His Excellency Seyed Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The 56th Session of The United Nations General Assembly
New York, 10 November 2001
(check against delivery)
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
At the outset I would like to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of the General Assembly. I would also like to express my appreciation for the wise and persistent efforts of the Secretary General at the current crucial situation of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The human society stepped into the Third Millennium with hopes and expectations. The United Nations designated the last year of the Twentieth Century as "the Year of the Culture of Peace" and the first year of the Twenty-first century as "the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations". Today, however, the world faces immense tragedies and grave concerns.
The commencement of the new century and millennium was regrettably marred by blood and gloom. In 2001, terror and violence persisted and scores of defenseless innocents became victims of the blind hatred and rage of governments and terrorist groups. One of the most brutal and savage crimes of this range was the terrorist attack against American citizens.
The decisive, immediate and unequivocal global condemnation of the terrorist attacks of September 11th represents the emergence of a public attitude and common political will all over the world to counter terrorism in all its manifestations, irrespective of motives, perpetrators or victims. The Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran spoke of "Jihad against this evil phenomenon" so as to highlight the genuine view of Islarn and the Islamic Revolution vis-a-vis terrorism and violence.
Regrettably the expectation of the global community of its political leaders to transform this strong public sentiment to a logical, just and comprehensive response to terrorism where its root causes could be addressed has yet to be met.
Immediately after the carnage of 11 September, and in the name of the People and Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I expressed sympathy with the American nation and all the victims of this criminal act. And in the first days of the tragedy, in a letter to the Secretary General, I underlined that
Terrorism is the common problem of today's world. It threatens peace,
liberty, spirituality, knowledge, culture and global coexistence. A sustainable
solution to this hideous and dangerous phenomenon requires vision, serious
will and active participation and cooperation of all members of the human society... Protection of the human person and fighting its depravation and degradation must be central in combating terrorism, where rationality instead of prejudice and justice and fairness instead of coercion would prevail.
The threat of terrorism should not be underestimated, nor should its devastating consequences be measured only in the visible realm of politics. Terrorism cannot be attributed to any religion or nationality; nor can it be eradicated through rage and violence. Terrorism is the chronic menace of our era, rooted in the mentality of violence, the logic of might and the practice of injustice and discrimination. When spirituality, ethics and fairness find no room in the realm of politics, economy and culture, and when discrimination, marginalization, exclusion and application of double standards push justice aside, the world is bound to face alienation, despair, extremism and lawlessness. And in such a climate, terrorism finds a fertile ground for growth.
The disaster in the United States is so tragic and grave that implores all thinkers to engage in deep reflection and dialogue on its real causes. The powerful find the answer in recourse to military revenge, since it calms their anger and that of their compatriots. In this midst, the fact that the first victims of such retribution are defenseless people who have themselves been victims of terrorism and discrimination is often ignored.
The tragic events in the U.S. could not have happened without utilizing modern tools of technology. Technology is the ultimate achievement of instrumental reason, while for many years, our great thinkers have cautioned us to avoid unconditional submission to instrumental reason, warning of the threats and tragedies that it could generate.
On the other hand, some of the great thinkers of our time have ascribed atrocities such as fascism to the reign of mythological speculation. They have attributed the emergence of fascism not to the expansion of rationality but to the evasion of rationality and succumbing to the reign of myth.
Warning about the calamities that are generated by an absolute reign of instrumental reason does not negate rationality and technology or call to new obscurantism or succumbing to mythical speculation. It nevertheless draws attention to the proper share due to rationality and empathy, to mind and heart. Elimination or violation of each leads to catastrophe. It is, therefore, irrelevant what name that catastrophe should assume: religion, race, nationalism or anything else.
In modern cultic ideologies, it is not merely rationality that gets reduced to instrumental reason and thereby is stripped of all its moral and human aspects. Religion, tradition, philosophy and art also descend to the level of satisfying political ends.
