Posts Tagged ‘Ingrid Betancourt’

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Ingrid Betancourt speaking at a conference in the French Parliament.

Ingrid Betancourt: Maryam Rajavi is There to Replace the Regime

Ingrid Betancourt speaking at a conference in the French Parliament.

Hon. Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian Politician, and former presidential candidate speaks at the conference “Iran’s Perspective in 2019” held  in the Colbert hall inside the French National Assemblee-February 2019

During a recent conference in the French Parliament, Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian-French politician and supporter of the Iranian opposition movement, addressed French MPs on the threat the regime poses.

Asking the Right Questions

Betancourt began by calling on French politicians to ensure they will be on the right side of history and give voice to the downtrodden and repressed Iranian population. She said, “be the voice of the Iranian people, the voice that asks the right questions about the attacks, the executions, the imprisonment.”

Ms. Betancourt reminded that the Iranian regime has run roughshod over the basic human rights of the Iranian people. Pro-democracy activists in Iran, gender equality activists, trade unionists, ethnic minorities, Christians, and women, amongst others, are frequently repressed, arrested, and executed without fair trial and due process.

The Iranian people have endured four decades of the clerical regime’s blatant and violent human rights abuses. Nobody has been on the receiving end of these abuses more than the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK), the largest and most active opposition group, Ms. Betancourt emphasized.

A Thorn in the Regime’s Side

Ms. Betancourt, the former candidate for Colombia’s presidential campaign, outlined that the MEK has been a thorn in the side of the clerical regime since day one. Resistance units operate across Iran’s cities, organizing protests and opposing the mullahs’ violent tyranny wherever it occurs.

In response, the mullahs have launched a series of bloody crackdowns on the opposition group. In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime rounded up and executed more than 30,000 MEK members in what amounted to one of the largest crimes against humanity of the twentieth century.

Most recently, the regime launched a state-sponsored terror campaign against the MEK. It plotted a series of violent attacks on MEK members living in Albania. Then it plotted to bomb the group’s annual Grand Gathering event in France. Shortly afterward, two regime agents were arrested in the United States for carrying out reconnaissance activities against MEK members in the US ahead of a planned terror attack.

Speaking about the attacks, Ms. Betancourt asked, “why”, “what is the purpose of removing Ms. Rajavi and removing the Iranian Resistance Council?” The “answer is simple,” she explained. “The mullahs want to convince the world that there is only one viable interlocutor in Iran.”

Weaponizing Word

Ms. Betancourt pointed out that the regime has not limited its fight against the MEK to physical attacks. It uses international media outlets to spout lies and disinformation against the MEK and the Iranian opposition and turn public opinion against pro-democracy groups.

One of the most recent regime-originated hit-pieces appeared in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine. The article spewed a series of falsehoods and lies, all of which have been extensively disproved in international courts. The piece drew criticism from politicians across the globe. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, the former vice-President of the European Parliament, called the piece, “a laundry list of baseless accusations.”

Why Devote Time and Resources?

The regime frequently insists that the MEK is a small and unpopular organization and that it has limited support among the wider Iranian population. But if that were the case, why would the regime devote such resources to attacking the group both at home and abroad?

The 2018 terror attacks demonstrated that the regime was willing to risk bilateral relations with European nations in order to kill and maim MEK members. Why would the regime go to such lengths over an insignificant organization?

The reality is that the MEK poses a significant existential risk to the regime. Its ranks swell by the day. The MEK-organised protest movement is expanding, and each time the group and its supporters take to the streets, the calls for regime change get louder.

There have been signs that the regime is growing uneasy. Privately, many of the regime’s leadership have made comments expressing concern, and the Supreme Leader himself blamed the group for the nationwide protests that took place across Iran in early 2018.

The MEK represent a democratic alternative to regime rule. The Iranian people know this, and now, at last, international governments are beginning to take note. Betancourt concluded her speech in the French Parliament by urging French MPs to “ask until when will we continue to believe that our only legitimate interlocutor is the tyrannical regime ruling Iran.”

