Posts Tagged ‘MEK’

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Maryam Rajavi Commemorates MEK Martyrs During 1988 Massacre

Unraveling Iranian Regime’s Deeds During 1988 Massacre of MEK Activists

Alireza Avaei, Member of Death Committee During 1988 Massacre

Alireza Avaei-Current Minister of Justice in Iran appointed by the “moderate” Rouhani

The mullahs’ crimes of the past continue to be unearthed. This week, Amnesty International published the results of an investigation into the regime’s mass executions of more than 30,000 political prisoners (mainly MEK activists) in 1988. The report revealed the sites of seven mass graves. In an attempt to hide their macabre handiwork, the regime tried to destroy all evidence of the gravesites between 2003 and 2017.

As the mullahs try to escape responsibility, Amnesty International revealed the locations of the seven suspected locations. It suspects mass graves in Mashhad, Ahvaz, Tabriz, Khavaran, Rasht, Qorveh, and Sanandaj were used to dispose of victim’s bodies. At a later date, the regime attempted to level the grave sites to mask their locations.

There are Still Unanswered Questions

Although Amnesty International’s findings represent progress into unraveling the circumstances surrounding the forced disappearances, there are still questions that require answers.

Reza Shafiee reports that the exact number of deaths at the hands of the mullahs in 1988 is still unknown. Lower estimates put the number of political prisoners executed at around 5,000. However, the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), based on eyewitness reports and remarks by former Intelligence ministry agents, many more were killed, estimating as many as 30,000 were arbitrarily executed.

Those Responsible Must be Brought to Justice

In his article, Reza Shafiee calls for an investigation into the events that unfolded in 1988. Many of the suspects responsible for the executions still hold powerful positions in the clerical regime in Iran today.

Shafiee singles out Ebrahim Raisi and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi. Both men allegedly were part of the “Death Commission”, a task force responsible for finding members of the MEK and administering their execution. Now, Raisi is the high-profile custodian to the Imam Reza Foundation. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi was in Rouhani’s first cabinet as the Justice Minister for the regime. Another person involved in the executions, Alireza Avii, succeeded Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi as Justice Minister in Rouhani’s second cabinet.

The Death Commission Delivered as Many as 30,000 Death Sentences in a Single Summer

Maryam Rajavi Commemorates MEK Martyrs During 1988 Massacre

During a ceremony in Tirana, Maryam Rajavi commemorates the memory of 30,000 political prisoners slain during 1988 Massacre- July 2017

In 1988, the Death Commission was tasked to eliminate Iran of MEK supporters. They rounded up MEK activists and tried them in show trials which lasted mere minutes, before sending them to the gallows. Victims could be incriminated for the smallest details. Many of those executed had done nothing more than take part in a peaceful demonstration called by MEK, distributed leaflets, or were affiliated with the political opposition group, the MEK.

The members of the Death Commission have shown no remorse for the atrocities they committed. Shafiee reports how Pour-Mohammadi expressed pride for the crimes he committed, saying he was proud to “carry out God’s will and he has not lost sleep over what he did.”

The MEK and other human rights champions and political opposition groups in Iran have urged the international community to help bring those responsible to justice. The families of victims deserve answers to the question of what happened to their loved ones.

While the people of Iran are bravely taking to the streets to demand these answers, they need the support of the international community. Let tough actions and a firm stance towards the violent and brutal clerical regime send a message; that they will not get away with the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians.

Staff Writer

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Mr Struan Stevenson, former chair of European Parliament’s official Delegation for Relations with Iraq

New Report Details Iran Regime’s Demonization Campaign Against the MEK

Mr Struan Stevenson, former chair of European Parliament’s official Delegation for Relations with Iraq

Mr. Struan Stevenson, former chair of European Parliament’s official Delegation for Relations with Iraq

A paper published this month by Struan Stevenson, Coordinator for the Campaign for Iran Change (CIC), details the Iranian regime’s campaign to demonize the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK or PMOI). Stevenson’s detailed analysis describes the history and current actions of the ruling regime to delegitimize the MEK by vilifying the resistance organization.

Stevenson describes the ways in which the Iranian regime has stepped up its campaign of disinformation against the MEK (PMOI) since the massive uprising in Iran beginning in December of last year. Large-scale protests took place in 140 cities across Iran. Protesters burned the offices of representatives of the Supreme Leader and invaded the Basij militia and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) centers. The uprising was only quelled by suppressive forces after two weeks of demonstrations. 8,000 protesters were arrested and to date, 14 have been killed while in custody. Despite the severity of the regime’s response, smaller protests have continued throughout Iran since the uprising was quelled.

Stevenson notes that the regime was quick to acknowledge the MEK’s role in the uprising and to implicitly threaten protesters with execution. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that on January 2, President Hassan Rouhani asked French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call to take action against the MEK, which is currently based in Paris, accusing the resistance organization of launching the uprising. President Macron refused his request.

The regime’s response to the uprising was to brutally suppress the protests with mass arrests, torture, and executions. On February 8th, the regime reported the suicide of Dr. Kavous Seyyed Emami, a prominent environmentalist who had been arrested 15 days earlier on trumped-up charges. Ten prisoners were executed in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj on February 14th.

Meanwhile in Albania, according to Stevenson, the regime has set its sights on the MEK (PMOI) refugees living there. The relocation of MEK members from Iraq to Albania provoked the ire of Iran’s mullahs, who had hoped to eliminate the resistance group while they were in Iraq. Since their relocation in 2016, the Iranian embassy has greatly increased its size and dispatched new diplomatic personnel to advance their agenda. The regime has also deployed a large number of operatives to gather intelligence on the MEK members living in Albania and it has expanded its operations throughout the Balkans.

History of the MEK

Stevenson provides a brief history of the MEK in his paper, which is summarized below. You can read his full report here. In 1965, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK or PMOI) was founded by Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saied Mohsen and Ali-Asghar Badizadegan, three university students. They were united in their opposition to the “corrupt and oppressive dictatorship of Shah Pahlavi and the absolute rule of the monarch.”

In the 1970s, the Shah’s infamous secret service, Savak, cracked down on the MEK, imprisoning or executing most of its members and leaders, including Massoud Rajavi. Mr. Rajavi joined the MEK when he was 20 and was one of the group’s leaders. He was spared from execution through the efforts of his brother, Professor Kazem Rajavi, who launched a successful international campaign to spare Mr. Rajavi from death.

Mr. Rajavi was imprisoned from 1972-1979, along with the majority of the MEK’s leadership and many of its members. According to Stevenson’s research, some rogue members used this power vacuum to usurp the organization and rebrand it as a Marxist group. The remaining MEK members outside of prison saw this coup as a betrayal of their founders’ vision and were vocal in their opposition. These members were suppressed, and in some cases murdered by the new leaders. The new Marxist leaders carried out several attacks against American personnel in Iran while using the MEK’s name.

Stevenson points out that Mr. Rajavi denounced the individuals responsible for these attacks from prison. Upon his release in 1979, he and several other senior MEK (PMOI) members set out to restore the organization’s reputation and reaffirm its commitment to democracy and equality. During the 1979 revolution, the MEK supported the movement to overthrow the Shah and replace his rule with a secular democracy. Amidst widespread demonstrations, the Shah fled Iran.

