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Havel Expresses Solidarity With Iranian Demonstrators

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel advises protesters "not to fall prey to skepticism if they do not achieve immediate results in spite of their efforts."
Former Czech President Vaclav Havel remains actively engaged in the fight for human rights and democracy around the world, from Belarus to Burma.

Discussing Iran's postelection crisis with RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari, Havel expressed his solidarity with the demonstrators who accuse the authorities of trying to steal the ballot.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, you are quoted as saying that the reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president is worrying. Why?

Vaclav Havel:
I know him through his many statements that have been featured in the media. I wasn't there in person when he made them, understandably. But these are very alarming statements. I completely understand the anxiety that they provoke.

I have to add that I don't sense a conflict between cultures or religions or civilizations. Rather, I sense a human obsession. And this obsession, in our modern age -- which has access to all sorts of technological inventions, including destructive ones, such as nuclear weapons -- is a thousand times more dangerous than in the Middle Ages or in previous times. And that's why I think this anxiety [over Ahmadinejad] is well-placed.

RFE/RL: I'm sure you have been following the protests in Tehran and others cities. Many in Iran believe there was massive fraud in these elections. What is your judgment?

Of course, I can't control or check this. But it is possible. Such things happen. And I can only sympathize with the protesters and hope that there are no massacres.

'Don't Give Up'

RFE/RL: How should the world, especially Western countries, react?

I wouldn't presume to give advice. But certainly there are many ways to isolate this regime, through various embargoes for example. They should be measures that are clearly not directed against the people but against this form of government.

And at the same, expressions of solidarity with those who are defending human rights, with students and others, are important. In general, oil should not be more important than human rights.

RFE/RL: You are well-known and highly respected by many people in Iran. What would you like to say to Iranians directly?

[I would tell them that] I sympathize with them, that I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them and I would advise them not to fall prey to skepticism if they do not achieve immediate results in spite of their efforts.

These efforts are important in and of themselves because there is virtue in working for a good cause. And these efforts can pay off later, God knows when, God knows how. But you cannot time it. That, at least, is our experience.