SPEECH TO THE WELLE CHARITY, SWITZERLAND
Xmas Conference – Saturday 18th December, 13.30-15.00 hrs
A MURDEROUS REGIME
It is a great honour and privilege for me to participate once again in a meeting of the Welle Charity today. As we face another year of restrictions and travel bans due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is nice to be able to meet my friends in Switzerland, even if sadly, it has to be by Zoom. I really look forward to the day when we will be able to meet face-to-face again. The work that you do supporting human rights in Iran and exposing the brutal repression of the Iranian regime is of great significance. But you also play an effective role in bringing the voice of the Iranian people to the international community and I thank you sincerely for your work.
I want to update you today on the situation in Iran. You will have heard that tens of thousands of impoverished farmers took to the streets day after day in recent weeks in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, to protest about water shortages. In a mass uprising, the angry farmers pointed to the Zayandeh Rud river, which used to flow through the city and is now a dried-up basin, covered with cracked and sun-baked mud. Chanting slogans such as “Raisi, this is the last warning,” the farmers courageously challenged Iran’s repressive president Ebrahim Raisi, known as ‘The Butcher of Tehran’, for his leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. A group of the protesting farmers even staged a sit-in on the dried-up Zayandeh riverbed by setting up a special camp.
The Zayandeh Rud river has been desiccated due to the diversion of water by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the regime’s Gestapo, who control more than 75% of the Iranian economy for the mullahs. The farmers claim that the IRGC has constructed tunnels and canals to divert the river to neighbouring Yazd province, where they have corruptly plundered the profits from a series of heavy industrial, water-guzzling, military factories.
The protests took place against a background of the usual threats and violence from the repressive theocratic regime. The farmers were violently attacked with batons and tear gas and shotgun assaults by the IRGC. More than 600 farmers have been arrested, while around 300 were wounded by shotgun blasts. Dozens were shot in the face, in many cases losing the sight of one or both eyes. In the nationwide protests that have followed, hundreds of demonstrators are now wearing symbolic eye-patches covering one eye, in sympathy for their wounded compatriots.
Meanwhile, fearing that support for the farmers’ protest would spread nationwide, the mullahs cut off the internet and tried to supress information about the uprising. But that has not deterred mass protests by Iranian teachers. Demonstrations have taken place in at least 66 cities. The teachers, mostly female, are outraged that they are now struggling to survive on salaries that are below the international poverty line, while the mullahs’ regime continues to finance the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and continues to fund Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shi’ia militias in Iraq and Hamas in Gaza.
Like the teachers, young Iranian women are becoming increasingly engaged in the growing opposition to the mullahs’ corrupt regime. They are joining the resistance units that are springing up in every town and city in Iran. With 75% of the 80 million Iranian population now struggling to survive on daily incomes below the international poverty line, protests against the mullahs have grown in size and ferocity. On top of the water crisis, the people are now suffering from high unemployment, rampaging inflation, spiralling prices, disintegrating living conditions and a collapsing economy. The coronavirus pandemic has spread out of control across the country, with an estimated 486,000 dead from the disease.
In the nationwide uprisings that have taken place in recent months, tens of thousands of courageous female teachers, medical staff, nurses, students, factory workers and pensioners have taken to the streets to demand an end to corruption, an end to discrimination and repression and an end to the clerical regime’s aggressive military adventurism across the Middle East. Hundreds of women have been amongst those killed and thousands have been arrested by the IRGC. Today, Iranian women are at the forefront of the resistance to the theocratic dictatorship.
I was alarmed, in Scotland, when I heard the news that Ebrahim Raisi, the was intending to travel to Glasgow to attend the COP26 UN Climate Change Summit in November. Together with my friends Hossein Abedini and Tahar Boumedra from London, we lodged a dossier of evidence with both the Metropolitan Police and the Scottish Police, calling for Raisi’s arrest for crimes against humanity and genocide. We held a big press conference in Glasgow and the news went viral, particularly around the Middle East. Scotland’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper – The Sunday Mail – carried a front-page banner headline ‘ARREST THE BUTCHER’ and a huge two page spread inside, with quotes from some of the survivors and relatives of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. When Ebrahim Raisi heard that the police in Scotland were actively assessing this large dossier of evidence against him, he chickened out and quickly cancelled his plans to come to Glasgow. It was a huge victory for us.
In Sweden, the trial of Hamid Nouri is continuing. He was one of Raisi’s functionaries who actively participated in the 1988 hangings. Plaintiffs told the Stockholm court how Raisi would happily munch on cakes and pastries while sentencing dozens of men, pregnant women and even teenagers to death, after arbitrary 3-minute trials. And in Belgium we are awaiting the judgment of the appeal court who heard appeals from 3 of the terrorist bombers who joined Assadollah Assadi, the so-called Iranian diplomat, in a plot to bomb the huge National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rally in Paris in June 2018. We trust that their lengthy terms of imprisonment will be upheld.
So, the theocratic regime is in trouble. It is facing justice in several EU courts. It is struggling to survive the collapse of the Iranian economy and the rampaging coronavirus pandemic. It is desperately searching for ways to continue financing its proxy wars, while at the same time attempting to boost its supply of uranium to weapons-grade-status. This is a zombie regime led by a psychotic supreme leader and a criminal murderer as president. There is no way the US, EU or UN should contemplate any attempt at lifting sanctions and restoring the failed nuclear deal. To do so would be a gross act of appeasement and a naked betrayal of the Iranian people. There is only one way to resolve all of the environmental, social and security problems that beset Iran and its neighbours and that is by backing the Iranian people and helping them to remove this evil regime and replace it with a secular democracy.
Please let me end once again by thanking you sincerely for the great work undertaken by the Welle Charity and for the work you do in exposing and countering human rights abuse in Iran and the wider Middle East?