OFFICIAL RELEASE: As Obama moves right, CODEPINK returns from Iran, calls for direct talks with Iran

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C -- 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).

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