One of the most common features of these ideologies, which is regrettably omnipresent, is the glorification of the self and demonization of the opposing groups and ideas. Only through such an approach can one refer in the United States and Europe to Islam - the religion of humanity, compassion and justice - as equal to terrorism or identify the west in parts of the Islamic world as equal to suppression and corruption. Such polarization of the world and human beings would lead to horrifying political and security consequences for the whole world.
The world has yet to overcome the horror and disbelief caused by the malicious terrorist attacks of the 11 th of September against thousands of innocent people, while the most destructive and modern weapons are being used in one of the most deprived parts of the world and against an oppressed and dispossessed people. Once again history repeats its sad experience that war triggers war.
Time is ripe for the human society to critique the history and consequences of approaches based on exclusion and to initiate ways and means to engage intellectuals from different cultures and encourage the public to embark upon learning for dialogue and dialogue for learning and identifying the art of listening as a sacred and invaluable art.
The right of the oppressed human being should be defended and the horrible discrimination, which threatens all, should be countered. The angry politicians should be deprived of the initiative in the evolution of this objective and subjective world. It should be given to socially conscious intellectuals and the politicians should be made to submit to the judgment of wisdom and fairness.
The grief of all human beings who have suffered from discrimination, suppression, terror and war should be appreciated and addressed.
The American nation has experienced one of the most brutal forms of terrorism, where the blind hatred of terrorists did not even allow the burned up fractured corpses of the victims of the tragedy to be recovered. Today this nation can be seen alongside other nations, who have suffered from injustice and despotism for years and even centuries.
Today, beyond the rhetoric, one can notice the concordance between the peoples of the United States and Iran, who have experienced earlier the muted yet brutal massacre of chemical weapons. This concord can be further discerned in the hardships of all those refugees and displaced persons who are victims of war, suppression and terrorism -including state terrorism- in Afghanistan and Palestine and those who do not even have the right to return to their homeland.
We should have empathy with the suffering people of our time anywhere: in the occupied Palestine, in the oppressed Afghanistan, in New York or Washington, or in any corner of the globe.
We should reach an appropriate definition for terrorism and make distinction between blind criminal terrorism and the legitimate defense against occupation, violence arid suppression. Based on collective wisdom and international will, we should stand for a deep-rooted continuous struggle against the causes and manifestations of terrorism as well as its bases anywhere in the world. We should be vigilant to avoid the pitfall of fueling rather than suppressing terrorism through unilateral practices stemming from pride and rage. We should avoid expanding terrorism throughout the world in an attempt to suppress one of its bases.
In addition to a comprehensive approach and a strong political will, a genuine strategy to fight terrorism require political consensus so as to disallow any type of justification or application of double standard in this process. This requires international mechanisms as well as fair and legally binding instruments. We shall rise to the challenge of distributing peace, security and development among all nations on the basis of justice and come to believe that in today's interconnected world, we cannot live in islands of prosperity and progress while the rest of the world are increasingly caught in poverty, illiteracy, disease and insecurity. The more we can distance our world's material progress from coercion, discrimination and inequality, and draw closer to equality, justice and fairness, the more likely it would be to prevent crisis, violence, and acts of terror. A stable and secure world is one based on spirituality, love and justice. The killing of defenseless people, wherever it takes place on this globe, is horrifying and distressing and would entail responsibility for all political leaders. Acquiescing to any act of terrorism anywhere in the world is inconsistent with any religious or ethical principle. Likewise resorting to violence and revenge to counter such acts could hardly be justified under ethical and humane considerations. Lacing the sacred realm of religions with violence and terror is a grave disservice to all religions and their followers. The divine religions motivate for peace, tolerance and compassion. They unequivocally negate -in essence and appearance- any thought or act of violence. I would like to quote from the late Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, that "as followers of Islam, we always oppose war and desire peace and tranquility among all states."
Let us accept that no country in the world is immune from terrorism.
