International Liberty Association
Westbourne Grove Church, Westbourne Grove,
Notting Hill, London, W11 2RW
Saturday 30 July
3:00 to 7:30 pm
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Thank you so much for coming to this event today. It is a privilege for me to have been invited to London to address you.
I was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq during my final 5-year mandate. That meant I was able to visit Iraq and the Middle East and see for myself the abject failure of the West’s policy of appeasement in respect of the Iranian mullahs and their marionettes in Iraq. I was able to learn at first hand about the Iraqi government’s repeated attempts to annihilate the defenceless PMOI refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, under the guidance of the Iranian regime, while the US, UN and EU stood back apathetically and watched, in a classic act of betrayal. I will say more about Camp Liberty later.
I also chaired an important cross-party group in the European Parliament for over 10 years called the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup, which became the centre of European activities for democracy in Iran. This group played a big part in changing the attitude of the European Union towards the Iranian opposition and we also began a campaign to put pressure on the British & European courts and the US State Department to de-list the PMOI-MEK when they were shamefully and unlawfully listed as terrorists.
We are still spellbound by Iran. We are still pursuing the failed policy of appeasement of the mullahs. President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was pushed through to secure his footnote in history.
He swept aside all warnings and fears and signed an agreement that effectively ended sanctions on the Iranian regime and released $150 billion of frozen assets, providing a windfall for a government that was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. But far from investing in its own people, the fascist mullah-led regime has used this money to re-double its spending on weapons and on exporting terror through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Qods (The Arabic name for Jerusalem) Force, both of which are listed terrorist organisations in the West and both of which are involved in almost every conflict in the Middle East. The IRGC and the Qods Force supply arms, money and military personnel to every Middle East conflict zone.
The Iranians are already in breach of the nuclear deal. In March they test-fired two Qadr-H missiles in open defiance of a UN Security Council resolution tied to the agreement. The missiles were chillingly marked with the phrase: ‘Israel must be wiped out’and the test firing took place provocatively on the same day that the US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Now Putin, in a further two-fingered gesture to the West, has sent the first shipment of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran.
Iran’s main export, now that sanctions have been lifted following Obama’s nuclear deal, will not be oil. Its main export is and always will be terror. As well as Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Iran funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the brutal Shi’ite militias in Iraq. This is the real Iran under the theocratic and fascist rule of the mullahs, 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 over 2,500 people since he took office in 2013.
Rouhani’s government, under the ultimate control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, condones torture and arbitrary imprisonment, discriminates against women and encourages public floggings, amputations, eye-gouging, stoning to death and hanging as a means of terrorizing its own population into docile submission.
Of course one of the biggest targets for arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution in Iran is the PMOI or MEK. Over 30,000 of them were summarily executed on the direct orders of Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s in a pogrom of such ferocity that it shook Iran. Nevertheless, it caused barely a stir of criticism in the West. Today, supporters of the PMOI face a mandatory death sentence under the Iranian Constitution for ‘Waging War Against God!’ In fact the PMOI is the only movement that Ayatollah Khomeini ever issued a fatwa against, effectively giving a green light for their members and supporters to be assassinated without any need to go to a court.
Tehran fears and loathes the PMOI and in particular Mrs Rajavi, whom they recognize as their main opposition and their main threat to power. When Mrs Rajavi talks about restoring freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, an end to torture and the death penalty and the eradication of nuclear weapons, it sends shivers down the spine of the turbaned tyrants in Tehran. Oppression and fear are the mainstays of their regime. In fact when Rouhani visited Paris in January this year, we organised a huge protest rally and march with over 5,000 participants, denouncing him as a murdering despot. The regime was so embarrassed that he cancelled a proposed visit to Austria in March. Many of you also perhaps attended the huge annual rally in Paris in July, when over 100,000 PMOI supporters were present. It just shows how important your support is. PMOI supporters in Europe have forced the regime onto the back foot again and again and, as we saw in Austria and even forced them to re-think their relationship with the EU.
But why is it that the West always seems to back the wrong side in the Middle East? Despite repeated warnings, the UN, US and EU backed Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister in Iraq for 8 disastrous years. He was a puppet of the fascist Iranian regime, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the murderous Assad regime. Maliki’s policy of genocide against his own Iraqi Sunni population, aided and abetted by the Iranian mullahs, started a civil war that opened the door for Daesh/ISIS. Maliki also became a serial thief, systematically robbing the Iraqi people of their oil wealth. The Iraqi Commission of Integrity told the Iraqi Parliament last year that Maliki stole a staggering $500 billion during his term in office between 2006 and 2014. This was corruption on an industrial scale and according to Transparency International, Iraq is now considered as the third most corrupt country in the world.
And yet the West insisted Maliki should remain as Prime minister, because he was the favoured candidate of the mullahs in Tehran and the UN, US and EU couldn’t contemplate doing anything that might upset the mullahs! Sadly, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Middle East and the world are now paying a heavy price for this grave error. 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 the solution.
Obama’s failure to back the Syrian opposition has allowed the bloody civil war in that country to rage on for almost six years, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and sparking the huge migration crisis in Europe. Indeed US policy (or the lack of it) in Syria has bolstered the Iranian regime’s support for Bashar al-Assad and has allowed Vladimir Putin to flex his Middle East muscles in direct confrontation with the West, pouring petrol on the flames of conflict. The West should back the Syrian opposition and they should back Mrs Rajavi and the PMOI if they really want to bring peace to the Middle East.
The West should remember that it was PMOI supporters inside Iran, at huge risk to their own lives, who first informed the world, way back in 2002, about the mullah’s secret nuclear programme. Western intelligence agencies had simply failed to uncover this conspiracy.
