Toward a Culture of Civil Liberties, Human rights and Democracy in Iran

October 29-31
University of Maryland

An international conference to be held by the Roshan Center for Persian Studies the University of Maryland, College Park

Conference statement

Over the past two decades intellectuals and academics, activists and journalists, as well as Iran watchers of all political persuasions have contributed to or witnessed a burgeoning body of research and writing on questions of civil liberties, human rights and the potential for democratic developments in that country. The most inspiring feature of the emerging canon has been the hopes expressed for the possibility of a non-partisan and pluralistic discourse. The organizers of this conference seek to examine, interrogate and assess the fledgling discourse and, if at all possible, solidify its gains and chart its course in the foreseeable future. We believe strongly that non-partisan demands for political equality regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity stand a chance finally to bring about a paradigm shift in the consciousness of Iranians and lead to the establishment of a state that would respect and advance the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.

The organizers hope that the deliberations of a diverse group of experts and specialists working on contemporary Iran and a large number of analysts and activists will help to highlight the importance of this development and work systematically to promote initiatives that could enhance its cohesion and effectiveness. Above all, we encourage efforts to make non-violence a permanent feature of the growing Iranian struggle for civil liberties, human rights and democratic governance. Accordingly, proceedings of the conference will be based on the premise that open society requires a sustained struggle beyond the actions or claims of the state and begins to address the cultural contexts of autocratic traditions, popular intolerance and citizen behavior in the depths of the contemporary culture of Iran. We urge all participants in the conference and audience members to bear in mind that the primary purpose of the gathering is the advancement of non-partisan human rights discourse and activism. We hope the focus of all presentations, comments and questions will reflect the fact that the struggle for human rights cannot be confined to a time period or limited to exposing and condemning those in power. Indeed, non-partisan struggle for human rights ought to be conceptualized, introduced and defended as a permanent feature of a society committed to popular sovereignty, ethnic and religions pluralism and democratic norms.

By and large, contemporary Iranian thinkers and activists understand the importance of institutionalizing their aspirations. How and when one can expect them to work toward creating a non-partisan organization for protecting and promoting the human rights of all Iranians and aiming to sow the seed of ideas conducive to the growth of civil liberties in the soil of the culture remains to be seen. In this regard, it is worth contemplating the idea of a membership association that is, by its by-laws, democratically governed and professionally administered. It certainly appears that the Iranian diaspora has the resources and the intellectual capability to bring a project of this nature to life. We hope the formal and informal conversations in the conference and afterward pave the way to such an eventuality.

To learn more about the conference look at the below link:

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