We should therefore seek solutions at the highest possible level. Earlier,
in a massage to the Secretary General of the United Nations, I suggested
that "comprehensive and inclusive negotiations in order to articulate practical
and serious global policies and strategies to eradicate the menace of terrorism
should commence. This should be followed, at the earliest possible time,
by a Global Summit to register and demonstrate the highest international
political will to uproot terrorism and adopt appropriate strategies and
measures in this regard." The UN mechanisms and institutions for negotiation,
settlement and decision making guarantee a central role
for this Organization, which would mobilize a genuine and legitimate international campaign against terrorism. The Islamic Republic of Iran is an active partner in this global coalition and spares no effort for the success of the international community in uprooting terrorism through sustainable, just and non-discriminatory measures. Today, there is an unprecedented momentum in the world for combating terrorism, which should not be lost. To this end the UN, which enjoys a unique position, can articulate a comprehensive definition of terrorism, thereby overcoming one of the major historical shortcomings and avoiding many abuses. Certainly, this consensus definition would not only close the door to state terrorism and planned crimes, but also recognize the legitimate struggle of people under occupation. The adoption of Security Council Resolution 1373 and its effective implementation by all states can be considered a first step for coordinated international campaign against terrorism. Moreover, negotiations on the draft Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism based on internationally accepted definitions and principles would provide an effective basis for collective measures in this respect.
Today, our world is facing new imperatives and requirements, which call for a reassessment of the nature and future of international security. The old perception of the world security based on power and military capability of big powers has undergone fundamental transformation. No longer could security be established through agreements among a handful of powers in the absence of those being marginalized. The September 11th events indicated that division between center and periphery can no longer define the security order of our today's world, for even the most marginalized sections might be able to inflict blows on the biggest powers. This development has taken all the more threatening dimensions in the light of emergence of dangerous phenomenon of bio-terrorism.
The conflict stricken regions of the world require urgent and comprehensive attention. After decades of war, insecurity and destruction, Afghanistan needs order, law, security and stability. Parallel to the destruction and causalities that it inflicts, the ongoing military operation in Afghanistan cannot address the root causes of the terrorism that has imposed itself on the defenseless people of this country. On the contrary, it is more likely that the continuation of current military approach could incite sentiments that intensify intolerance and violence in the region and the whole world.
In the midst of the global terrorism crisis, the world faces an intensive and severe genre of terrorism in the Middle East. Occupation of the Palestinian territories, Syrian Golan and Lebanese Shaba'a, expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland, judaization of Palestine and in particular Al-Quds Al- Sharif, Planning and building of illegal settlements, killing and terrorizing of defenseless Palestinian civilians in their homes and cities, destruction of historical sites, civil institutions and residential areas, are examples of this phenomenon.
I would also like to underscore, on behalf of the Group of 77, the significance of poverty alleviation worldwide and support the United Nations endeavors to that end. Poverty breeds violence and intolerance. The recent slow down in the world economic growth and development caused by the terrorist attacks further aggravates the economic hardships of the developing countries. It is within this framework that I would like to underline the particular significance of the International Conference on Financing for development, as well as the critical imperative of its substantive success.
For a secure and hopeful life, the world needs innovative approaches and collective measures. Let us build a coalition for peace instead of war and hostility. Let us uproot violence by fostering justice and respect for human dignity and present a gift of peace and security to human beings who deserve a secure and prosperous life.
The initiative of "Dialogue among Civilizations" which has been embraced by the international community in particular by thinkers and intellectuals, and enjoys the unanimous support of this august body is a step in this direction. Dialogue among Civilizations is not and has never been solely a conceptual discourse. It rather offers a new paradigm of interaction among nations and cultures in a world that longs for peace and security.
Can the United Nations take the lead in devising a program to implement this fair and reasonable approach and become the locus of a global coalition for peace based on justice? I have every confidence in the wisdom and the will of the Secretary General, illustrated inter alia by the work of the Group of Eminent Persons appointed by him to define the new paradigm of Dialogue among Civilizations, which was just published in a book entitled Crossing the Divide. I am also certain that the world public opinion in America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific are supportive of this proposal. The adoption of the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations yesterday represents a beginning for crystallization of this common wish and will of the global community. Would politicians and statesmen also submit to this approach, which is not only an advise of benevolence but a way conducive to the salvation of human beings from intensified violence, discrimination, suppression, pain and suffering? Are we allowed to postpone such essential measures? The future will be the judge.