It is the world's largest gathering of those who advocate freedom and democracy in Iran. A mass "Free Iran" rally is being held in the French capital, Paris, on July 9. The event attracted more than 100,000 people who come together from around the world in order to make their voice heard, and in hopes of freeing and liberating their homeland. They rallied and demanded a regime change in Iran, advocated for a democratic, non-extremist, pluralistic, and non-fundamentalist government. More than twenty Nobel laureates have declared their support for the "Free Iran" gathering.
The size, resources, and influence of this oppositional group shows that this is the movement that politicians, leaders, republicans, and democrats can join and support, if they are looking for the Iranian government turn into a rational and moderate state, by the Iranian themselves.
Former White House Director of Public Liaison Linda Chavez opened the Grand Iranian Gathering and said, "Let's honor and commend the bravery and dedication of Camp Liberty residents. We all know that Camp Liberty came under heavy missile attacks on July 4th, which left vast destruction and dozens of injuries. The Mullahs perpetrating this attack showed that what threatens them the most and what are they afraid of the most. Therefore let's make it clear to the mullahs that nothing can and would prevent the Iranian Resistance from forging ahead for democracy and freedom in Iran." U.S. Sen. John Boozman, addressing his 'friends' pointed out that he was 'disturbed' by the incresaing number of human rights violations in Iran.
Chairman of the Board of the King Faisal Center for Research And Islamic Studies Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal stated "In the pre-Islamic world, the Persian Sassanian Empire extended from Turkey and Egypt in the west to the Indian subcontinent in the east; it was a cultural and political force rivaling that of ancient China, India, or Rome. The Sassanians were envied by the Romans for their advanced military technology, Sassanian artists and musicians were welcomed by the royal courts of ancient China, and the Sassanian government was widely praised for its humane and effective style of rule. The Persians of the ancient world could even lay claim to one of the world's first monotheistic religions: Zoroastrianism, a faith based on the teachings of Zoroaster, who lived over 3,000 years ago," and he added that "And you, Maryam Rajavi, your endeavor to rid your people of the Khomeinist cancer is an historic epic that, like the Shanameh, will remain inscribed the annals of History."
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the parent coalition of the opposition People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), has planned this rally that is normally preceded by round-table events.
Every year, the NCRI gathers the opposition and supporters of freedom and democracy in Iran. More than 100,000 Iranian expatriates attended the rally last year. The annual event attracts hundreds of prominent international personalities, many high-level politicians, political leaders, military officials, religious leaders, and former diplomats from around the world. This year high-profile American figures- such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former ambassadors to the United Nations John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, to name a few- have confirmed their attendance for the Free Iran rally. The number of officials endorsing and attending the NCRI's rally appears to increase every year.
The United States Congressman, Brad Sherman, veteran of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, emphasized the significance of the Free Iran rally and he congratulated the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) for "the critical role it played in exposing the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons program." Patrizia Toia, a Member of the European Parliament from Italy, declared that she desires to "encourage everyone to join the event in Paris of 9th of July."
Free Iran: The Significance, Purpose, and Aspirations
For many, the significance of such event is that there exists a powerful and organized institution (NCRI/PMOI), holding the largest number of Iranian oppositions connected with people inside Iran, that can be a critical platform for facilitating a fundamental change in the Iranian government and its political establishment by the Iranian people themselves, and without the need for foreign or military intervention.
Maryam Rajavi is the president-elect of the NCRI and PMOI. The US Congressman, Brad Sherman commended Rajavi, for her "advocacy of democracy, human and women's rights in Iran."
Maryam Rajavi stated that the participants of the Paris convention represent the voice of millions of oppressed Iranians who long from freedom and democracy and expect the next U.S. President as well as other western leaders to stand with the Iranian people and stop appeasing the Tehran regime. She added that the international community must adopt a firm policy, which would have as its components the condemnation of the regime's human rights violation and its export of terrorism.
In addition, the organizers of Free Iran rally advocate these kinds of protests give voice to those people who are suffering in the Islamic Republic.
The objectives of Free Iran rally are anchored in several themes as well. Firstly, many of the protesters emphasize and provide a clear understanding that the nuclear agreement - known as JCPOA- has not made Iran less repressive regionally and domestically, and that President Obama's message of Iranian moderation is inaccurate. They oppose the US appeasement policy towards the Islamic Republic, and contend that the nuclear agreement is encouraging Iran's aggressive and destabilizing behavior.
