Speech by Struan Stevenson
Meeting with Young Iranian Community in Norway
Tuesday 4thApril 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters,
It is great being here in Oslo to see you. As you know we had a very good meeting in the Norwegian Parliament today. I was reminding them that as a Scot I am always conscious of the fact that when I visit the Scottish Shetland Islands, people tell me that their nearest railway station is Bergen in Norway! Indeed recent DNA surveys have discovered that almost half of all the people on Shetland have Viking ancestry and that also holds true right down the West coast of Scotland. With a name like Stevenson, I myself must have Viking ancestors, so when I come to Norway I always feel as if we share an ancient bond. It is a bond that may become even stronger when Scotland and the rest of the UK leave the EU.
But while I may have Viking ancestors, I celebrate the fact that now I also have a wider Persian family and that is why it is my privilege to be here this evening in Oslo to listen to you and learn from you, my brothers and sisters.
I used the opportunity of my visit to the Norwegian Parliament today to tell them about the dangerous and destructive role of the Iranian regime in the Middle East and the systematic violation of human rights across the zone that characterizes their aggressive attempts to spread Islamic fundamentalism. Together with the NCRI, I held a press conference in the House of Commons in London at the beginning of March, to mark the release of a comprehensive report detailing the belligerent activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and calling for their listing as international terrorists. Our report showed how the IRGC and the body responsible for extra-territorial operations - the Quds Force, are the main vehicles for Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the Middle East. The IRGC has for decades been carrying out terrorist attacks across the zone, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
Our report showed how the IRGC’s raison d'être is exclusively summed up in domestic suppression and interference in the affairs of other countries with the aim of expanding the Iranian regime's malign influence.
At our press conference we provided irrefutable evidence that the IRGC now controls 90 of Iran’s 202 docks and ports, utilizing them for the exclusive export of weapons and military personnel to zones of conflict in which the IRGC are engaged throughout the Middle East. This is an outrage and a crime against world peace.
Over the past six years the world has witnessed in horror how the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has massacred his own people, while enjoying unlimited financial and military support from Iran. It was the Iranian regime’s backing for Assad and for the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, two corrupt dictators who repressed their own people and particularly their Sunni communities that resulted in the rise of Daesh in the region.
Nouri al-Maliki is the Godfather of the gangster class of politicians in Iraq and he was shoehorned into power as Iraq’s puppet Prime Minister at the insistence of the Iranian regime and with the meek acquiescence of the Americans under the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement towards Iran. Maliki’s venal corruption and genocidal policy of aggression against Iraq’s Sunni population catapulted the country into civil war and opened the door for the invasion of Daesh and their subsequent seizure of vast tracts of Iraqi territory. So it was thanks to Tehran that Daesh grew and became a threat to the whole world, creating the largest refugee crisis in modern history.
The West should remember that it was the PMOI network inside Iran, at huge risk to their own lives, who first informed the world, way back in August 2002, about the mullahs’ 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 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.
But now the boot is on the other foot and we must demand the blacklisting of the IRGC as a first and necessary step in curbing Iranian atrocities. I am pleased to note that there are positive signals emerging from Washington that the US government may be about to take this step. It is necessary that the European countries including Norway should do likewise. Indeed they should not wait for a green light from Washington. They have more than enough evidence to justify taking this step themselves and showing the Iranian regime that the days of appeasement are over and that now we mean business.
Iran cannot be part of the solution to the conflicts raging in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. It is part of the problem. Iran exports terror. 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’, Rouhani is in charge of a venally corrupt government, which has executed over 3000 people since he took office in 2013. Many of the executions are carried out in public, even in football stadiums.
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. Such executions and repression just show how weak and unstable the mullahs are. Rouhani’s government, under the ultimate control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, condones torture and arbitrary imprisonment, discriminates against women and encourages public floggings, eye-gouging, amputations and hanging as a means of terrorizing its own population into docile submission.
Of course to this day one of the biggest targets for arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution in Iran is the PMOI. Supporters of the PMOI face a mandatory death sentence under the Iranian Constitution for ‘Waging War Against God!’ You all know about the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners mostly from the PMOI. The current Justice Minister of Rouhani’s government was one of the key executioners in Tehran during the 1988 massacre and now he says he is proud to have killed so many PMOI members.
I look forward to witnessing a new approach to Iran by the west. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High representative for Foreign Affairs & Security should stop her business-as-usual approach to Tehran. She should be shouting in anger and condemnation at the human rights abuse and repression against women that takes place in that country on a daily basis.
Norway has a long and honorable record as a defender of human rights. Indeed Norway is one of the largest contributors to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva and has been so for a number of years. As such, I believe that Norway, with its own proud history of resistance against aggressors, will readily recognize the legitimate resistance of the Iranian opposition against the tyrannical theocratic rule of the mullahs.
In the parliament today I said that I was aware of the great sympathy and support the people of Norway showed to the Iranian opposition leader, Maryam Rajavi, during her several visits to this country in recent years. Your empathy did not go unnoticed and I want to thank you sincerely for it.
Mrs Rajavi is a courageous and formidable leader of the main opposition movement. She is the outstanding symbol of anti-fundamentalism and her manifesto for freedom, justice, human rights, women’s rights, an end to torture and the death penalty and an end to the nuclear threat, is something that we should all unite around internationally. I know that Norway can provide leadership in this respect. I strongly recommend that the West should be entering into dialogue with the political coalition that is the NCRI, rather than pussyfooting around with the mullahs in Tehran.
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 around the world.