The Shah’s departure left a power vacuum in Iran, which was soon filled by Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini was a Shi’ia cleric who had been exiled by the Shah in 1964 because of his growing status as a religious leader and because of his denunciation of the Shah’s rule. He had recently returned to Iran and was perfectly placed to take power. He claimed to be a religious man with very little interest in the day to day running of the country.

According to Steveson, Khomeini showed his true colors once he took power, refusing to set up a democratically-elected parliament, and opting instead to create an “Assembly of Experts.” These “experts”/clerics created a theocracy, wherein the clergy has absolute power. Khomeini appointed himself Supreme Leader. This was the birth of Islamic Fundamentalism. Iranian society changed overnight.

The MEK refused to participate in the referendum on the Velayat-e-faqih constitution, believing it to be undemocratic. Stevenson describes Khomeini’s “reign of terror” against the opposition group. Khomeini decreed, “the Mojahedin of Iran are infidels and worse than blasphemers… They have no right to life.” Since then, over 100,000 MEK members and supporters have been executed by the regime, and dozens more have been assassinated outside of Iran’s borders. In the summer of 1988 alone, more than 30,000 political prisoners were executed in Iran, most of whom were MEK members. The violence against the MEK continues today.

Mr. Stevenson’s paper describes the regime’s decades-long attempt to cover up the massacre, despite the efforts of the MEK. But on August 9, 2016, the son of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the former Deputy Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and the nominated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, published a previously unknown audio-tape in which Montazeri admitted that the massacre had taken place and had been ordered at the highest levels.

Montazeri can be heard in the tape talking to members of the “Death Committee” that ordered the executions in 1988. He said:

“The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.”

Faced with this climate of terror, many of the surviving MEK members fled the country, living in exile in Paris and other places in Europe and North America.

Camp Ashraf and Liberty

Stevenson’s report goes on to detail the history of Camp Ashraf and Liberty. His history and analysis is expansive and can be read in full in his paper, but it is summarized below. The MEK has been a resistance organization from its inception, dedicated to bringing freedom, democracy, and equality to Iran. It has always sought to do this work peacefully. In 1981, the mullahs’ regime began mass executions, and all previous attempts to participate in the political process had been exhausted. The MEK then took up arms against the repressive regime as a last resort. Maryam Rajavi has spoken about this reluctant decision:

“…the Islam that we profess does not condone bloodshed. We have never sought, nor do we welcome confrontation and violence. If Khomeini is prepared to hold truly free elections, I will return to my homeland immediately. The Mojahedin will lay down their arms to participate in such elections. We do not fear election results, whatever they may be. Before the start of armed struggle, we tried to utilize all legal means of political activity, but suppression compelled us to take up arms. If Khomeini had allowed half or even a quarter of freedoms presently enjoyed in France, we would certainly have achieved a democratic victory.”

Massoud Rajavi was forced into exile in 1981, but the MEK survived as an armed resistance movement, with its leadership working from France while MEK members in Iran worked as an underground movement. According to Stevenson,  the MEK was forced to relocate to Iraq in 1986, after regime officials pressured the French government to expel the MEK in exchange for the return of French hostages.

The MEK built Camp Ashraf on a barren spot in Iraq and built it into a small city. In 2003, American led forces bombed Camp Ashraf at the behest of the Iranian regime. Stevenson writes that the American and British forces hoped that by attacking the opposition group, they could appease Iran into remaining neutral. On April 17, 2003, the Wall street journal reported:

“The dismantling of the Iranian opposition force in Iraq. . . fulfills a private U.S. assurance conveyed to Iranian officials before the start of hostilities that the group would be targeted by British and American forces if Iran stayed out of the fight, according to U.S. officials . .”

The residents of Camp Ashraf agreed to lay down their arms in return for protection by American forces. After exhaustive interviews with camp residents and screening, the U.S. government designated the MEK members at Camp Ashraf as “protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” acknowledging that the residents were not involved in terrorist activities and could not be charged with any crimes.

Stevenson writes that the Iranian regime launched a series of attacks against the MEK, attempting to discredit the group by taking out a series of print ads, falsely calling them “friends of terrorists.”  These ads, placed by the MOIS, would sometimes contain a web address to substantiate the claims, but the websites did not exist. The MOIS made false claims in media outlets in a further attempt to vilify the organization, using spurious information. The regime saw the MEK as a threat to its stranglehold on Iranian citizens and used every means available to smear the resistance group with outright lies and unsubstantiated claims.

Camp Liberty under attack by mercenaries of Iran- July 4, 2016

Missile Attack on Camp Liberty-Iraq, by agents of Iran’s dictatorship. July 4, 2016

In January 2009, American forces left Iraq, leaving the defenseless MEK members without promised protection. According to Stevenson, the Iranian regime applied pressure on Iraqi leaders to expel the MEK residents from Iraq, using threats of further attacks against camp residents and deception. The Iraqi government agreed to move the MEK residents to a new compound named Camp Liberty. The regime had hoped to force camp residents to return to Iran, where they would face imprisonment and execution.  When that did not happen, the regime launched deadly missile strikes, the largest of which killed 24 residents, wounded many others, and destroyed part of their camp. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry condemned these acts of violence.

Stevenson reports that Mrs. Maryam Rajavi negotiated with high-ranking officials in Albania to relocate the MEK residents to safety in Albania. Her efforts were successful and were supported by UNHCR and the U.S., including John Kerry, who traveled to Tirana to meet with the Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama. Rama agreed to the relocation, and the 3,000 residents were flown to Albania, angering the Iranian regime.

In response to this humiliating defeat, Tehran deployed a task force of MOIS agents to Albania and greatly expanded their embassy in Tirana, appointing more than a dozen new cultural attaches to the formerly junior outpost.

According to Stevenson, the regime then launched a propaganda attack against the MEK, using known MOIS operatives to make brazenly false allegations against the resistance group, including claims that the MEK was responsible for the deaths of civilians and accusing them of terrorist acts. This was accomplished through a network of operatives known to be working with the MOIS, including Anne Singleton, who was photographed outside of Camp Ashraf and Liberty before deadly attacks on both camps.

How Iran’s Agents Breech Security in the West

Stevenson describes the systematic way that the Iranian regime recruits non-Iranians to participate in their demonization campaign against the MEK, often by using threats and intimidation. Anne Singleton is a British citizen who was recruited by the MOIS, along with her Iranian husband, Massoud Khodabandeh.  In December 2012, the U.S. Pentagon published a report entitled “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A profile.” This thoroughly researched document exposed Ms. Singleton as an MOIS spy. The report described the process through which she was recruited:

“The recruitment of a British subject, Anne Singleton, and her Iranian husband, Massoud Khodabandeh, provides a relevant example of how MOIS coerces non-Iranians to cooperate. She worked with the MEK in the late 1980s. Massoud Khodabandeh and his brother Ibrahim were both members of the MEK at the time. In 1996 Massoud Khodabandeh decided to leave the organization. Later, he married Anne Singleton. Soon after their marriage, MOIS forced them to cooperate by threatening to confiscate Khodabandeh’s mother’s extensive property in Tehran. Singleton and Khodabandeh then agreed to work for MOIS and spy on the MEK. In 2002 Singleton met in Tehran with MOIS agents who were interested in her background. She agreed to cooperate with the MOIS to save her brother-in-law’s life—he was still a member of the MEK at the time. During her stay in Tehran, she received training from the MOIS. After her return to England, she launched the iran-interlink.org website in the winter of 2002. After she made many trips to Iran and Singapore—the country where the agency contacts its foreign agents— the MEK became doubtful of Singleton and
Khodabandeh’s loyalty to the organization. In 2004 Singleton finally met her brother-in-law, Ibrahim, who was sent from Syria to Iran after the Syrians arrested him (it appears that Syrians closely cooperate with the MOIS). Eventually, the MOIS forced him to cooperate as well.”