Maryam Rajavi (the president-elect of the MEK) is there to replace them,” she concluded.

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Colombian-French politician, Ingrid Betancourt, and the former presidential candidate in Colombia addresses MEK members in Ashraf 3

Ingrid Betancourt to MEK Members: “We are going to win this”

Colombian-French politician, Ingrid Betancourt, and the former presidential candidate in Colombia addresses MEK members in Ashraf 3

Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian-French politician, and the former presidential candidate in Colombia speaks at the International Conference of the Iranian Communities, held in Ashraf 3, MEK’s residence in Albania- December 2018

Colombian-French politician, Ingrid Betancourt and the former Colombian presidential candidate, addressed members of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) and their allies in Albania, emphasizing that “Time has changed. You [the MEK] are the hope, Maryam [Rajavi] is the leader and we are with you and we are going to win this” referring to MEK’s struggle to free Iran.

Betancourt expressed her gratitude towards the Albanian government and delight at what she said was a “very special moment” for her.

“Many years ago we were fighting for your lives when you were in Camp Liberty and we were feeling the despair and the rage of being caught in that horrible situation where we were surrounded by lies and… the only thing we could do was [cry] for help and [denounce] what was happening”, she said, adding, “to see you here in this land that has welcomed you with open arms… thank you, Albania. Thank you”.

She expressed her warmth towards the country. “I feel at home because I see that this is a country that has decided to take the good side of the choices of options in life”, she said.

“What Albania has done… has gained the respect of all the international community”, she proclaimed.

The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

Betancourt described how she had insisted that on this visit to Albania, she would not stay in a hotel, but she wanted to be with the MEK members at their Ashraf 3 compound outside Tirana.

She described how she had “been walking the streets of this new city”, adding, “I’m so proud to be here with you.”

Following the Iranian regime’s mortar attacks and liquidation of the Camps of Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq, in which many MEK members lost their lives or were badly wounded, the MEK fled to Albania.

In just 12 months, the group has built a sprawling compound, aptly named Ashraf 3. The compound has its own water purification facilities, dormitories, dental center, pharmacies, bakeries, a sports complex, library, meeting hall, and learning centers.

Betancourt marveled, “You are like the phoenix that rises from the ashes and this Ashraf is telling me the power that is in you”.

“You have built a community of people”, she continued, “that are committed to fighting for a free Iran.” Betancourt expressed her delight at the “city” under construction at Ashraf 3, where MEK members and supporters from around the world are united in their passion and desire for a free Iran.

A Direct Threat to the Mullahs’ Future in Power

The resilience and determination on display across the MEK is a direct threat to the mullahs’ future in power in Iran.

“Can you imagine”, Betancourt asked, “what it is for the government of Iran, the regime of the mullahs, every day looking at the newspapers and finding out that there is a riot somewhere in some place in Iran?” “Every day you are reminding them that they have no right to be at the head of the state in Iran”, she added, “every day, you are reminding them that it’s going to come to an end”.

Without the MEK, the protest movement in Iran would not be possible. “It’s because you are here, organized, with the plan… with a strategy, with a leader like Maryam Rajavi”, that the people of Iran feel empowered to take to the streets.

Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian opposition leader, takes a photo up with distinguished speakers at the International Conference against Iranian regime’s terrorism and violations of human rights, in Ashraf 3, Albania-December 15, 2018

Betancourt described how Maryam Rajavi disarms the regime’s terrorism and violence with love. “Love is the one that will bring Iran to freedom”, Betancourt asserted.

The Tables Have Turned

Betancourt described how just five years ago, the MEK was fighting to get its name removed from international terror lists in the West after Western government included the pro-democracy group on the lists to appease the mullahs.

“Now it is them who have to explain”, Betancourt clamored. After several foiled terror attacks in Europe, the French and Albanian governments have expelled diplomats. The French President Emmanuel Macron ordered for the freezing of assets owned by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS)

Betancourt continued, “now it’s them who fear”. “They are fearing that they will be brought to justice. And this is our commitment. We are going to make sure that we free Iran and that we bring them to international justice”.

