The annual congress of the Iranian resistance in Paris on June 23 was a spectacular event and described as a turning point by policy makers and Iranian affairs pundits. It confirmed several points.
The unprecedented, massive turnout of 100,000-plus participants made it abundantly clear that the opposition the People's Mujahedin of Iran, or, PMOI – also known as MEK, and the political coalition of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) led by Maryam Rajavi, enjoys widespread support among the Iranian Diaspora.
The contribution of the PMOI to help organize such a huge and diverse event, by far larger than most Western party congresses or presidential conventions, undercuts the U.S. State Department’s assertion that the group is "marginalized" and "irrelevant." It also served to rebut similar allegations fabricated by the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence, which the State Department continues to rehash that this is a "sect" suffering from a "cult of personality" and "lacking popular support".
To my knowledge, never before in history has an opposition movement been able to organize such a convention outside of its homeland. The very diverse composition of the participants, representing different religious denominations, secularists, liberals, conservatives, young, the elderly and women, was striking.
Since no government provides material support to the PMOI, this huge event was only made possible after months of fundraising by Iranian volunteers and support committees throughout the world. I know of people who took bank loans or even mortgaged their houses to sponsor this convention.
Former U.S. Home Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge recently described the movement as "the strongest and most resilient advocates in the history of the world."
Despite its decades of efforts to establish freedom and democracy in Iran, western states have only cracked down on it in the framework of appeasement policies towards Tehran coupled with an ongoing fear of the mullahs' terrorism.
In fact, the support that this medieval regime has received from the West goes far beyond any other dictatorships in recent Iranian history. One might be astonished to know that the U.S. policy during the past decade has actually strengthened the ayatollahs and hampered their opposition. A few examples:
The invasion of Iraq, which brought to power the pro-Tehran government of Nouri al-Maliki;
Enchaining the only remaining organised opposition to the mullahs through its inclusion on different blacklists and confining their members in a de facto house arrest in Camp Ashraf, Iraq;
Ignoring the NCRI’s repeated warnings about the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions and talking for the sake of talking with Tehran;
Breaching the U.S. forces signed agreement, which guaranteed the protection of Ashraf residents in return for their voluntarily disarmament, which led to two massacres in 2009 and 2011 by the Iraqi forces while U.S. troops simply watched.
The blacklisting of PMOI hamstrung nearly all the energy and resources of the democratic opposition in lengthy and exhausting legal battles in Europe and the US instead of allowing them to focus on bringing about a democratic change in Iran.
During the past decade, the Iranian resistance has filed no less than 36 lawsuits in Europe and America confronting various blacklists. And guess what? It has won in all 36. The latest ruling came last month in Washington when a three-judge panel unanimously ordered Secretary Clinton to make up her mind about the PMOI status or the court will remove it from the State Department's list of terrorist organizations by October 1.
As the historical leader of the resistance, Massoud Rajavi, once said: “Wherever there is still a drop of freedom and justice left, we can prove the righteousness of our movement."
The mullahs tried hard to prevent the June rally by sending numerous letters to French authorities as well as organising anti-PMOI pickets to frighten the participants.
No less than 55 distinguished political figures and personalities including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Democratic Party Chairman Gov. Ed Rendell, former US Ambassador to UN Gov. Bill Richardson, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley were among the US dignitaries who addressed the event.
This week, a decade after the resistance exposed the mullahs’ twenty-year clandestine nuclear weapons program for the first time in August 2002, Europe has finally imposed oil sanctions on Iran. These latest sanctions had been demanded by the NCRI for the past three decades. Thus the Iranian resistance has shown its ability to change a world policy while swimming against the tide.
Now if the U.S. genuinely does not want to hand over a nuclear bomb to the mullahs, it should stand with the democratic opposition to overthrow this regime and recognize their demands. As Mrs Rajavi said in the Paris gathering, "Our demand is simple: an Iran free of suppression, a non-nuclear Iran, and a non-theocratic Iran."
Time has finally come for that.