Paris hosts gathering of Iranian opposition

04 July 2014

AP

Leader: Maryam Rajavi waves to the audience in Paris last Friday

Leader: Maryam Rajavi waves to the audience in Paris last Friday

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.

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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 nuclear weaponry.

"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 Rouhani.

"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."

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