According to Stevenson’s research, the report proved that the Iranian regime feared the MEK and sought to vilify the organization through the use of MOIS agents. By naming Anne Singleton, the report confirmed that the false propaganda against the MEK was generated by the regime. It also made clear the extent of activities by the regime and its operatives against the MEK and revealed conspiracies to control members and plans to murder citizens. Finally, the report reaffirmed the findings of courts in the U.S., U.K., France, and the E.U., which ruled that the MEK should never have been listed as a terrorist organization, as the classified information that supposedly led to their listing was based upon information supplied by MOIS agents. The MEK was delisted after proving all of this in court, and the Pentagon report further supported their findings.

Iran’s Efforts in Albania

Stevenson’s paper details the alarming manner in which the Iranian regime has helped to spread Islamic Fundamentalism to the Balkans. The spread of Islamic Fundamentalism is a growing concern for all democratic societies. Iran has positioned itself to promote this kind of fundamentalism across the Middle East and into the West as well. In the Middle East, Iran stokes sectarian conflict by interfering with domestic affairs in other countries. Perhaps more worrisome is the Iranian regime’s habit of quietly taking over business and political interests in other countries in order to promote its worldview. Tehran has built a number of schools, mosques, and clinics in Lebanon and Iraq, under the pretense of helping deprived communities. The regime distributes fundamentalist literature and teaches Quran classes in those settings, which has led to the formation of terrorist and sectarian groups across the Middle East.

Mr. Stevenson describes the shift in the regime’s focus in recent years. The regime has taken its fundamentalist campaign to the Balkans, specifically Albania. The regime started a college in Albania to promote fundamentalist Islam while undermining the PMOI presence in Tiran. Abdul-Ali Asgari, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and Mohammad Akhgari, deputy chair of IRIB international affairs, launched “Pars Today,”  a propaganda machine disguised as a television news network. The network also includes a website, called “Parrena.” Both of these media outlets routinely disseminate lies and propaganda against the MEK.

Anne Singleton, a known agent of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), visits Albania to try to recruit new agents for MOIS

Anne Singleton, a known agent of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), visits Albania to try to recruit new agents for MOIS

Stevenson reports that the Iranian regime’s propaganda machine uses intelligence agents outside of Iran to spread disinformation about the PMOI. Dozens of these agents have been unmasked, with many of them masquerading as “Iranian experts.”  This cover allows them to spy and launch attacks against MEK members and to spread misinformation about the organization. This strategy has been increasingly employed in Albania.

The regime has even used MOIS agents to speak as former MEK members, spreading false and malicious lies about the organization. Three of these agents gave an interview on an Albanian news network that was produced by the Iranian embassy in Albania. These agents were briefed by Anne Singleton before their appearance.

Stevenson notes that some supporters of the regime claim to be “concerned” for MEK members, using their false sympathy to spread lies about the organization. Pro-regime MEP Ana Gomez has made several salacious claims about MEK members in Albania, saying that they “are held
against their will.” Ms. Gomes’ false sympathy stands in stark contrast to her silence when MEK members were repeatedly attacked and killed by the regime while they were refugees in Iraq.
In March of this year, Albanian authorities arrested two Iranian agents who were suspected of spying on MEK members. The agents claimed to be journalists. Another ten Iranian citizens have been held by Albanian police on suspicion of planning terrorist activities against the MEK.
Stevenson believes that Iran’s mullahs have undertaken this massive campaign of deception against the MEK because of their fear of the organization, as has been borne out by his research on the issue. The MEK continues to grow in popularity, attracting supporters from all over the world and shedding light on the appalling rule of the oppressive Iranian regime. Recently, well-known regime apologist,  Olsi Jazexhi, said:

“The problem is that the Mojahedin (PMOI) have attracted the support of a large number of Albanian politicians, musicians, students, and civil society activists, and an American senator visits the PMOI in Albania every three months and holds large meetings with Albanian politicians.”
Stevenson notes that the Albanian government understands the threat that the Iranian regime poses to the world and recognizes that they threaten the safety of the opposition. On April 19th, the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, responded to a question about terrorist threats against the MEK in Albania. He said:

“I believe that for PMOI we did the right thing. We gave accommodation to a group which is persecuted. And that’s it. Regarding your question about security and threats, we are on the right side of history, we are in a group of countries of the Euro Atlantic club which are threatened in the same way. I believe that all these countries take measures against terrorist threats.”

According to Stevenson, the Albanian government is justified in its fear of the Iranian regime. Since the beginning of this year, there have been numerous reports of covert surveillance activities outside of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) offices in Berlin and Washington, D.C.  These activities point to a serious threat of terrorist actions against Iranian opposition groups.

The U.S. government has acknowledged the flagrant and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian regime. The U.S. Treasury Department has listed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as an international terrorist organization. The Quds Force has been on the same list for years. These organizations are the primary groups used to spread Islamic fundamentalism outside of Iran.

The Iranian regime supports the tyrannical regime in Syria, which has massacred scores of its own people. It supported the Shi’ite militias who murdered Sunni families and destroyed cities in Iraq from 2014 to 2017. The regime is responsible for spreading death and destruction throughout the Middle East and hopes to do the same in the Balkans.

Iran’s Network of Agents in Europe

One of the more disturbing parts of Stevenson’s paper is his description and analysis of Iran’s use of MOIS members, including some former MEK members. The MOIS has a talent for finding MEK members who have voluntarily left the organization and attempting to recruit them, using threats and bribes. Though most refuse to cooperate, the few who do are used as weapons against the MEK. These agents make outrageous and false allegations of abuse and torture, and sometimes their claims are repeated in Western media outlets, who then publish easily refutable claims of cult-like activity by the MEK.

Stevenson reports that the network of known Iranian spies in Europe is extensive. In France, police arrested Ghorbanali Hosseinnejad in 2015 for espionage activities, including delivering payment to MOIS agents and surveilling the home of Maryam Rajavi. Gholam Reza, a Canadian citizen living in Belgium who was recruited by the IRGC, was arrested in Iraq in 2008 after attempting to harass MEK residents of Camp Ashraf. Ali-Akbar Rastgou and Mehdi Khoshhal are two agents who frequently visit pro-regime MEP Ana Gomes. The German newspaper Der Spiegel wrote this about the men:

“German security agencies released two weeks ago two Iranian-born German nationals who were detained for more than five weeks under suspicion of espionage in a prison in Baghdad. Ali R., a resident of the city of Cologne, his acquaintance Mehdi K, who lives in Baghdad, and an Iranian who traveled to Baghdad in late May, were
arrested there by security forces. They must have identified an ‘important national interest facility’. Ali R is an active member of the Aawa Association, based in Cologne, that confronts the left-Muslim People’s Mojahedin Organization.”

Davood Baghervand Arshad was a MEK member who left Camp Ashraf because of the difficult situation there. He was offered amnesty by the Iranian government and was subsequently recruited by the MOIS and trained to work against the opposition movement. He has been seen frequently in European Parliament, notably with Ana Gomes.

