We began the Iran Freedom Walk on Monday, May 16, 2005, at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Twelve days later, on Saturday, May 28, having walked some 200 miles, we arrived for a final rally at Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, in Washington, D.C.
Our purpose was to indicate solidarity with the 70 million Iranians oppressed by the criminal mafia currently ruling Iran. We wanted to show that Americans cared enough for freedom in Iran to walk this great distance through Pennsylvania and Maryland, often on roads with narrow, almost dangerous margins to walk along.
The coverage by the liberal mainstream media was nearly non-existent. Had we been protesting President Bush’s policies in Iraq, we may well have gotten considerable mainstream media coverage. The left was predictably unable to wrap their minds around the idea that conservatives might actually be conducting a peace walk.
We were covered by conservative talk radio. National radio shows such as Joseph Farah’s “WorldNetDaily Radioactive” covered us steadily along the watch. G. Gordon Liddy’s radio show covered us almost daily, assisted by producer Franklin Raff tracking us down on the highways as we walked along. Janet Parshall’s “America” also put us on the air nationally to track our progress at regular intervals.
As we walked along, we were almost constantly on the radio, often encouraged by truckers who honked their horns and pointed to their radios to let us know they were listening to our message. The Iranians on their cell phones broadcast on Iranian radio as they walked along, frequently making personal calls to Iran.
We were also covered by the Voice of America radio and by the independent opposition radio and TV broadcasting from the United States into Iran via satellite. Mr. Morovati’s of the Los Angeles-based KRSI Radio Sedaye Iran traveled to speak at our kick-off in Philadelphia and at our final rally in Lafayette Park. KRSI also assigned their Washington, D.C., reporter to follow us and broadcast from the route.
An estimated 40 million of Iran’s 70 million population heard our voices and our message of support. The Iran Freedom Walk became a subject of household discussion throughout Iran. E-mails and cell phones messages of support flowed into the Iran Freedom Foundation from Iran and from the expatriate Iranian community around the world.
Six Iranians – three men and three women – walked with me the entire distance. For security reasons, we limited the walk to this chosen few, permitting a maximum of 12 to 15 people to walk with us at any time.
Logistics were complicated, even with the export support we received from John Cogwell, Tom Erb, and Paul Schiffer of their newly formed Political Truth Corporation. Paul Schiffer carried his radio-broadcasting equipment with him, setting up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of both weeks to broadcast live from the walk his “Schiffer Report” on RightTalk.com.
Tim Ziegler provided expert advance work. Scott Swett and Bob Hahn posted daily walk updates to the Foundation website, allowing those following the walk to see exact daily routes and photographs from the field.
Throughout the march, we were supported by one another’s courage and moral determination, forming a team of Americans and Iranians who went extra yards every day to deliver our message of hope and freedom.
The personal stories told along the walk by the Iranian participants were chilling. Grim stories of torture and imprisonment; money being sent to women whose husbands were arrested as political prisoners, just to prevent those who were mothers from having to sell themselves into prostitution just to feed the children; the images of children deciding to volunteer as suicide bombers so the family could receive enough bounty money to survive. No one who walked those miles with us could ever doubt the suffering the mullahs have inflicted upon the Persian people.
In the final days of the walk, the offices of President Bush and Vice President Cheney took our cell-phone calls and expressed their appreciation for our efforts. Both offices agreed to take any names of oppressed dissidents we might identify in Iran and to see what steps could be taken to protect them.
Did we achieve our goal of stimulating peaceful change in Iran? That remains to be seen. Ukranian and Lebanon-style popular demands for change are very risky for a people held in the grasp of an evil regime determined to hold on to power by exercising violence to invoke fear.
If we can find sufficient monetary resources, we plan to send funds into Iran to support those oppressed. If we cannot find the funds, we will still continue to lift our voices and our prayers in the hope that one day the corrupt regime of the mullah mafia will pass into the dark, criminal night of evil from which they came. We know our message was heard and, for now, that will have to be enough.