The results of this survey of diverse Iranian civil society actors show a strong consensus against a military attack on Iran, which from their perspectives would drag further down the human rights situation, the level of human security, and prospects for positive change toward freedom, democracy, and accountability.

These interviews were conducted nearly two years into the government’s ongoing violent crackdown on civil and political rights which aims at crushing the diffuse movement for human rights and democracy that was given impetus following the disputed 2009 presidential election. Despite this human rights crisis, which has directly affected the interviewees, they were largely united in their view that an attack would not diminish the repression, and would instead prove fatal to civil society and the pro-democracy movement.

While it is difficult to demonstrate, given the obstacles that stand in the way of accurately assessing public opinion in Iran, the Campaign would like to stress that these reflections and conclusions have significance far beyond the small group interviewed. Individuals were chosen for inclusion in the survey group in part on the basis of their considerable influence over the thinking of a notable share of the population.

Iran’s diverse and engaged civil society has been at the forefront of human rights and democracy promotion. While having paid a heavy price for these efforts, Iranian civil society remains the best avenue for mitigating the state’s authoritarian excesses, and with that, promoting human rights, normalizing relations with the international community, and ending the tension and isolation that haunt Iranian dealings with the West. In effect, the views of Iranian civil society leaders, including those interviewed, must be recognized if one wants to fully evaluate the short and long term consequences of military action against Iran.

Many of the interviewees emphasized their rejection of any justification for war with Iran being built on the country’s dire human rights situation and a theory that a military strike would lead to positive change. Indeed, while the Islamic Republic has used the threat of war to justify intensified repression since 2009,
the government’s security agencies were able to build on a specter of war with the United States, to which American policies and political figures have made exploitable contributions.

The prospect of a military strike by the United States or Israel against the Islamic Republic is, in the final analysis, one to which both the United States and Iran have contributed, resulting in a dangerous syndrome that has had a pronounced negative impact on the people of Iran. The conflation of principled and legitimate concerns about human rights and freedoms with threats of military intervention, which has characterized the views of a number of US policymakers and advocates, worries members of Iranian civil society because of the association and infection of their highest ideals with the prospect of an attack. Such an attack is seen as likely to bring terrible destruction and ruin prospects for future realization of those ideals in concrete institutional
change.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran shares the concerns of the civil society leaders featured in this report. The threat of military conflict between the United States and Iran has dramatic ramifications not only for the human rights of Iranians, but for the integrity of human rights principles themselves. This destructive threat can be avoided, and can recede from the international stage, if both parties focus on their international legal obligations, including, inter alia, compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United Nations Charter and the principle of Jus ad bellum, and international human rights and humanitarian law.

Back to Main———————————————Next Section: Part II: In Their Own Words