Stevenson describes how the network of Iranian spies in Europe has carried out a number of assassinations of dissidents, engaged in espionage activities, and spread disinformation about the opposition. Saeed Karimian was assassinated on April 29, 2017, in Turkey. The television executive had previously been condemned in absentia by a Tehran court for spreading propaganda. Ahmad Mola Nissi, an opposition activist, was assassinated on November 8, 2017, by Iranian operatives in the Hague. Four Iranian Kurdish dissidents were assassinated in 1992 in a Berlin restaurant. A German court found that the assassinations were carried out by high-level MOIS agents at the behest of the Iranian government and expelled all MOIS agents from the EU. This sanction was lifted in order to appease the Iranian regime. That move presents a danger to current opposition activists.

Numerous agents from countries across Europe have been revealed as spies for the regime and sentenced by European courts. More agents are currently operating in Europe, where they pose a clear and present danger to MEK members and activists.

Iran’s Lobbying Efforts

Stevenson’s paper describes the massive lobbying effort undertaken by the Iranian regime. The regime has huge sums of money devoted to lobbying against the MEK and the opposition movement. It gives money to universities through fake charities. One of these charities, the Alavi Foundation in the U.S., is currently under investigation for money laundering and violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

According to Stevenson, Iranian lobbyists use trained foreigners as lobbyists to add to their credibility and uses those foreigners to spread misinformation about the opposition movement. A number of these lobbyists attend the annual U.N. Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva. The regime has also been known to set up NGOs controlled by the state in order to spread falsehoods.

Mr. Stevenson found that the regime is willing to pay large amounts of money to those who are willing to spread propaganda on their behalf. The Toronto Sun reported that John Thompson, head of the Mackenzie Institute, an influential think tank, was offered $80,000 to publish an article on the MEK. He told the paper the goal of the recruiters. “Iran is trying to get other countries to label
it as a terrorist cult,” he said. Thompson refused the offer.

Stevenson writes that the regime increases its lobbying efforts when Maryam Rajavi is scheduled to visit parliaments in Europe, using its ambassadors to apply pressure in attempts to prevent such visits from occurring. Failing that, the regime uses the occasion of such visits as a chance to spread more propaganda about the MEK and NCRI. Western delegations to Tehran receive the same false messages.

MEPs who are sympathetic to the Iranian opposition movement are often targeted by MOIS agents claiming to be former members of the MEK. In this manner the Iranian regime and its MOIS agents inundate policymakers with misinformation and outright lies, hoping to delegitimize the opposition movement in order to maintain their oppressive rule.

In conclusion, Stevenson’s extensively researched paper describes how the Iranian regime will go to any lengths to suppress dissent. The MEK is the largest and most popular opposition group
in Iran, and as such, the regime has devoted large amounts of time and money to demonize the resistance organization.

Because of the recent uprising, Tehran has stepped up its campaign of misinformation against the MEK. Past experience has taught that these actions tend to lead to violent attacks on the MEK.

Despite the lies and propaganda spread by the Iranian regime, the MEK has widespread support both in and outside of Iran. The MEKs allies have the power to prevent MOIS agents from infiltrating parliaments and carrying out their smear campaign against the MEK.

Stevenson’s paper can be downloaded in its entirety for free here.

Staff Writer

 

 

 

 

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The Iranian Economy is Becoming an Issue the Mullahs Cannot Ignore

The Iranian Economy is Becoming an Issue the Mullahs Cannot Ignore

The Iranian Economy is Becoming an Issue the Mullahs Cannot Ignore

The Iranian Economy is Becoming an Issue the Mullahs Cannot Ignore

The cries of the people over Iran’s economic crisis are becoming too loud to ignore. The whole country is engulfed in the flames of civil unrest and public anger. Strikes have raged for the past eleven days in Baneh and Javanrood; shops remain closed as business owners refuse to yield to the regime’s demands.

In Isfahan, the local farmers have continued to vent their frustrations at the country’s deepening water crisis and the regime’s mismanagement of the situation. The sit-in at the local government buildings entered its sixty-ninth day. The local governor met with the protestors, but provided no solutions, leaving the farmers with no choice but to continue their struggle.

Farmers in Ardestan protested the drilling of water wells this week. Given the scarcity of water, continued drilling would only cause further shortages in the future. In Khuzestan Province, farmers from Weiss and Mollasani took up their shovels to protest their own water crisis.

In Hamidieh, protests against the regime entered its third day. Protestors have not received their salaries for months and, despite repeated empty promises from the regime, there are no indications payments will be distributed any time soon.

A similar situation is developing in Yazd. Truck drivers who drive fuel-supplying trucks in the region went on strike over lower wages. Citizens from Tehran and Ahvaz protested outside the cities’ financial institutions over the regimes ransacking of the country’s banks, leaving the public out of pocket, without access to their savings.

The crisis is reaching a breaking point

The level of public outrage indicates the extreme economic situation in Iran. The Iranian currency has plummeted in value, leaving salaries lower than ever. The regime has squandered more than 400 trillion tomans of public money and hollowed out the country’s financial institutions. The banks are on the brink of collapse, with some banks having spent as much as 80% of their deposits.

Discrimination is rife. The government forces receive four times more pay than contracted forces. Just under half of the country’s workforce are employed on temporary contracts with little job security and low job satisfaction.

The country’s Central Bank is woefully ill-equipped to handle the economic crisis and impending economic collapse. Rather than employ competent, elite economists, the regime has filled the institution with its cronies, inexperienced in generating economic policy and running an economy.

The regime cannot ignore the situation any longer

The regime has mismanaged the national finances and destroyed the Iranian economy for decades. The people have reached their breaking point, and the recent spate of protests are just the beginning.

There are indications that the regime is waking up to the public outrage. Recently, several regime officials have acknowledged the danger posed by the widespread public protests. Eshagh Jahangiri, the first vice president of the regime, said, “the issue of Kazeroon should be resolved.”

MP from Hamedan, Amir Khojasteh, addressed the Minister of Economy, Massoud Karbasiyan, directly. He said, “if you do not sort these [economic issues] out, swear to God, the people will make their decision on us”.

He is not wrong. The people will make their decision. The continued economic ruin of Iran cannot continue. The public will not let it.  Inspired by the success of recent protests, they will drive the Iranian regime out of power and replace it with a democratic government with the knowledge and inclination to save the Iranian economy.

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Maryam Rajavi Reaps Praise on the Brave Iranians Turning out to Protest Across the Ruling Dictatorship

Maryam Rajavi Reaps Praise on the Brave Iranians Turning out to Protest Across the Ruling Dictatorship

Maryam Rajavi Reaps Praise on the Brave Iranians Turning out to Protest Across the Ruling Dictatorship

Maryam Rajavi Reaps Praise on the Brave Iranians Turning out to Protest Across the Ruling Dictatorship-Credit to maryam-rajavi.com

 Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), praised the resolve of the Iranian people for the sustained protests and strikes in major cities across Iran. Strikes have continued to rage in Kazeroun for the last seven days. The farmer’s protests in Isfahan are also still going strong two months into their struggle. Protests in Ahvaz and Khuzistan have also sprung up in recent weeks.

