The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Medea Benjamin, 415-235-6517 Jodie Evans, 310-621-5635

CODEPINK Returns from Iran Calling for Direct Talks with Iranian Leaders and Lifting of Sanctions

As Obama Moves Right in Cabinet Picks


As President-Elect Obama continues to shift toward the right with
Cabinet appointments, three American women returned from a
ground-breaking citizen diplomacy trip to Iran this week calling for
real policy change, including direct talks without preconditions and
the lifting of economic sanctions.

In the seven-day trip, Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans and Col.
(retired) Ann Wright of CODEPINK Women for Peace met in Tehran with
advisers to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, members of Parliament,
academics and NGOs working for peace. They also interacted with
everyday Iranians on the subway, in the streets, in mosques and in
cafes and filmed Iranians giving their messages to Obama. They will
turn into these messages into a YouTube series called "Iran talks to
Obama." (Read about the women's experiences in Iran on the CODEPINK
blog here.)

"After initial excitement about Obama's election, most Iranians
expressed concern that his appointments signaled a continued policy of
belligerence rather than a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations," said
CODEPINK co-founder Benjamin. "They say that Obama must show them,
through actions and not just words, that his administration will lead
to real changes such as direct talks, a lifting of the economic
sanctions that are hurting Iranian businesses, increasing academic
exchanges and establishing an Interest Section that will pave the way
for full diplomatic relations."

The CODEPINK delegation met with women Parliament members Eftekhari
Laleh of the Education Committee and Dr. Zohreh Elahian of the
Committee for National Security and Foreign Policy. The women, who
never met with Americans before, said CODEPINK's visit opened new doors
in the relationship between the countries. The delegation also visited
with women's peace, business and student groups.

"We are so impressed with the women's movement for peace and human
rights here," said CODEPINK co-founder Evans. "Their movement is
growing and they know it will be destroyed if the U.S. shows more
aggression toward Iran."

In an in-depth meeting with Presidential media advisers Mehdi
Kalhor and Ali Akbar Javan Fekr, the wide-ranging discussion included
Ahmadinejad's unanswered letter to Obama, economic sanctions, the
possibility of direct talks, and conditions in Israel, Palestine, Iraq
and Afghanistan.

"As citizen diplomats, our trip underscored that the Iranian
people, like the American people, want peace and not war," Wright
commented. "Peoples of both countries have faced governments that have
used threats and hot rhetoric for decades. It is time that the United
States acknowledge that Iran is a important regional player and have
direct talks to resolve concerns on nuclear issues and other security
challenges in our bilateral relationship."

The trip, organized with the help of interfaith group Fellowship
for Reconciliation, is part of CODEPINK's "Let's talk!" initiative
inspired by Obama's historic election for diplomacy first (listen to
Evans describe the initiative and the trip on Air America radio here).

CODEPINK is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.

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