Speech – German Federal Parliament- 14 February 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished members of Parliament, Mr President,
I would like first of all to thank Martin Patzelt - Member of the Bundestag and Otto Bernhardt , Member of the Bureau of the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, for inviting me here today and also to thank members of parliament and other German dignitaries for organizing such events to promote and focus on the issue of human rights in Iran. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Germany for accepting 100 Iranian refugees from Camp Liberty in Iraq. That was a great humanitarian gesture.
I have been involved with the situation in the Middle East for a number of years. During my three terms in office in the European Parliament, I co-chaired the Friends of a Free Iran intergroup for 10 years and during my final 5 years I chaired the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq. In that capacity I travelled to Iraq and other countries in the region several times.
Iran today is a theocratic dictatorship whose so-called ‘moderate’ president Rouhani the West believes it can do deals with. We should wake up! The ‘smiling’, ‘moderate’ Rouhani is in charge of a venally corrupt government, which has executed nearly 3,000 people since he took office in 2013. Around 90 executions have taken place this year already. Many are carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Per capita, Iran is the number one state-executioner in the world. Unfortunately, often when these executions take place, delegations of parliamentarians from Europe visit Iran without uttering a word of condemnation.
Many journalists are in jail. Women activists have been given long-term prison sentences. Ethnic and religious minorities like the Kurds, the Baha’is and the Christians are brutally persecuted. This repression is not just limited to Iran but is taking place at the hands of the Iranian regime in Iraq and Syria. It was the mullahs’ support for former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq and for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed their own people and particularly the Sunni communities in those two countries, that resulted in the rise of Daesh in the region. Because the Sunnis were humiliated and brutally repressed, they were driven into the arms of the Islamic extremists. So thanks to Tehran, ISIS grew and became a threat to the whole world. Now the Iranian regime has exploited the war on Daesh as an opportunity to consolidate its policy of aggressive expansionism in the Middle East.
Iran is the world’s biggest state sponsor of terror. As well as Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Yemen's Houthi rebels, Iran funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi'ia militias in Iraq. Iran casts a shadow over every conflict in the Middle East. That’s why we must demand the blacklisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Their fingerprints are on repeated acts of terror inside and outside Iran.
Negotiating with Iran has not improved anything. In fact since the nuclear deal, human rights have deteriorated. More people have been executed and the mullahs are now meddling to an even greater extent in Iraq and Syria. The mullahs have interpreted our policy of appeasement to their regime as a sign of western weakness, which they have exploited ruthlessly.
Today Islamic fundamentalism is also a great threat to us here in Europe. In fact what we call Islamic fundamentalism really began when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 and set up the first contemporary Islamic Republic anywhere in the world. Since that time Tehran has been the main source of exporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, for both the Shi’ias and the Sunnis.
That is why we believe that when we achieve regime change in Tehran, all these extremist Islamic groups will fade away. It is time we woke up to the fact that as long as the mullahs remain in power there will be no possibility of peace in the Middle East. The mullahs will always be the problem. They can never be part of the solution.
I wrote this book – ‘AUFOPFERUNG’ – about the Iranian opposition because I firmly believe that the only solution to the current crisis in the Middle East, the only way to counter the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, is to support the main democratic Iranian opposition in its fight against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Indeed the only serious and organized opposition to the mullahs happens to be a Muslim organisation; but its interpretation of Islam is 180 degrees opposite to the reactionary and medieval interpretation of Islam by the mullahs. I am talking about the PMOI. They are the antithesis to militant Islam.
The PMOI is part of a political coalition, called the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), headed by Maryam Rajavi who is based in Paris. Tehran fears and loathes the PMOI and in particular Mrs Rajavi, whom they recognize as their main opposition and the main threat to their faltering grip on power. The PMOI were the first Muslim movement who opposed Khomeini’s fatwa against the British writer Salman Rushdie. They strongly supported the peace process in the Middle East.
During the many years that I have worked closely with the PMOI and NCRI, I have found them to be a truly democratic force who want nothing for themselves. What they want and what they fight for is liberty and justice for 80 million Iranian citizens. They are a formidable asset. This book is a reflection of more than a decade of my life I have spent fighting for a free Iran.
Of course the Iranian regime is really paranoid about this opposition movement. Whenever Mrs Rajavi is invited to any parliaments in the EU, the regime and its lobbies go crazy and try to block such visits. Due to my support for the NCRI, I was under constant pressure not just from the Iranian embassy in Brussels, but also from officials in the EU and even from my own government. On several occasions the British foreign office sent people from London to Brussels to try to convince me to stop supporting the NCRI.
This key Iranian opposition movement is of course under a constant bombardment of misinformation by the mullah’s regime. Their hysterical reaction only serves to prove that the NCRI is perceived as the real and only persistent threat to this oppressive regime’s tenuous grip on power.
This is why I have strongly recommended to governments in Europe, including your own government here in Germany, that they should open dialogue with the NCRI, to benefit from their experience, knowledge and information. They have an extensive network inside Iran and a strong organization, which is why they have become the largest organized Iranian opposition movement. We shouldn’t waste further time on the failed policy of appeasement towards Iran. The lure of rich commercial contracts must never blind us to the repellent abuse of human rights that has become an endemic feature of the Iranian regime’s theocratic dictatorship.
I wish to conclude by expressing my deep joy at the successful transfer of all Camp Liberty residents to Europe, many of whom are now in Albania. I went to Albania in December and spent several days there speaking to many of them who are all in high spirits. I promised them that I would continue to fight for a free, democratic Iran.
Thank you very much.
Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is a lecturer on Middle East policy and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).