Rajavi reaped praise from those protesting in Kazeroun, stating “hail to the people of Kazeroun who have a great history of supporting the great leader of Iran’s freedom movement, Dr. Mohammad Mossaddeq.” After Kazeroun citizens were arbitrarily butchered by the regime in 1988, many of the city’s citizens joined the MEK and the resistance movement to oppose the mullah’s tyrannical regime.

Maryam Rajavi hailed those exercising civil disobedience in Isfahan, Kazeroun, and Ahvaz, praising those who disrupted the mullah’s Friday prayers. Those in Baneh and Piranshahr who went on strike and closed their businesses also received Maryam Rajavi’s blessings.

She spoke of the plight of Iran’s Kurdish minority, forced into back-breaking work as porters for the regime. Rajavi described how they often face water shortages, are denied their rightful earnings, and endure routine discrimination at the hands of the oppressive regime. All those in Iran suffer at the hands of Rouhani, but the minorities of the Kurdish, Arab and Baluchi people face “double oppression”, according to Rajavi.

The message from the leader of the MEK was clear; keep up the good work and disrupt the mullah’s regime wherever possible. Massoud Rajavi, the historical leader of the Iranian Resistance had previously sent a message to the Iranian people. He said, “it is an urgent patriotic duty to keep alight the beacon of protests at any opportunity, any time and any place.”

The Iranian population must show their solidarity with those who are risking their freedom and lives to protest the oppressive regime. Only through continued civil disobedience and disruption will the full weight of the Iranian population be felt by the ruling mullahs.

The regime is creaking under the pressure of sustained civil protest. It is intensifying its reign of terror and violence, executing political prisoners at an alarming rate, and arresting brave Iranian protestors across Kazeroun in scores. Rouhani and the mullahs are scrambling to maintain their grip on the situation.

This will only add fuel to the fire. It will inspire the Iranian people to insist on the freedom of their compatriots. “Declare solidarity with the arisen people of the Iranian provinces” is Maryam Rajavi’s message to Iran. Keep the flame of protest alive.

Staff Writer

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Amnesty International,execution,fair trial,freedom of expression,Human Rights,MEK,PMOI

Iran placed on “forces of instability” list for its widespread human rights abuses

Iran placed on “forces of instability” list for its widespread human rights abuses

Iran placed on “forces of instability” list for its widespread human rights abuses

Iran placed on “forces of instability” list for its widespread human rights abuses

The United States Government has included the Iranian regime in a list of the countries labeled as “forces of instability” for their routine human rights abuse, emphasizing that the abuses that take place in these countries are “morally reprehensible”.

The list comes after the Iranian regime denied access to the UN Special Rapporteur investigating the situation of human rights abuses in Iran. There has also been a steady stream of reports of human rights abuses coming out of Iran, including the imprisonment of human rights defenders.

There is limited freedom of expression

The Iranian authorities frequently imprison journalists, protestors, peaceful critics, filmmakers, students, activists, and lawyers for criticising the regime. Most concerningly, many of those seeking truth and justice for the mass executions carried out by the regime in the 1980s now find themselves behind bars.

This was particularly apparent in the run-up to the presidential election last May. Journalists and bloggers were persecuted and arrested, some of whom received prison sentences of more than a decade and some had their assets frozen, and the country’s Association of Journalists has been indefinitely suspended.

Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube remain blocked in Iran. The authorities have also attempted to restrict musical expression. Women cannot legally sing in public, and President Rouhani has canceled concerts across the country.

Torture is routinely used as an interrogation tool

Solitary confinement and torture are routinely used in interrogations conducted by the Ministry for Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards. Prisoners have received limited access to medical care and are kept in conditions which amount to torture, including limited access to food and hot water, limited ventilation and insect infestations.

Torture is not limited to interrogations. It has also been used as a method of public punishment in Iran. For even relatively minor incidents, lashings can be handed out. Men, women, and children receive public lashings as punishment for crimes such as extra-marital relationships, attending parties with those of the opposite gender, and eating in public during Ramadan. A journalist in Najaf Abad received 40 lashings in January for inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles the police had confiscated across the city.

More severe crimes are awarded horrific acts of torture as punishment. In Kohgiluyeh, a woman was blinded as punishment for blinding another woman and amputations are frequently carried out as a punishment for robbery.

A variety of non-lethal drug offenses carry a mandatory death penalty, with executions often conducted in public. There are also vaguely worded charges which allow the regime to distribute the death penalty to its political opponents. Mohamed Ali Taheri, for example, was sentenced to death for “spreading corruption on earth”.

Those accused do not receive a fair trial

Iran’s judicial system has no independent mechanism to guarantee judicial impartiality and accountability. Judges are frequently appointed to their positions for their political allegiances, not for their qualifications or professional competency.

Those arrested for political reasons are frequently denied access to an independent lawyer, instead of being forced to choose from a list provided by the Head of the Judiciary. There have also been reports of trails lasting just a matter of minutes before sentences were handed down, surmounting to little more than a show trial.

Non-Shi’a Muslims face civil exclusion

Non-Shi’a Muslims are not permitted to run for political office in Iran. The Baha’i minority face arbitrary persecution, including arrests, the forcible closure of their businesses, the confiscation of Baha’i properties, and restricted access to higher education. The regime has also taken a lenient stance towards those who commit crimes against the Baha’i minority. Two men were released on bail in June despite admitting killing a man of the Baha’i faith.

Christian places of worship are routinely raided, and if any churchgoers are found to have converted to the Christian faith, they can receive up to 15 years imprisonment. Any citizen that publicly advocates atheism is also subject to arrest and torture.

Ethnic minorities live in conditions of economic neglect

Ethnic minorities are subjected to routine discrimination in employment and access to education and housing. Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and Baluchis often live in areas which have limited access to electricity and water. Limited access to education means illiteracy rates, particularly among girls, are high. Deprivation of basic sanitation and healthcare means infant mortality rates are high in these areas.

Women in Iran are subject to widespread discrimination, with restricted employment prospects and unequal inheritance opportunities. Those caught wearing tight clothing or heavily made up in public face harassment and detention from the authorities. The wearing of the hijab in public is compulsory, and those who have attempted to campaign against it, have become subject to state-sponsored smear campaigns and regular harassment.

The manner in which the Iranian regularly abuses the rights of its civilian population should be a cause for concern for any international government that views itself as a human rights advocate. The international community must adopt a firmer approach towards the Iranian regime for the way it keeps its people in a perpetual state of suffering.

Simon Wiesenthal famously said that “for evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing”. The Iranian population is fighting on in their resistance to the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses. Recent protestors risked their liberty and lives to protest the regime. Now the international community must follow suit. They can do nothing, or the evil of Khamenei’s regime will flourish.

 

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Iran Protests,Iran Uprising,Isfahan,MEK,PMOI,water rights

MEK-IRAN:WESTERN GOVERNMENTS MUST READ THE SIGNS OF IMPENDING CHANGE IN IRAN

MEK-Iran:Western governments must read the signs of impending change in Iran

MEK-IRAN:WESTERN GOVERNMENTS MUST READ THE SIGNS OF IMPENDING CHANGE IN IRAN

MEK-IRAN:WESTERN GOVERNMENTS MUST READ THE SIGNS OF IMPENDING CHANGE IN IRAN

Recent protests in Iran will have unearthed distant memories for the Iranian population. In late December 2017, and early January 2018, protests tore across the Iranian nation. The People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) had a major role in organising the protests. The nation’s men, women, and youth from all walks of life took to the streets to express their desire for regime change. The urban middle classes stood alongside rural farmers and agricultural workers, along with the rest of the population, and came together in chants of “down with Rouhani” and “down with Khamenei”.