On a domestic level, the rate of execution has reached an unprecedented level in over 25 years, and any opposition is being silenced immediately. On the regional level, Iran has tested ballistic missiles several times, it is assisting Bashar Al Assad's forces, Hezbollah, Shiite militia groups and fueling sectarianism more forcefully, which is leading to more recruitments by ISIS and other radical groups. In addition, Iran is growing its IRGC stranglehold across the region.
On a humanitarian level, the protesters are demanding rule of law, equality for all nationalities, gender equality, implementation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression and press, putting an end to discriminations against ethnic, religious minorities, and women, among others. Keyvan, an Iranian-American businessman who travelled from Washington DC to Paris to attend the rally said "Washington's appeasement policy towards Iran is empowering Iranian leaders and making them more interventionist and aggressive in the region. There is no difference between the moderates and hardliners. They have the same objectives. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians opposed the nuclear agreement. But Obama did not listen. The nuclear agreement is helping IRGC to dominate other countries in the region, crack down domestically, and help its proxies like Hezbollah".
Mohammad, an Iranian-Canadian policy analyst, attending the rally, pointed out that many protesters truly believe that the Iranian government is on the verge of collapse, the only thing that is needed is pressure from other countries. He also argued that other governments should support Iranian dissidents; "In 1978, no one thought that Shah was going to be overthrown in a year. Iranians are now ready to change their government. They need support from outside. The only difference between now and then is that US administration of Carter put pressure on Iran at that time, which was instrumental in helping people to change the regime. But Obama is supporting the Iranian regime. We are connected to the large, dissatisfied and organized opposition in Iran. We need support for bigger version of the 2009 protests. That is what the Iranian government is most afraid of."
Many of the protesters argue that the next US administration should take bolder stance towards Iran by putting pressure on the Iranian government not only concerning the nuclear issues, but also human rights abuses.
The Iranian Leaders Fear: Uprising
From the perspective of Iranian leaders, NCRI/PMOI and Iranian dissidents are a graver threat to their hold-on-power in comparison to any other threat including foreign intervention. It was a major blow to Iran when NCRI revealed Iran's clandestine uranium enrichment site at Natanz. Iran state-owned media outlets do not report NCRI's annual rally. Iran also executes people who are linked to PMOI and NCRI.
NCRI's headquarter is in Paris, but it also has offices in Washington DC and several other major European countries. PMOI has a camp in Iraq, camp Ashraf, which has been attacked by the Iranian government several times. This week, according to Reuters, militias affiliated with IRGC Quds Force, a special elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards that operates in foreign nations, bombarded the camp by firing tens of rockets and injuring more than forty people.
Iranian leaders are concerned that more politicians and governments, particularly the next US administration, might endorse NCRI, the Iranian resistance, and the Iranian dissidents. Although President Obama seems to have abandoned the Iranian resistance, more Congressmen and global leaders are becoming advocates of NCRI. From the perspective of Iranian leaders, Iranian dissidents abroad might inspire the disaffected youth to revolt inside the country. Khamenei has repeatedly warned the youth of such infiltrations from the West.
For Iranian leaders, PMOI and Iranian dissidents, attending the Free Iran rally, can be significant threat because they can facilitate a popular uprising, a larger repeat of the 2009 protests, put pressure on Iranian politicians, and direct a change in the Iranian government, specifically when they are supported by regional and global powers. Finally, the size, resources, and influence of this oppositional group highlights the notion that, this is the movement that politicians, leaders, republicans, and democrats can join and support, if they are looking for the Iranian government to turn into a rational and moderate state actor, by the Iranian themselves.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an American political scientist, business advisor, best-selling author, and the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review. An American citizen, he is originally from Iran and Syria, lived most of his life in Iran and Syria till recently. He is a board member of several significant and influential international and governmental institutions, and he is native speaker of couple of languages including Arabic and Persian. He also speaks English and Dari, and can converse in French, Hebrew.
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You can contact him at Dr.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @Dr_Rafizadeh. This post first appeared on Al Arabiya.