Word on the street

Word on the street

Governments, writes Emanuele Ottolenghi in an analysis for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “must demonstrate to Iran’s repressive leaders that although dialogue may continue, ‘business as usual’ will not. It is critical that Iranian dissidents know they are not alone in their struggle.”

How to do that is problematic. Iran’s leaders are quick to accuse outsiders of “meddling” in their nation’s affairs, which effectively closes the door to diplomatic dialogue.

But an observation in that July 14 essay, headed “Targeting Human Rights Abuse in Iran: A Postelection Strategy,” has given rise to an idea.

“During the Reagan administration,” Ottolenghi writes, “the city of Washington, D.C., designated the block of 16th Street in front of the Soviet embassy as ‘Andrei Sakharov Way’ in honor of the jailed dissident.”

Consider how the name change must have embarrassed the resident apparatchiks – and how the media must have run with it – and enjoy the in-your-faceness of it all.

“Similarly,” writes Ottolenghi, the director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute, “local media campaigns can give a human face to the suffering in Iran.”

We hereby begin such a campaign, and urge our readers, other media outlets, and New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg to join us in an effort to rename the portion of Third Avenue (between 40th and 41st streets) on which sits the Mission of the Islamic Republic to the United Nations. Its new name? Neda Agha-Soltan Way, in memory of the beautiful young woman whose videotaped killing during a Tehran protest was a powerful lesson in Iranian brutality. Or call it, more simply, Neda Way; she was known by her first name all the world over, as if we mourned her personally.

Interestingly, in Farsi, Iran’s official language, “neda” means “the call” or “the voice.” Renaming the street would not just be symbolic. It would give expression to the repressed Iranian voices for democracy, and it would be a very concrete display, shall we say, of American support for the cause of human rights.