Lecture by Struan Stevenson- Introducing book ‘Le Prix de la Liberté’
L’Universite Jean Moulin, Lyon
Wednesday 1st February 2017
It is a great privilege for me to be here this evening in Lyon to address you and to launch the French version of my book ‘Le Prix de la Liberté’.
Before explaining about the book I should say that as President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), I am acutely aware of the dangerous and destructive role 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 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 pushed towards being recruited by 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.
The nuclear deal we signed with Iran led to the release of $150 billion of frozen assets, providing a windfall for the Tehran government, which was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. But far from investing in its own beleaguered people, the regime used this money to redouble its spending on exporting terror through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force, both of which are listed terrorist organizations in the West and are involved in almost every conflict in the Middle East. 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.
Under the guise of ousting Daesh, the pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias in Iraq are engaged in a genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing aimed at the annihilation of the Sunnis in Iraq's al-Anbar Province. Horrific sectarian atrocities were committed during the so-called "liberation" of the ancient cities of Fallujah and Ramadi and the same thing is now happening in Mosul. The same thing has also happened in Syria, where more than 70,000 Iranian troops are involved in propping up Bashar al-Assad’s bloodstained regime, dragging the civil war into its seventh year, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and the migration crisis in Europe. Indeed Iranian involvement in Syria has become the only obstacle to a ceasefire signed by Turkey, Russia and the Syrian opposition. The Western Coalition does not need the Iranian regime and its brutal affiliated militias to defeat Daesh. Only the expulsion of the IRGC from Syria and Iraq will ever secure peace.
It is a mistake to imagine that only Sunni extremism is a threat. Shi’ia extremism is just as dangerous and brutal. The source of Islamic fundamentalism and the grotesque distortion of Islam for political ends began with Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 when he set up the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore to say that one should make an alliance with Iran to fight Daesh is wrong both in theory and in practice. It is like trying to extinguish a fire by pouring petrol on it. Such a move will escalate the sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria and make the situation uncontrollable.
The real Iran is a theocratic state under the 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 nearly 3,000 people since he took office in 2013. Dozens of executions have already taken place this year. Mass hangings are now the order of the day. Many are carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Per capita, Iran is the number one state-executioner in the world.
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.
Despite the wishful thinking of some people in the West, the nuclear deal has not resulted to any opening in society because what we have in Iran is a theocratic dictatorship. Any relaxation of their oppressive laws would result in a crack in the system, a fracturing of the atmosphere of fear and terror. It was the great American statesman and Francophile Thomas Jefferson who said: “When the people fear the government there is tyranny. When the government fears the people there is liberty.” In Iran there is tyranny.
I wrote this book on 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, as the antithesis to militant Islam.
In these circumstances, the only serious and organized opposition to the mullahs happens to a be Muslim organisation; but it’s interpretation of Islam is 180 degrees opposite to the reactionary and medieval interpretation of Islam by the mullahs. I am talking about the PMOI. Of course I strongly suggest you read my book, because in the short time today, it is impossible to really very much.
But briefly I can say that the PMOI was formed by 3 University students, 51 years ago; they met in secret in a small room in Tehran, during the corrupt dictatorship of the Shah, who subsequently executed nearly all of their leaders and jailed the rest.
After the fall of the Shah, the PMOI began their political activities against Khomeini. Their interpretation of Islam as a tolerant religion, advocating women’s rights and the separation of religion and state, attracted many people, especially young people and women. Two years after the fall of the Shah, the PMOI became the biggest political party in the history of Iran. So Ayatollah Khomeini, the ruthless and murderous founder of the Islamic Republic, began a bloody massacre of PMOI supporters. Up to this day over 120,000 political prisoners have been executed, including over 30,000 in the summer of 1988 alone. Supporters of the PMOI face a mandatory death sentence under the Iranian Constitution for ‘Waging War Against God!’
Tehran fears and loathes the PMOI and in particular the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, who lives here in France, whom they recognize as their main opposition and the main threat to their faltering grip on power. When Mrs Rajavi, as a Muslim woman, 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.
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.
Today the Islamic fundamentalism is a big threat to us in Europe, as we have witnessed sadly in France. But I wanted to ask you to look at it rather deeper. In fact what we call Islamic Fundamentalism today, really began when Ayatollah Khomeini, came to power in 1979 and set up the first Islamic Republic in the world in recent history; and since then Tehran has been the main source of exporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, for both Shi’ias and Sunnis. Tehran’s role in supporting Islamic extremism and providing inspiration as well as logistics for them is similar to the role that Moscow played during the spread of communism. There were many different communist and Marxist parties in the world with a lot of internal ideological differences.
But Moscow played a vital role for them all as a source of inspiration and guidance. As soon as the Soviet Union crumbled and Moscow lost that central role, many of these communist groups simply vanished.
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 have worked closely with the Iranian opposition for around 15 years. I have had numerous meetings with their leadership, met literally thousands of their members and supporters and I have found them to be a truly democratic force, who don’t want anything for themselves. What they want and what they fight for is liberty and justice for 80 million Iranian citizens. They are a formidable asset.
Unfortunately Western governments have closed their eyes to the human rights violations in Iran and have pinned their hopes on some factions within the regime. At the same time, instead of supporting the opposition, Western governments have acted as obstacles for the Iranian opposition because of their economic aspirations and business deals with Tehran.
But as an elected European politician, it was always my belief that we need to represent and defend European values and not just commercial interests. That is why I wrote this book ‘Le Prix de la Liberté’ and that is why we must fight for regime change in Iran to restore freedom and justice for 80 million beleaguered Iranians.
Thank you very much.
Struan Stevenson 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. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).