What has prompted the launch of our new democracy and human rights network, Dialogue?
It is his or her experience of life that shapes someone’s understanding of democracy and human rights. I have had the opportunity to live under both a totalitarian and a democratic system. Born and raised in Iran under the rule of the Islamic Republic, I was told since childhood to avoid political discussions outside my house. The majority of Iranians took it for granted that they should avoid public criticism of their government. But their own consciences were aggravated by the injustice and inequality in their society. I was there to see the anger of Iranian society and the thirst of the younger generation for democracy in the 1999 demonstrations in Tehran.
After moving to Canada, I experienced the effects of a democratic system. Iranians, it seemed, were not the only people seeking democracy and human rights. In fact, for me these two concepts had turned into universal values. It seemed that they were desired in every nation from east to west. These experiences strengthened my resolve to use the communication resources of our time to establish the new democracy and human rights network, Dialogue.
Globalization has shaped our era. Technology has minimized distances; ideas, values and news cross borders quicker than ever before. New definitions and complex debates over our identities as international and national citizens have arisen as a result. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. puts it: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Nevertheless, the world remains unjust and unstable. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is violated by governments all over the world; and tolerance and inclusivity are being replaced by bigotry and exclusivity. Globalization has permitted these dilemmas to rapidly affect any part of the globe. Today, our divided world senses the threat of a clash of civilizations. Fanatics are killing hundreds of people in suicide bombings and, as a result, are seeding the growth of radical ideas in other locations. Perhaps the idea of burning the Quran on September 11, 2010, in the United States is the most recent example of such radicalism. However, modern technology has also provided a new platform for a global dialogue of civilizations, where individuals can converse and exchange ideas independently from their nationalities. It has built bridges across borders for universal concepts such as democracy and human rights to travel along.
Both concepts are designed for all people and not for a specific country, regime or community. But while people everywhere hunger for equal rights, authoritarianism threatens their freedoms. Nevertheless, after the disputed Iranian presidential elections in 2009, despite vicious government censorship, the desire of thousands of Iranians for democracy was communicated to the whole world just by using simple YouTube videos. This was proof, if it were needed, of the revolutionary significance of modern tools of communication.
We first thought of Dialogue as an electronic magazine. However, we realized that our deepest wish is to be accessible to people. Therefore, while saving this idea of an electronic magazine for the future, Dialogue has been established as a simple Facebook page. Facebook, with its population of approximately 500 million users has become a major part of our daily lives. This could ease communication between our readers and writers.
Amid these conditions, the Dialogue initiative has been born. Taking advantage of this technology, we want to build a network without borders, based on the fundamental principle of equality among all people. Dialogue has been created at once to inform and engage the public on democracy and human rights. We want to actively involve you. People power is the origin and remains the core of both democracy and human rights. Therefore, the best way to promote these ideas is open, critical and tolerant dialogue.
Dialogue is committed to being an objective platform presenting multiple perceptions of an issue to leave the choice and the judgment to its readers. Eliminating borders, this can also be an opportunity for a dialogue of civilizations to recognize our common origins as humans. At the time of the growing division among cultures, Dialogue can be a place for individuals to sense what the ancient Iranian poet, Saadi glimpsed: “The sons of Adam are limbs of each other, having been created of one essence”. Hence, I would like to use this opportunity to invite you all to exchange your opinions on democracy and human rights on Dialogue. Regardless of your view, we will pledge ourselves in turn to publish your article and share your vision with the rest of the world.
This is the beginning of a long, uphill journey for Dialogue. There have always been such challenges for democracy and human rights. But people have found ways of rising to those challenges. Our hope is to institute a network that will be a platform promoting critical thinking and independent judgment. We don’t underestimate the difficulties, but we are committed to developing this network based on openness for all thoughts and views.