Finally, Betancourt concluded, “We want them to be in jail for all the crimes they have committed”.

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Conference in Geneva HQ of the UN, calls for justice for 1988 Massacre

Geneva Conference Calls for Investigation into 1988 Massacre

Conference in Geneva HQ of the UN, calls for justice for 1988 Massacre

Human rights experts and activists call for justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners (mainly MEK) in Iran

On Friday, September 14th, a group of human rights activists, politicians, and dignitaries held a conference at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. The conference was in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the execution of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, most of whom were MEK members, over the course of a single summer in 1988.

Conference participants sought to increase public awareness of the 1988 massacre and to persuade the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to include a discussion of the massacre in the upcoming summit of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Ultimately, the conference’s goal is to see that the perpetrators of the massacre are brought to justice. To date, none of those responsible for the mass executions have been held accountable for their actions, and many of the perpetrators continue to hold positions of power within the Iranian regime.

The 1988 massacre occurred as a result of a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, who ordered the executions of all political prisoners associated with the MEK who did not renounce the MEK. Prisoners were sentenced to death after 15-minute trials and executed in groups. At the end of the summer, 30,000 prisoners had been executed.

The 1988 massacre has been described as one of the biggest crimes of humanity since World War II. There have been a number of calls for an independent investigation and international criminal prosecution of those responsible for the acts.

Conference participants spoke of the massacre and the need for an independent investigation into the crime against humanity. Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt describes the history of the mass executions, noting that the prisoners had already been sentenced and that “[some of them were about to be released.”

She also spoke about the regime’s efforts to cover up its crime. “The regime is covering the mass graves and prohibiting the families from speaking about it,” Betancourt said.

Betancourt stressed that the regime still poses a dire threat to the Iranian opposition, particularly the MEK, citing a foiled terror attack against an Iranian Resistance gathering in Paris in June of this year.

“The only chance we have to confront terrorism today is to help democracy get back to Iran,” she concluded.

Tahar Boumedra, distinguished jurist, former U.N. representative in Iraq, and the current head of Justice for the Victims of the 1988 (JVMI) emphasized the need for an independent investigation into the 1988 mass executions.

“As far as the United Nations is concerned, they’re still asking the government of Iran to investigate the event. They know they will never investigate,” said Boumedra.

Laurence Fehlmann Rielle, a member of the Swiss Federal Parliament, echoed the call for an investigation, calling the 1988 executions “one of the most atrocious crimes that haven’t been investigated by the international community.”

Juan Garcés, Spanish lawyer and former advisor of Chilean President Salvador Allende, spoke about the religious element to the mullahs’ crime.

“This massacre had a religious element because the victims were killed under the pretext of enmity with God. What can we do in this regard? 30 years have passed. These crimes that have a genocidal nature are usually committed by the state, and naturally, we can’t expect the state to serve justice… We must gather all possible evidence, including those of the victims and the perpetrators. One day, this can all be brought to the attention of an international court of law. Establishing a universal jurisdiction can pursue these cases,” Garcés emphasized.

Gilbert Mitterrand, President of Danielle Mitterand Foundation and one of the organizers of the conference, urged the international community to put politics aside and prioritize human rights in decisions about the 1988 massacre.

“How many more such sessions do we need to hold?… We would like to go further, not only the 1988 massacres but also the current situation in Iran, where human rights continue to be trampled. The international community shows that it has other priorities above human rights,” he said.

Mitterand continued: “Former UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Asma Jahangir, requested an independent inquiry into the 1988 massacre… The international community has condemned the Iranian regime for trying to erase the traces of this crime… The international community is the ally of the Iranian people. We shouldn’t play the game of the mullahs.”

Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former Vice-President of European Parliament (1999-2014) and the President of the international committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) called the 1988 executions “probably the worst crime in Iran’s modern history.”

