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Iranian Dissidents Arrive in Brussels to Discuss a Federal Iran

Representatives of Iranian opposition political parties, minority groups, and civil society have begun arriving in Brussels for a two-day conference examining the state of human rights in Iran.

Representatives of Iranian opposition political parties, minority groups, and civil society have begun arriving in Brussels for a two-day conference examining the state of human rights in Iran and in particular the situation facing Iran's minority Ahwaz, Azerbaijani, Baloch, and Kurdish populations.

Almost half of Iran's population is made up of minorities but all groups face varying levels of discrimination from the Iranian authorities on the basis of their language, religion, or ethnicity . This conference will examine how Iran's minorities can forge a fair and common future, drawing on the potential of federalism.

Participants will be meeting against the backdrop of significant lobbying from the Iranian authorities that have pressured some high-level speakers to withdraw their participation. Nevertheless, the conference represents a rare opportunity to hear constructive criticism from Iranian opposition in the heart of Brussels.

The conference will be held on 1-2 April with opening speeches in Room P4B001 of the European Parliament at 9.15am.

Entitled ‘Human Rights and the Question of Democratization and Federalism in Iran’, the conference panels will discuss federalism’s potential to accommodate Iran’s patchwork of ethnicities. Discussion will dwell on the issues of autonomy, democratization, good governance, and press freedom before a final debate on the question of what the future may hold for Iran.

The conference will be opened at 9.00am on 1 April 2009 in Room P4B001 of the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building.

Opening speeches will be made by the co-sponsor of the conference, Marco Cappato MEP, vice-chairman of the delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries. Their remarks will be accompanied by contributions from Graham Watson MEP (tbc), leader of the

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne MEP, member of the ALDE Group and chairwoman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Iraq, Paulo Casaca MEP, member of the Socialist Group and member of the delegation for relations with Iran, and Senator Marco Perduca of the Italian Senate.

Commenting on the situation in Iran will be Nasser Boladai of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI) and Marino Busdachin, General Secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Representatives of Iran’s Ahwaz, Azerbaijani, Baloch, and Kurdish organizations will also feature as key panelists.

The conference is being organized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (www.unpo.org/) in partnership with the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (iranfederal.org/) and Members of the European Parliament from the Nonviolent Radical Party.