A litmus test issue?

John Bew calls for less talk and more action from Euston Manifestoites:

But ultimately, there is a bigger picture which is much more important than the ideological and intellectual boundaries within functioning liberal democracies. In a wider context, to obsess about different versions of left or right is to lose sight of the importance of finding common ground  cross-party, transcending ideological boundaries  in the case for a new progressive internationalism. That the manifesto has already been translated into nine languages (notably Persian) is a promising portent. In a similar vein, there was much salutary talk at the launch meeting about the need to show solidarity with oppressed social, religious and political minorities. But what this means in practice remains, as yet, unclear.

As a pointed example, the case of the Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, based in the south-western region of Khuzestan, should be a litmus test issue for those who believe in these ideals. The oppression of thousands of Ahwazis has increased tangibly over the last year, at the hands of an Iranian regime even more determined to dominate the oil-rich area of Khuzestan and to secure a launch-pad into Iraq. The issue has seen some coverage, notably by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, but not nearly enough to adequately reflect the nature of the problem.

The extent of suffering in this region (documented elsewhere on this website) belies the notion that this pressing humanitarian question is a fiction, manipulated by western governments, designed to stir up trouble in an oil-rich region of a hostile regime. Neither is the Ahwazi issue an isolated example of the nature of the Iranian regime. One need only look at the recent unrest, demonstrations and repression of the Azeri community, documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, or the draconian response to the Iranian bus workers strike.

Any deal with Tehran must take the future of such peoples into account. A blank cheque settlement with the Iranian regime would have untold consequences for the people of Iran and indeed Iraq and the whole Middle East. Understandably, the first priority of western governments in negotiations with Tehran, has been the security of their own states. But it is the duty of others in free civil societies  groups such as the Euston Manifesto  to see this question in wider terms. The real challenge for the Euston Manifesto is whether or not it can look beyond the British left, to cooperate with others who also share a commitment to universal human rights, democracy and a new progressive internationalism.