And yet, rather than rewarding the PMOI for this information, the US, UK and EU fought tooth and nail to keep them on their international terrorist blacklists, where they had been placed at the direct request of the mullahs, based on trumped-up and farcical charges dreamed up by Tehran. This was appeasement policy at its worst and it took us many years of difficult, complex and expensive court battles in Washington, London, Paris and Luxembourg to have the terror tags removed. If Mr Obama really wants a strong historical legacy, he should have the courage now to confront the mullahs and to give his outright backing to the PMOI before he demits office.
Allow me now to say a few words about our courageous PMOI brothers and sisters trapped in Camp Liberty near Baghdad Airport. During his first 20 months in office as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi has had one clear opportunity after another to display his humanitarian principles and show the world that he could act outwith the control of Tehran. He could have provided full protection for the 1500 Iranian refugees still incarcerated in Camp Liberty. He could have cooperated with Western efforts to have these people airlifted to countries of safety. Instead, because Tehran wishes to annihilate these unarmed civilians whom they regard as the key focus of opposition to their fascist regime, Abadi repeatedly takes no action to improve security and accelerate the relocation process.
For example he did not allow the residents to sell their property that they were forced to leave behind in Ashraf. Indeed the Iraqi regime has looted all of the property at Ashraf and is now using the camp as a military base. There has been no attempt to compensate the PMOI for this property valued at more than $550 million dollars.
Since the American occupying forces transferred control and jurisdiction for the residents of Ashraf to the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki seven years ago, there has been a constant state of intense siege imposed by the Iraqi government, which continues to this day. This siege involves the complete imprisonment of the residents of Camp Liberty in a small compound vulnerable to repeated rocket attacks. The residents have suffered a sporadic blockade against fuel, food and essential equipment and a determined resistance by the Iraqi authorities against the provision of protective concrete T-walls inside the camp. In addition a medical blockade of the camp has cost many lives and much suffering and there has been constant psychological torture involving bogus ‘family members’ from Iran, who have been allowed to penetrate the security perimeter and shout abuse and threats at the residents through loudspeakers, while carrying out reconnaissance missions to prepare for further rocket attacks.
These serial violations of the basic human rights of the civilian residents of Camp Liberty have been ignored by the UN, despite the fact that over the past seven years 141 residents have been killed in a series of well-planned massacres, 27 have lost their lives due to the medical siege, 1,400 have been injured in the numerous attacks and 7 residents abducted during the brutal massacre in Camp Ashraf on 1stSeptember 2013 have simply disappeared without trace. Notwithstanding this catalogue of abuse, Liberty has still not been recognized as a refugee camp and the Iraqi government continues to impose an intense siege, callously blocking fuel supplies and medicines for three weeks during Ramadan, when temperatures soared to over 50 degrees centigrade.
Indeed the Iraqi government officials in charge of the camp are the same individuals who played major roles in the massacres against these refugees in Camp Ashraf. Liberty has been the target of numerous rocket barrages.
This has continued under Abadi with the latest such attacks on 29 October last year, involving 80 massive rockets fired at Liberty leaving 24 residents dead and again on 4thJuly this year when a barrage of rockets exploded around a section of the camp that luckily was unoccupied at the time. There is no way such sophisticated attacks, using Iranian-made missiles, could be mounted without the active collusion of the Iraqi government and their Iranian sponsors.
Only tiny Albania has been prepared to stick its head above the parapet, providing a safe haven now for over one thousand PMOI refugees. The Albanians suffered years of oppression under the Communists and they know what it is like to fight for freedom and democracy. Their courage in rescuing PMOI residents from Camp Liberty, against a backlash of fury from Tehran, should be a lesson to us all. But all of the expenses associated with these transfers and with their subsequent living-costs in Albania, have to be met by the PMOI. In fact the PMOI and NCRI have given a signed commitment to the government of Albania that they will pay for all expenses including travelling, flights, living costs and medical care. This is understandable since Albania is a very poor country, but it is unacceptable that the USA and EU contribute so little to this project and do not even put pressure on Iraq to pay compensation for the properties left behind in Ashraf, or for the personal goods confiscated from every batch of refugees before they are allowed to fly to Albania.
As far as the mullahs are concerned they want to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or they want to make them give up and surrender. The US and the West also prefer just to sit on the sidelines and never commit themselves to any responsibility. So it is only because of your efforts and your support that we have managed to save most of the people in Ashraf and Liberty and I hope that by the end of this year or early next year at the latest we may finally have airlifted the last of the refugees from Camp Liberty to countries of safety.
The reality is that the PMOI has always relied on its own Iranian supporters and thousands of European and US citizens who have contributed to this movement. Every penny that’s been raised, every signature that’s been placed on a petition of support, has been a help and contribution for peace and freedom, not just in Iran, but for the whole world. For decades, Iran has systematically jailed, tortured, and executed dissidents without due process of law and assassinated political opponents, even outside its state borders. But I am absolutely confident that if it were not for this resistance movement, the political situation in the region and in Iran would have been much worse and the Iranian regime would have been able to commit even more crimes in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have long been impressed by the dedication and self-sacrifice of the PMOI’s supporters. They seek nothing for themselves. Their only goal is to restore freedom for the 70 million Iranians imprisoned by the world’s most brutal and ruthless regime. The mullah’s fear of the PMOI and Mrs Rajavi demonstrates the extent of support that the main opposition enjoys even within that beleaguered nation. I long for the day when the sunshine of freedom will shine once more on the people of Iran. Only Mrs Rajavi and the PMOI can lead the people of Iran towards that sunshine and towards the freedom that they so richly deserve.And it is through your support that we will make this happen. Thank you so much.
Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He chaired the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) in the European Parliament for over 10 years. He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).