A reminder of distant memories

Iran has heard similar chants before. Forty years ago, in 1978, after the annual Nowruz celebrations, similar chants rang out across Iran. Nasser Razil describes how protestors gathered in Tehran, shouting “down with the Shah”. Then, as now, the country was in the grip of autocratic power, with a heavily oppressed population calling out regime change.

The parallels between the climate of 1978 and that which we see today are not limited to Iran’s internal political struggle. In 1978, western governments were convinced that the Shah would emerge from the protests with his regime intact. Just weeks before Nowruz, Jimmy Carter had called Iran an “island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world”. The UK Foreign Office also maintained a blind faith that the Shah was in control of the situation.

Foreign powers are not reading the signs

Fast forward to today, and the same attitude can be seen towards Iran from the western powers. There has been a prevailing school of thought in western governments that Rouhani’s oppressive regime has the support of the poorer classes and possesses the strength to whether the storm and put down the dissenting population.

This has clearly shown to be false. The recent protests indicate that the poorer communities have just as much desire for regime change as the urban middle classes. In Isfahan Province, it was the farmers that triggered mass public mobilisation in early April, disgusted at the regime’s inability to handle a water crisis. The recent protests raged for ten days, indicating that the regime could not quash the dissent. There were even reports of State Security Forces abandoning their posts and joining the protestors. The regime’s strength is evaporating, and there are clear signs that, like the Shah’s regime in 1978, it will not be able to maintain its grip on power for much longer.

Washington is currently re-examining its position on Iran. It will soon have to decide whether or not to adopt a firmer stance against the Iranian regime or continue with its policy of appeasement for the ayatollahs. The appointment of John Bolton as the new National Security Advisor to President Trump is a positive sign. He has long sympathised with the MEK and its leader Maryam Rajavi and will likely push for a harder stance towards the Iranian regime.

However, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In 1979, when the Shah regime fell, western governments were in shock and were left scrambling to formulate a policy towards the incoming government. The same signs that were present in 1978 are visible today. Foreign governments must read them and react.

The Rouhani regime is losing its grip on power. All segments of the public have turned away from it and are crying out for regime change. The economy is still declining, and farmers have begun to strike and protest. The winds of change are on the horizon. Washington, London, and the other western governments must change their attitudes towards the regime in Iran. It will not be in power for much longer.

Staff writer

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Iran Terrorism,MEK,MOIS,Terrorist Plots,The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) in Iran

Terrorist Plots by Iranian Regime Threaten MEK and NCRI Groups Abroad

Terrorist Plots by Iranian Regime Threaten MEK and NCRI Groups Abroad

Terrorist Plots by Iranian Regime Threaten MEK and NCRI Groups Abroad

Credit to NCR-iran.org – Terrorist Plots by Iranian Regime Threaten MEK and NCRI Groups Abroad

A series of terror plots against the MEK (PMOI)has been uncovered this year. Attacks against the resistance organization have been plotted in Albania, Germany, and the United States. The Iranian regime is behind the plots, according to Albanian law enforcement agencies. A report aired on March 22nd on Albanian television, which said:

 

“Since the beginning of the month, intelligence and anti-terrorism agencies have been monitoring 10 people who are said to be able to organize terrorist activities in Albania. All Iranian citizens who enter Albania are under widespread surveillance both at the border and during their stay in Albania. Law enforcement agencies in Albania are in particular worried about Iranians who could be used by Tehran’s secret services to strike a blow to the protection of 3,000 members of the Iranian Mojahedin who are refugees in Albania.”

 

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama responded to a question about the threats to the MEK (PMOI)refugees currently living in Albania, saying:

 

“I believe that, for MEK we did the right thing. We gave accommodation to a group which is persecuted. And that’s it. Regarding your question about security and threats, we are on the right side of history, we are in a group of countries of the Euro Atlantic club which are threatened in the same way. I believe that all these countries take measures against terrorist threats.”

 

Threats Against the MEK (PMOI)

 

The Iranian regime has stepped up their campaign to demonize and delegitimize the MEK (PMOI)since the uprising that began at the end of last year. On January 9th, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, acknowledged the role played by the MEK (PMOI)in the recent uprising and threatened members of the resistance organization, saying, “We must speak with and enlighten those who entered the fray in the spur of the moment, including students and non-students, but the [PMOI] should be treated differently.”

 

The MEK (PMOI)has spent the past month working to prevent assassinations against its members and attacks on its offices. The MEK (PMOI)has been attacked by the regime previously, leading to the deaths of many of its members living as refugees at Camps Ashraf and Liberty. The regime appears to be planning an escalation of its campaign against the organization, which could quickly lead to terrorist attacks.

 

The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) in Iran opted for an “operational” response to the PMOI/MEK. They decided, in part, to spy domestically on those deemed to be responsible for the protests and to plan a major attack on the PMOI/MEK, using the current capacity of the Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence Service (MOIS).

 

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Hassan Rouhani, the regime’s president, called French President Emmanuel Macron on January 2nd to demand that he take action against MEK (PMOI)members currently in exile in France for so-called “terrorist” activities against the regime. President Macron refused. French newspaper, Le Figaro, responded to this call, writing, “In the Elysée it is said that we have never had discussions with the Iranians where the issue of the Mojahedin has not been at some point mentioned to us.”

 

Suspicious activities, such as reconnoitering, photographing and mock parking maneuvers, have been reported in Berlin and Washington, D.C. outside of the offices of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), of which the MEK (PMOI)is a member. Relevant officials have been informed of possible terrorist strikes.

 

On March 22nd of this year, Albanian law enforcement arrested two Iranian operatives suspected of terrorist activities in Albania. These agents claimed to be journalists. The Albanian news reported:

 

“These two Iranian citizens were arrested for further investigation by anti-terrorism agencies after information was received from Albania’s international partners stating that they were planning to carry out a terrorist operation.”

 

The MOIS frequently has its operatives pose as journalists. On July 9, 2017, Ali Fallahian, a former Iranian Intelligence Minister, said:

 

“In order to gather intelligence, the Intelligence Ministry uses various covers both inside the country and abroad. We don’t send an intelligence agent to Germany or to the US to say ‘I’m from the Intelligence Ministry.’ It’s necessary for them to operate under covers such as traders or journalists.”
The regime’s hostility toward the MEK (PMOI)is well-documented. As protests continue in Iran against the repressive theocracy, it is expected that their campaign to demonize the MEK (PMOI)will continue to escalate.

Staff Writer

 

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Kazerun,MEK,Shaheen Gobadi

Iran MEK: Kazerun Protests Continue Despite Heavy Security Measures

Iran MEK: Kazerun Protests Continue Despite Heavy Security Measures

Iran MEK: Kazerun Protests Continue Despite Heavy Security Measures

Iran MEK: Kazerun Protests Continue Despite Heavy Security Measures

On April 20, protesters in the city of Kazerun took to the streets for the fifth consecutive day. The people of Kazerun are protesting the regime’s plan to split the city into two pieces. Thousands of residents have turned out for days of demonstrations, including many of the city’s youth and a large number of women. Protesters came out for the demonstrations despite the presence of heavily-armed anti-riot forces.

