Iran exiled opposition figures in talks to unite against government

Eight Iranian exiled dissident figures discussed ways of uniting a fragmented opposition on Friday, amid pro-government events marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution inside the country.

Iran was rocked by nationwide unrest following the death in police custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September after she was detained for flouting a strict Islamic dress code for women. The protests are among the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the revolution.

“The Islamic Republic has survived because of our differences and we should put our differences aside until we come to the polling booth,” Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said in a video message to the prominent opposition figures’ gathering at Georgetown University in Washington.

US-based women’s rights advocate Masih Alinejad said: “We must agree on principles based on the declaration of human rights, on eliminating discrimination, and principles that every Iranian can see themselves in, and that depict the end of oppression.”

Alinejad expressed hope that an agreement on the opposition’s principles could be reached by the end of 2023.

Asked why there was only one Kurdish leader among the eight, Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the toppled Shah of Iran, said: “You don’t need to wait for an invitation in order to participate… This is a free bus!”

Iran’s opposition has long been split in numerous factions, both at home and abroad, including monarchists, republicans, leftists and organizations grouping ethnic minorities including Kurds, Baluchis and Arabs.

Meanwhile Iranian state media showed fireworks as part of state-sponsored celebrations, and people chanting the Islamic rallying cry “Allahu Akbar! (God is Greatest!).” But many could be heard shouting “Death to the dictator!” on videos posted on social media.

A video purported to be from Tehran’s Afsariyeh district showed distant fireworks while protesters could be heard shouting “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

Similar social media videos, which Reuters could not verify independently, carried anti-government slogans shouted from windows and rooftops by protesters who had stayed home in several cities.

Separately authorities on Friday released hunger-striking jailed dissident Farhad Meysami, a week after supporters warned that he risked dying for protesting against the compulsory wearing of the hijab.

The release was part of an amnesty marking the revolution’s anniversary.

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