For Immediate Release
Leading CODEPINK Activists and Peace Group Representatives Meet with Iranian President in New York
NEW YORK - Calling it a "major step forward" in relations between Iran and the United States, leading activists Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans of CODEPINK Women for Peace -- along with more than 150 other U.S. peace group representatives -- met Wednesday afternoon with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here following his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
At the meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, coordinated by interfaith peace group the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the peace activists talked to Ahmadinejad about their desire to strengthen people-to-people ties between the two countries. They presented several proposals for the Iranian government to consider and copies of a petition signed by 50 U.S. mayors all over the country calling for diplomatic engagement with Iran, not military action. The petition, promoted by CODEPINK, illustrates how local U.S. leaders are anxious to move national resources away from military intervention and into reinvestment in infrastructure, schools and health care. CODEPINK proposed taking a delegation of U.S. Mayors to Iran to create "sister cities."
"U.S. government officials are quick to stir up hostilities with Iran, but the American people are tired of war," said Benjamin, co-founder of the nonpartisan women's peace group CODEPINK. "The peace movement represents the sentiment of the majority of Americans who want our two countries to find ways to work together and improve relations. We are modeling the behavior we want to see our government adopt."
The CODEPINK women proposed inviting American and Iranian artists to build a "peace park" in Tehran, a memorial dedicated to people-to-people commitment to peace and diplomacy between our two countries.
They also proposed a plan to invest funds in an Iranian business, one that produces green and sustainable products, such as bicycles. This grassroots investment would be the opposite of efforts by the Bush administration and Congress to tighten sanctions, a move which CODEPINK thinks would only hurt ordinary, everyday Iranians. Such a symbolic CODEPINK investment in a green, sustainable business would challenge U.S. regulations blocking trade with Iran and would show how diplomacy and trade are preferable to war and sanctions.
The meeting, which took place in a cordial and positive atmosphere, was considered a great breakthrough.
"It's rare for a head of state to take time during an official U.N. visit to meet with the peace community, especially in a situation where the host government-represented by the Bush administration-is so hostile," said Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK. "The fact that the meeting took place and was so positive is, in itself, a major step forward."