During the five days of protests in the Shohada (martyrs) square, demonstrators have chanted a number of slogans at the suppressive forces sent to quell the uprising. Among them were:

“Here’s the dignity of the people of Kazerun!”

“God is great, with such dignity by the people!”

“Honorable Iranians, support us!”

“Honorable Kazerun, hail to your dignity!”

“Our state TV is a disgrace!”

“We are ready to defend Kazerun.”

Do not be afraid, do not be afraid, we are all together!”

“We swear to the blood of the martyrs that we shall gather every day at the martyrs’ square!”

“We do not accept humiliation!”

“While our enemy is right here, they keep saying America is the enemy!”

“We are the men and women of battle; we fight against the separation plan!”

In an earlier statement, Kazerun’s Friday Prayers leader said that the regime had decided to pause its plan to divide the city. He and the fake city council went on to order the protesters to disperse and to forbid them from gathering until a final plan is made for the city. Protesters have ignored these words and have continued their demonstrations, demanding that their governor responds to the protests.

Shahin Gobadi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)’s Foreign Affairs Committee posted a video clip provided by MEK network inside Iran on his Twitter Account:

 Residents of Kazerun are opposed to the regime’s plan to split their city, saying that the move is a misguided attempt to resolve problems resulting from years of corruption and mismanagement.

Staff Writer

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Iran Protests,Isfahan,Maryam Rajavi,MEK,ProfessorIvan Sascha Sheehan

Recent Protests Mark a New Era for Iran’s Opposition

Recent Protests Mark a New Era for Iran’s Opposition

Recent Protests Mark a New Era for Iran’s Opposition

Recent Protests Mark a New Era for Iran’s Opposition

The continuation of recent protests despite the Iranian regime’s repressive measures, including mass arrests, the killing of protesters, and torture, shows that these protests have taken on a different, more resolute tone. Rather than protesting individual incidents, like the 2009 protests, the nation-wide protests that have rocked Iran since December have been directed at the regime itself and its repressive reign of terror.

Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is the incoming Executive Director of the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, and an award-winning scholar and Iran expert. He has published a very comprehensive analysis of the recent uprisings in Iran, the reasons for their continuation and the differences between these protest with their predecessors like the 2009 uprisings in Iran. Given the continuation of the protests, a summary of this study has been reported below:

The spread of discontent

At the end of December 2017 and the beginning of January 2018, Iran experienced the largest national uprising since 2009. What started as localized and isolated protests in Mashhad, quickly spread to 142 cities and towns in all 31 of Iran’s provinces.

Although this initial wave of disruption has ended, since January 2018, a steady stream of protests has continued to erupt across the country. In February, another wave of protests broke out in the capital over the mandatory wearing of the hijab. Then, at the beginning of April, farmers took up their shovels to protest the mismanagement of water resources, leading a fresh round of protests which have since spread to five major cities.

Like the most recent farmer’s protest in Isfahan, the national uprisings in December were ignited by a triggering incident. In December, rising prices of staple food products ignited civil unrest. Also, like the most recent Isfahan protests, the triggering incident was soon marginalized, and the protests took on a more political tone, with anger and frustrations directed squarely at Rouhani’s repressive regime.

This regime-targeted anger sets these most recent protests apart from their predecessors. It indicates that public appetite has shifted from temporary protests directed at individual policies, to widespread anger with the entire regime.

This has been most apparent in the slogans adopted by the protestors. Protesters across the country engaged in chants of “down with Rouhani” and “down with Khamenei”, along with “Khamenei is a killer, his rule is illegitimate” and “we will fight to wrest back our country Iran.” These demonstrate the full extent of public dissatisfaction. The chants did not reflect the initial trigger of the protests; the rising price of eggs. They indicated a strong public desire for regime change, unlike anything Iran has seen before.

In his article, Professor Sheehan noted that the demographic that took part in the most recent rounds of protests were also of interest. He wrote, “the overwhelming majority of those who engaged in the uprising were from poor and underprivileged backgrounds”. This is particularly damaging for the mullahs. They have always maintained that they are “the defenders of the abased”. Previous protests, like those in 2009, featured a majority middle-class demographic. However, the most recent protests indicate that both the poor and middle-classes alike are angry at the regime and there is discontent across all segments of the Iranian population.

Sheehan describes how the recent protests have been effective at uniting people from all walks of life. Women, farmers, rich and poor all walked together. This also extended to ethnic unity. People from Iran’s multitude of ethnicities showed solidarity against the regime. The slogans adopted by protestors had no ethnic undertones. They showed a united Iranian population with one Iranian identity. From Kurds to Balochs, the entire spectrum of Iran’s rich population joined the protests.

These protests also challenged the very heart of the clerical regime. The December protests began in Mashhad and quickly spread to Qom within a matter of hours. These two cities have traditionally been regime strongholds. With discontent spreading to these “bastions of the clerical rule”, the regime must know it’s very survival is under threat.

The violent response

The extent of the threat to the Iranian regime from this new generation of protests is apparent in its aggressive response. The government officially states 22 protestors were killed in response to the protests. However, opposition groups, like the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), assert the figure is closer to 50.

The head of the Iranian Prisons Organisation said the government arrested 4,972 protestors. Again, opposition groups have claimed that this figure is a vast understatement, putting the true number of arrested protestors at around 8,000.

Although the government arrested a significant number of protestors, Sheehan suggests there were indications that the December protests stretched the regime’s military force to its limits. In 2009, the government was able to restore order through the deployment of one IRGC division to each province and two divisions to Tehran. However, the 2017/2018 protests spread too fast and were too geographically dispersed for the IRGC to immediately bring them under control. The protests raged for ten days and, according to Professor Sheehan, after the first day had “no element of surprise and all the details of the protests including locations and times were announced in advance on social media”.

This indicates the IRGC was stretched beyond its capabilities. It could not prevent or stop well-advertised protests from occurring, and once they had sprung up, could not bring the situation under control for ten days. There was also chaos within the IRGC and the Basij militia. Reports of soldiers burning their membership cards and joining the protestors have emerged.

This will have far-reaching consequences moving forward. The protests showed the Iranian people that the regime and its IRGC are not invincible and cannot establish control when all segments of the population protest in unison.

Why are the protests gaining momentum now?

The timing of the protests is also significant. The protests have evolved and become more threatening now because of the regime’s own failings. The extension of Khamenei’s control over the Iranian economy has left many individuals in conditions of financial hardship. The nuclear agreement with the US unfroze tens of billions of dollars, but the average Iranian is no better off.

This is because more than 50% of Iran’s GDP is now under state control. The private sector has been marginalized, inflation is still high, and unemployment remains in double digits, particularly among Iran’s youth, which has unemployment levels of up to 50% in some areas.

Nepotism and corruption are strangling social mobility. Graduates from the country’s top universities are performing manual labor and washing dishes, while the children of the country’s elite secure the top jobs.

The regime’s spending has also left many communities deprived of basic social needs. Iran’s healthcare spending is approximately a third of its military spending. Tehran has prioritized spending on foreign military and extremist groups overspending on the basic social needs of its population. The regime has created the discontent that has fuelled these anti-government protests by neglecting its population.

Beyond neglecting its population, the regime has extorted money from them through manipulation and deceit. The regime lured middle and lower-income Iranian people into investing in government institutions under the promise of high investment returns. These investments were embezzled into Rouhani’s regime, leaving the institutions bankrupt and many Iranian’s without their life savings. The regime’s deceit impacted a large segment of the population and has contributed to the discontent of a large segment of the Iranian population.

