the Iranian culture and the Iranian people,” Foroutan explained.
He says the group has studied many civil-disobedience tactics in history and subsequently has come up with specific programs to implement. Three of those already have gone into effect.
“The first one is people turning the lights off in the homes Thursday nights from 9 to 9:30,” Foroutan said. “Right now, 30 to 40 percent of the communities in Iran are turning off their lights.”
He says the organization considers the lights-out tactic an S.O.S. distress signal to the world from Iran – with the message: “We need help.”
The second program calls on Iranians to go to parks every Friday afternoon (a weekend day in Iran) to show the government how many people can gather together in public on a coordinated basis.
“We’re trying to build self-confidence in the Iranian people after 25 years of torture, death and imprisonment,” Foroutan said.
“We have reports the regime forces can hardly control the crowds that are going to the parks just to have fun. This is totally opposite of the demonstrations by the students … because once students demonstrate, they are photographed … and taken to jail.”
Continued Foroutan: “But by going to a park, nobody can ask you why you are coming to a park with your wife and kids.”
He says “hundreds of thousands of people” are going to Iranian parks on Fridays.
The third program is called “Pashiz,” Farsi for “small change.” The effort calls on Iranians to keep coins and small bills out of circulation, which, Foroutan says, is playing havoc with the economy.
“There’s no change,” he explained, “and it’s totally bringing down the economy.”
The program, which has been in effect for six weeks, means goods that are purchased with small change are not bought at the same level as before, causing inestimable economic ripples.
“They cannot do their business because there is no change,” Foroutan said.
The activist says the organization has 18 departments, each having a specific role in helping with the ultimate ousting of the mullahs. Plans also include how to transition the nation to freedom beginning the day after the regime comes down.
Foroutan says there’s no way to know how long a transition will take, but he said he is hopeful it will happen within the next year. He emphasized the time line for winning freedom for Iran depends greatly on how much “moral support” the effort gets from the U.S. and other countries – one reason he is enthused about the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.
Foroutan criticized Secretary of State Colin Powell for not wanting to “rock the boat” in Iran and relying on dialogue, but he sees Rice as more willing to push for regime change.
From its base in Southern California, S.O.S. Iran broadcasts 24-hour-a-day satellite television to the U.S., Canada, Europe and, most importantly, Iran. Foroutan estimates up to 30 percent of Iranians have access at some point to see the broadcasts, even though satellite TV connections are illegal in Iran.
Said a hopeful Foroutan: “They’re hearing us.”
The activist encourages people concerned about Iran to donate to the efforts of S.O.S. Iran, which can be done via the “Support” link on its website.