Over 100,000 Iranian dissidents, members of the Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), gathered in Paris on Saturday to call for regime change in Iran and to denounce the clerics who currently rule the country. The dissidents hailed from across Europe, and the world. Besides the dissidents, numerous luminaries, including high-ranking American politicians and U.N. bureaucrats, attended and spoke at the rally. Prince Turki bin Failsal Al Saud, the former director of Saudi Arabia's Intelligence Agency, also spoke to the crowd.
American speakers crossed partisan lines with former chair of the U.S. Democratic Party Howard Dean in attendance, and Linda Chavez, a prominent Republican who served in the Reagan administration, serving as Master of Ceremony.
Arguably the biggest development, however, was Prince Turki's speech. Up until now, Saudi Arabia has not worked with the MEK in any official capacity, and while the Prince's speech doesn't mark a formal alliance, his flowing speech still marked a signification milestone.
The Prince denounced the Iranian regime for its brutal treatment of the first and foremost victims of the Iranian people, stating, “Khomeinism have been the Iranian people themselves – not only the political activists opposed to his all-encompassing, authoritarian and totalitarian ideology”. The Prince further extolled the gathered activists for their continued resistance against the Iranian regime.
The loudest cheers and most fervent standing ovation, however, were reserved for Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and a leading figure within the Iranian diaspora. Mrs. Rajavi, along with her husband Massoud Rajavi, are the two most prominent leaders of the Mujahideen-e Khalq.
MEK's battle against Iranian regime long and arduous
The MEK currently represents perhaps the largest and most organized community within the Iranian diaspora. Following harsh crackdowns in the 1980's, which saw tens of thousands of MEK members and supporters arrested, and in many cases executed, the group was forced to flee abroad. Many ended up in France, including Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is the political arm of the MEK.
Many other members of the MEK fled to Iraq, unable to find asylum in Western countries. As the old saying goes, “enemy of my enemy is my friend,” with Saddam Hussein agreeing to host the MEK due to their opposition of the Iranian theocracy. The MEK established a military base, Camp Ashraf, and continued their struggle against the Iranian theocracy.
When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the MEK agreed to disarm, having already renounced violence in 2001. The once armed resistance group has now shifted towards a human rights focused organization, centering on its “Ten Points” plan. Among other things, the plan calls for universal suffrage and free voting, the abolition of the death penalty, and complete gender equality.
On eve of rally, Iran pushes forward with missile development
The rally took place as the Iranian government announced that it is pressing forward “with full force” to develop its missile program. While Iran has signed a nuclear accord with global powers to curb its suspected nuclear ambitions, development on traditional weapons continues unimpeded. Such technologies were not subject to the nuclear accord.
Iran's continued efforts to develop missile weaponry has drawn criticism from leaders around the world. Angela Merkel denounced Iran after the United Nations released a report criticizing Iran for recent missile launches, claiming that the launches were inconsistent with the spirit of agreements. Iran has rejected the report as unrealistic. #Foreign Policy #Foreign Affairs