The economy shows no sign of improving, and in many parts, could get a lot worse. The regime’s looting of Iran’s financial institutions means that several principal banks face imminent bankruptcy. Should these banks bottom out, more of the Iranian population will find themselves without their savings, looking to vent their frustrations at the regime that left them penniless.

Increased connectivity and mobile penetration have also contributed to the evolution of the Iranian protest movement and the emergence of a new breed of protest. The movement is more organized and efficient. Half of the Iranian population now uses the instant messaging service, Telegram. It was essential in facilitating the mobilization of the population in the December and January protests and in the coordination and spread of civil unrest.

The role of MEK in Protests

In his report, Prof. Sheehan discusses another reason for the increased momentum and success of the public protests in Iran, which is the presence of an organized and structured opposition movement. He emphasized that leaderless movements are easier to curb and eradicate through the use of government intimidation and oppression. “The People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK), lead by Maryam Rajavi, has been a lightning rod for opponents to the Iranian regime”. The MEK’s continued presence in Iran helps mobilize and inspire the population into organized resistance.

The MEK has also played an integral role in bringing the full extent of the regime’s atrocities to light. It has worked tirelessly to shed light on the regime’s massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 and the officials involved. It also exposed the location of nuclear weapons research facilities and the progress of the regimes nuclear weapon development program.

Without the MEK, the full extent of the regime’s atrocities and crimes may never have been exposed to the Iranian public. It provides a constant voice for the opposition and a beacon for the nation’s youth who are dissatisfied with the status quo and eager to be a part of the opposition.

Prof. Sheehan reiterates that the MEK has played a key role and been a driving force behind the spread of recent protest movements. It is one of the few organizations that provides comprehensive coverage of the protests, broadcasting video clips and giving interviews to international media outlets. Its coverage of the protests undoubtedly contributed to the spread of the protests and will be a driving force in the re-emergence of protests in the near future.

 Changing international attitudes

Not only did the December and January protests represent a new dawn for Iranian opposition, but they also represented a new dawn in international attitudes towards the Iranian regime. Before the protests, Prof. Sheehan describes how the prevailing thought in the west and among international leaders was that the Iranian poor supported the regime. They believed Tehran had effectively suppressed the opposition and enjoyed unrivalled dominance and control over the population. The west also believed the easing of economic sanctions would provide a cash windfall for the Iranian people and reduce their appetite for dissent.

The 2017/2018 protests challenged these assertions. They showed that the population was harboring ill sentiment towards the regime and crying out for an opportunity to express its discontent. Sheehan alluded to a new school of thought that is reinterpreting Iran’s support for foreign militias not as a sign of strength, but as a sign of weakness. He said it is “maintained to cover up the shortcomings and failures at home.”

In the international community, the effectiveness and magnitude of the December and January protests have led to a reinterpretation of the situation in Iran. Maryam Rajavi, leader of the MEK, offered some insight into the situation. She said, “Iranian society is simmering with discontent and the international community is finally getting closer to the reality that appeasing the ruling theocracy is misguided.”

The future

In the wake of these ground-breaking developments, Sheehan asserts that we may see an increasingly firmer stance taken by the international community, particularly from the Trump administration.

The MEK in opposition will continue to work tirelessly to organize outlets for the disheartened population to vent their frustrations. The MEK has supported the establishment of secret centers of resistance which will connect like-minded protestors and attempt to orchestrate the downfall of the repressive regime.

This platform of an organized opposition taking practical steps towards regime change provides the Iranian population with the best possible chance of success. It puts the mullahs and Rouhani in the difficult position where they have no option but carry out widespread reforms or face the collapse of their regime under the weight of public discontent. Given Rouhani’s reluctance to reform, we can conclude that protests will continue and intensify.

Prof. Sheehan’s article vividly depicts the changing Iranian political landscape. It demonstrates that is has been irreversibly altered by the December and January protests. The regime cannot afford to continue with its repressive ways without acknowledging public frustrations. The next wave of protests will be louder, larger and more powerful and the regime will soon be unable to maintain a grip on power.

Last year, Maryam Rajavi summed it up. She told a crowd gathered in Paris that “the light of change is shining on Iran.” These protests have shown the world that light and demonstrated that the Iranian regime is staring down the barrel of collapse.

Staff Writer

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Isfahan,MEK,water rights

Mass Arrests in Isfahan as Protests Continue across Iran

Mass Arrests in Isfahan as Protests Continue across Iran

Mass Arrests in Isfahan as Protests Continue across Iran

Mass Arrests in Isfahan as Protests Continue across Iran

Demonstrators continue to take to the streets across Iran to protest its oppressive regime. Economic issues have powered many of the recent demonstrations, as citizens of all walks of life protest the corruption of the ruling regime.

 

The regime has attempted to quell the protests with mass arrests and suppressive forces rather than address the concerns of the Iranian people. On April 15th, the Khorasgan people in Isfahan  saw their houses attacked in the dead of night by suppressive forces hoping to prevent the protests from spreading. Farmers and youths in the city were arrested as part of this suppressive action.

 

Repressive forces maintained a presence of fear and intimidation in the city in a failed attempt to prevent further demonstrations. Anti-riot mercenaries traveling in twenty cars and four buses were dispatched to the city to stop the protests by the people of Varzaneh, MEK network inside Iran reported.

 

Despite these intimidation tactics, farmers in Isfahan met at Khourasgan Square and Abazar Avenue on Saturday to protest, with chants of: “Imprisoned farmers should be freed! Farmer dies, but does not accept humiliation! We are the women and men of battle, we get back our right to water!”

 

Demonstrators are raising their voices to protest a number of issues. In Khuzestan province, villagers from Jofair in Hoveizeh protested for the right to use water from Jofair Project.

 

In Ahvaz and Shushtar, protesters demanded the return of their looted deposits from the Arman Vahdat governmental institution. In Mashhad, a rally was held by the people looted by Caspian institute outside the Pamchal branch in Sajjad Boulevard.

 

In Tehran, Tarbiat Modarres University students protested corruption at their school, including looting the University’s budget, the illegal evacuation of dormitories, and renting university facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, for profit.

 

In Yazd, health center workers protested months of having their salaries unpaid. They also protested their lack of job security.

 

In Yasuj, families of the victims of the fatal Asman airlines crash last year met at the Red Crescent building to protest the ruling government’s failure to recover the bodies of crash victims. They called on Tehran to find and return their families’ bodies.

 

In Tabriz, fans of the Tractor-Sazi team protested the team’s executive manager, Ajorlu, and suppressive acts against the team and its fans.

 

In several cities, including Qazvin, Kerman and Yazd, educational services purchase plan teachers demonstrated in front of Ministry of Education offices for the second time, asking for payment of their salaries and full insurance. They also demanded to be paid the same as official employees.

 

Protesters employed a variety of strategies to express their anger at the ruling regime. Protesters in Ahvaz blocked the doors of Arman Vahdat, the governmental institution that stole their deposits, with mud. In Shushtar, victims of Arman Vahdat forced employees out of the building and closed it. Other demonstrators carried signs condemning the actions of the regime and chanted slogans.

 

The uprising, which began in December of last year, continues in the form of widespread protests. The Iranian regime has yet to silence the voices of its people.

Laura Carnahan

 

 

 

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