AN OVERTURE preceded the arrival of the leader of the opposition
in Iran, Maryam Rajavi, on the stage of Paris Nord Villepinte, an
exhibition centre in Paris, last Friday.
From the ceiling hung golden lions bearing sabres - the symbol
erased from the Iranian national flag after the revolution of 1979.
The front rows were filled with dignitaries from 69 countries,
journalists, and activists.
Mrs Rajavi is the President-elect of the National Council of
Resistance of Iran, the parliament-in-exile of the Iranian
Resistance. It is a coalition of five opposition groups, of which
the largest is the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI), which helped
to overthrow the Shah in 1979, before falling out with Ayatollah
Khomeini and being forced into exile.
Mrs Rajavi is convinced that the Ayatollah's regime is on the
brink of collapse. "The most dangerous crisis engulfing the
regime", she said, "is popular outrage, and the readiness of the
Iranian people to overthrow this brutal regime."
Fury, as much as hope, emerged as the dominant emotion. To the
left of the stage were portraits of the 52 residents of Camp Ashraf
- the former home of exiled PMOI members in Iraq - shot dead in
September last year (News, 13 September).
Among the 52 were young Iranians who grew up in Camp Ashraf, and
decided to return, after being evacuated to Western countries
during the first Gulf War.
Dr Masumeh Bolurchi's son, Rahman, was 33 when he was shot in
September, after returning to Ashraf from Germany. "He told me, 'I
have many opportunities, all the things I want . . . but the
Iranian people have not,'" Dr Bolurchi told me. "But I know that
this is the price of democracy and freedom in Iran."
Shahzrad also lost her son in September. She showed me photos of
him and his twin brother growing up in Ashraf; then another photo
of him, handcuffed, face down, executed. "He was 29," she said.
The brutality of the Iranian regime, and the violence meted out
to the opposition, has produced a thirst for justice. It erupted
regularly during the speeches delivered by a large delegation of
Americans present, many of them Republicans who served under Ronald
Reagan or George W. Bush, although Democrats were also in
attendance. Fox News was filming the entire event. They have found
common cause with Mrs Rajavi's movement: the wickedness of the
Iranian regime, and the insistence that it must never acquire
"Never give up on the principle of regime change in Iran,
because ultimately it is the only solution," Rudy Giuliani, the
former mayor of New York City, shouted. Looming in the background
of the gathering was the civil unrest in Iraq. But while the
Western media speculates that it may nudge the United States into
an alliance with the Iranian regime, the Iranian opposition insists
that it is a popular uprising and another death knell for President
"The 11-year investment of the mullahs' regime in Iraq has
evaporated," Mrs Rajavi said. "Hail to the martyrs and to all those
who stand their ground."