Speech by Struan Stevenson
Meetings with Iranian communities in Germany
Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart
Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters,
It is great being here in Germany to see you. As you probably know, I had a very good meeting in the Bundestag on 15thFebruary this year and then went on to meet with a large group of our supporters in Berlin when I visited your very nice office, which is apparently also called the “White House! “
I have been to Germany many times. But one of my most interesting visits was when we were fighting the terrorist listing of the PMOI.
I told this tale to your colleagues in Berlin in February, but I think I should tell you too, because it was such a memorable day for me.
We had organized a big rally in Paris but the French government, under pressure from the mullahs, cancelled it. Then it was moved to Berlin and scheduled to take place on 10thFebruary 2005, but on that same day it was also cancelled in Berlin. By that time thousands of supporters had travelled to the city for the rally. So I made my speech with a megaphone standing on a mound in front of a restaurant owned by Mansoor Vojood, that you all know is a PMOI activist in Berlin. We were surrounded by fully armed riot police and with helicopters circling overhead. We also held a press conference in protest inside Mansoor’s restaurant! We were near the end of the press conference when we heard that a German court had ruled in favour of the PMOI and we were given permission to have our demonstration after all, so we marched to the Brandenburg Gate and held a big rally there under heavy rain! That was an unforgettable experience.
Two weeks ago I addressed a meeting in the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo. I used the opportunity 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. I reminded the Norwegians that 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.
Over the past six years the world has witnessed in horror how the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has massacred his own people, even using chemical weapons like Sarin gas, while enjoying unlimited financial and military support from Iranand air cover from the Russians. President Hassan Rouhani’s hysterical reaction to the US missile attack exposed just how frightened the theocratic regime has become. Rouhani’s threat to join Vladimir Putin in using force against Donald Trump if he dares to cross their ‘red lines’ again is a complete joke, when you consider that Iran has committed 70,000 frontline troops to the Syrian civil-war. The regime is careful to send Afghan refugees who have sought sanctuary in Iran, to die on the Syrian battlefields as cannon-fodder. Their widows are then offered full Iranian citizenship and a meagre pension by way of compensation.
Iran is pumping billions of dollars in weapons and military resources into Syria in its effort to prop up the blood-soaked regime of Bashar al-Assad. There is no doubt that Iran and Russia were well aware of the Sarin gas attack on defenceless men, women and children. The Pentagon knows that a Russian drone flew over Khan Sheikhoun shortly before a plane dropped the Sarin bomb. They know that both Iran and Russia have helped coordinate previous chlorine gas and barrel-bomb attacks by the Assad regime on the Syrian civilian population. Indeed Putin’s bellicose threats must also raise a wry smile, when wave after wave of Russian warplanes have bombed Syrian cities into dust for the past 18 months, killing thousands of innocent people. For Rouhani and Putin to claim that “aggressive” US actions against Syria are not permissible and violate international law, is risible.
The IRGC is behind most of the brutal Shi’ite militias rampaging through the predominantly Sunni provinces of Iraq,massacring families and levelling cities like Ramadi, Fallujah and now Mosul in the name of the war against Daesh (ISIS). The Iranian regime's violence and crimes in other countries in the region and in particular its suppression of Sunnis, carried out under the banner of Shi’ite Islam, is what provoked the original backlash that in turn spawned the birth of groups like Daesh who seek to establish an “Islamic Caliphate” while spreading their violence and brutality to the four corners of the globe. It is a great irony that Iran has exploited the campaign against Daesh as an opportunity to carry out their genocidal crusade against the Sunnis, at the same time fooling the West into regarding the theocratic regime as an ally, even coaxing the US into providing vital air support.
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 and which is behind every conflict in the Middle East.
President Trump’s decision to attack the Syrian airbase has marked a clear turning point in relations with the Iranian regime. We trust that America will no longer be prepared to close its eyes to human rights violations and the accelerated sponsorship of terrorism that are the hallmarks of this evil regime. Wrenching Putin away from Assad will be the first necessary step in bringing the Syrian conflict to an end. America should then turn its attention to blacklisting the IRGC as an international terrorist organization. Such decisive steps, in the wake of President Trump’s willingness to launch a barrage of cruise missiles against the Syrian regime, will provide an adequate response to threats from the mullahs and their Russian allies and a warning to aggressors that the days of hand-wringing appeasement are over.
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 EU should do likewise. Indeed they should not wait for a green light from Washington. We have more than enough evidence to justify taking this step ourselves, showing the Iranian regime that the days of appeasement are over and that now we mean business.
We have to stop the constant abuse of human rights in Iran. Quite apart from the daily torture and executions, many journalists and human rights activists are in jail. Women campaigners 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.
One of the clearest ways to signal a new approach to the Iranian regime would be by inviting Mrs Rajavi to address a meeting in the Bundestag. Maryam 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 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. These annual events have greatly contributed to the progress of the resistance against the mullahs and we all should do our best to make sure that this year’s gathering in Paris on 1stJuly will be even better than last year, especially now that all the Ashrafis have moved to Albania. The importance of this year’s gathering is to underline and share our common goal, which is the overthrow of the religious dictatorship in Iran.
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.
I remember back in 2006, when we were trying to organise a meeting for Mrs Rajavi in the ruling-EPP group (Christian Democrats and Conservatives) in the European Parliament. At that time I was vice-president of the EPP. Suddenly the Iranian regime, which was negotiating with Solana in Tehran, mobilized all the European leaders to prevent Mrs Rajavi from coming to the Parliament. Several European prime ministers and foreign ministers began calling the EPP group’s President – Hans-Gert Poettering, urging him to cancel the visit. The regime was helped by their lobby in the parliament including the German Greens who have always tried to assist the mullahs. But we defeated all those conspiracies and held a very successful meeting on the 12thDecember 2006, which happened to be the same day that the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of de-listing the PMOI from the terrorist black list. That day was a big defeat for the mullahs and a huge victory for us.
But the point I am trying to highlight is that the hysterical reaction of the Iranian regime only serves to prove that the NCRI is perceived by them as the real and only persistent threat to their tenuous grip on power. This is why I have strongly recommended to governments in Europe that they should open dialogue with the NCRI, to benefit from their experience, knowledge and information.
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.
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.
We should remember that all our activities in Europe or the USA, the many meetings and rallies, worked like a political shield for our Ashrafi brothers and sisters. If we had stayed quiet during the last decade, I have no doubt that the mullahs could have managed to eliminate the PMOI members in Iraq. Your activities in different countries and our activities in the European Parliament and other parliaments, along with the resistance of the Ashrafis themselves and especially the brave leadership of Mrs Rajavi, were the main reasons for this victory.
I went to Albania in December and spent several days there and saw many of of our brothers and sisters, 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.
It was also great news that on the 14thApril Senator John McCain went to Albania to visit the resistance members and to meet Mrs Rajavi. This was a major political victory for the Iranian resistance, considering the great influence and the good name and credibility of Senator McCain in the USA amongst both Republicans and Democrats. Immediately the Iranian regime’s media wet mad and began a massive misinformation campaign. Again the regime’s reaction to our activities proves that the PMOI and NCRI are the main threat to their teetering grip on power.
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 actively 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 or euro that’s been raised, every signature that’s been placed on a petition of support, every little standing picket or big rally, every book stall in the city centre, 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 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’ (AUFOPFERUNG)!
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 Mustoverthrow 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. Wielen dank.
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.