It is clear that the West’s policy of continuous engagement with the Iranian regime, while closing its eyes to human rights violations and the accelerated sponsorship of terrorism, is a policy that has failed. Indeed the Iranian regime’s strategy of aggressive expansionism has rapidly increased. It is equally clear that there can be no hope of reform within this theocratic dictatorship. The only solution for Iran and also for peace and stability in the region is regime change in Tehran.
Many of you attend the huge annual rally in Paris in July, when over 100,000 PMOI supporters are present to listen to Mrs Rajavi. Indeed I have met many of you there and hope to see you there again on 1stJuly this year. No other group or movement that I know of can organize such a major event and attract such a big crowd. It just shows how important your support is. PMOI supporters in the US and Europe have forced the regime onto the back foot again and again.
In the years I have been working closely with PMOI and NCRI, I have found them to be a truly democratic force. They don’t want anything for themselves. What they want and what they fight for is liberty and justice for 80 million Iranian citizens. 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 in the UK. 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, and the government here in Norway, that they should open dialogue with the NCRI, to benefit from their experience, knowledge and information.
I wrote this book – ‘SELF-SACRIFICE’ – 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.
Let me say a few words about the Ashrafis. As you all know, the Iranian resistance had a major victory recently when all PMOI members were transferred from Camp Liberty in Iraq to Europe. The vast majority of them are now in Albania. The mullahs wanted to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or make them surrender, so it was a terrific victory to see all of the remaining Ashrafis flown out to the Albanian capital Tirana. It must have enraged the mullahs. This is another example of the strength of the opposition and the weakness of the regime, because the mullahs were determined to kill and arrest many Liberty residents and they failed to do so, which demonstrates how fragile the regime has become.
The courage of Albania in rescuing the PMOI residents from Camp Liberty, against a backlash of fury from Tehran, should be a lesson to us all. I went to Albania in December and spent several days there and saw many of them who are all in high spirits. I have promised them to continue to fight for a free, democratic Iran.
I was delighted to hear that Mrs Rajavi went to Albania recently and held several big meetings there and also took part in the Iranian New Year – ‘Nowroz’ celebrations. I think this must have driven the mullahs crazy. I was also told that the event in Albania on 20 March was shown live on satellite TV and had a huge impact inside Iran.
In this big family of the Iranian democratic resistance, whenever we have stood firm, whenever we have joined forces and have been prepared to pay the price, we have managed to open up our way forward and brush aside the obstacles. The great international campaign to remove the PMOI from various terrorist black lists was a case in point where the Iranian opposition and its supporters stood firm and with the friendship of many parliamentarians in Europe and members of congress in the USA, we managed to de-list the PMOI from those international terrorist lists.
So because of your efforts we have managed to achieve these great victories. In the beginning, Western governments were not on our side and in many cases they collaborated with the Ayatollahs against us, but with your steadfast support we managed to win them over. This is power. This is the power of the resistance, a huge power. Now that the residents of Camp Liberty are out of Iraq and safe, we can turn all of our attention and focus all of our energy on regime change in Iran.
I would like to thank all of you and all your friends and families, from the bottom of my heart, for your constant, unflagging support over the years. The reality is that the PMOI and NCRI have always relied on their own Iranian supporters and thousands of US and European citizens who have contributed to the movement. Every dollar, pound, euro or kroner 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.
You, my brothers and sisters in this big family of the Iranian resistance, all of you who have stood side by side with this opposition movement, you have broken the mould. Although you were unjustly put on various black lists, although many of you pay a heavy price in your personal lives, nevertheless you are running this huge movement with the help of the people…..people inside Iran, the Iranian diaspora outside Iran as well as tens of thousands of people in the western democracies. This is quite unique. This is due to your brave and competent leadership and to your faith and commitment.
I would especially like to encourage the younger generation to allocate more time and energy to the PMOI. The resistance members, many now in Albania, and the rest in Europe or other parts of the world, should be your role models as they have sacrificed many things for freedom in Iran. Many of them have had to depart from their families and loved ones and give up lives of relative prosperity and success to support the cause. This is of course a personal choice for each individual. That is why all PMOI members, without exception, are volunteers. Nobody forces anybody to be part of this resistance movement. Every member made that personal choice to fight for freedom and to fight for the overthrow of the religious dictatorship in Iran.
You may know that I have worked closely with the PMOI during the past 15-16 years. I know many of them personally. They are people who had everything, the best education, the best opportunities for having a decent and prosperous life…but every one of them, when they were mostly around your age, in their 20s, made a choice. They made a choice to make this self-sacrifice, which is why I named my book on the Iranian Mojahedin – ‘SELF-SACRIFICE’!
My dear brothers and sisters, do not forget that this is a very weak and rotten regime. It is teetering on the edge of a cliff. It is our job to give it a final push. As Mrs Rajavi has said We Can and We Must overthrow it. That is why I urge you not to miss this great opportunity to share in the commitment of overthrowing the mullahs and defeating Islamic fundamentalism, which is now one of the main threats to humanity. I urge you to be in that vanguard when we march victoriously into Tehran.
To conclude I wish to say that in all these years that I have been in politics, I have never seen any resistance movement, or indeed any political party, to be so committed to its principles and be prepared to make such self-sacrifices for the noble cause of freedom.
I am certain that the Iranian regime’s days are numbered. Freedom and justice for the people of Iran is coming and it will come soon. When it does so, I will be proud to remind my children and grandchildren that ‘I AM AN ASHRAFI.’
Thank you very much. TAKK SKAL DU HA.
Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004-2014.