Vidal-Quadras described the lack of accountability for the massacre, saying, “Many of the perpetrators who have admitted to their role in this crime, have not been brought to justice.” Instead, the criminals have been given ministerial positions within the regime, he said.

Vidal-Quadras said that the violation of human rights is still a problem under the current regime.
“During the presidency of Hassan Rouhani,” he said, “more than 3,500 people have been executed. His predecessor was not ‘moderate’ but he killed fewer people. The concept of moderation in the Iranian regime is quite original.”.

After reminding the audience that the current regime has killed more than 50 people in the streets since the beginning of the popular protests last December, Vidal-Quadras concluded by saying:

“It’s not an exaggeration if we call this regime a killing machine,” Vidal-Quadras said, criticizing European politicians and state for disregarding the Iranian regime’s abysmal human rights record.

“We must remind our European governments that Iran is not a normal government to do business with. It’s a totalitarian theocracy that survives by instigating civil conflict and terror outside their borders,” he went on. “This is a very unstable and weak regime, and it has no future. We should not count on the mullahs and have illusions about Rouhani and the so-called moderates. The future belongs to democracy.”

Finally, Sanobargh Zahedi, attorney, and Chair of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI) Justice Commission reiterated the call for an independent investigation, describing the regime’s past and current crimes against humanity and the need for accountability.

“The families of the victims still do not how & why their loved ones die, or where they were buried. This is an ongoing form of psychological torture designed to put fear into people. If anyone asks what happened in 1988 or speaks to U.N. mandate holders, they are persecuted, detained and tortured themselves… The people who have committed these murderous crimes have never been held accountable. They have been promoted by the regime for their actions… Iran still executes the most people per capita in the world. Then NCRI calls on the UN Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, the Special Representative, and all special mandate holders to cooperate. Together we can ensure there is accountability and an end to impunity in Iran. We need an international inquiry because the Iranian regime is never going to investigate itself.”

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Washington Times Special Edition on Free Iran Rally

Washington Times Reports on Free Iran Gathering

Washington Times Special Edition on Free Iran Rally

Special Edition of Washington Times on Free Iran Rally- July 2018

July 21st marks the 37th anniversary of the 1981 founding of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This month, the Washington Times published a special section on its website about the NCRI annual Grand Gathering, which took place on June 30, 2018, in Paris. This year’s gathering, titled “Free Iran: The Alternative,” was attended by over 100,000 people, including members of the Iranian Resistance movement, specifically the MEK and the NCRI; dignitaries; diplomats; and politicians from all over the world.

The Grand Gathering included dozens of speeches from these well-known leaders from across the political spectrum offering their perspectives on the NCRI and the MEK as the only viable alternative to the clerical regime currently in power in Iran. The timely series on the Free Iran event by the Washington Times included quotes from many of these speeches.

 

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, gave the keynote address at the gathering, opening her speech by saying, “[T]he flames of the auspicious and liberating uprising are again rising in Tehran and across Iran.” She praised MEK members who have recently resettled in Albania, challenged anyone who felt they could topple the regime without a plan to do so and outlined her plan for a peaceful transition to a democracy after the fall of the clerical regime.

Rudolph Giuliani, former New York Mayor and advisor to U.S. President Trump, said this:

“You’ve got an alternative that’s built on a solid foundation of 10 principles. Democracy, human rights, a non-nuclear Iran, separation of church and state, and the rights of women and of all minorities to be protected. My goodness, that sounds like a full-fledged democracy. That’s what the NCRI stands for. That’s what Madame Rajavi stands for, and that’s what your martyrs died for.”

 

Former U.S. Congressman Newt Gingrich said this in his speech: “[F]reedom will come. It has been paid for by the blood of patriots. It has been paid for by the sweat of patriots. It has been paid for by those willing to stand up to the dictatorship.”

 

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson spoke directly to the Iranian Resistance: “You are the source of change in Iran. The young people, the women, the resistance, the youth, the young people here. And I want to tell you a lot of people ask, ‘Is there an alternative to the mullahs, to the dictatorship?’ And the answer is, Yes, it’s the resistance. It’s the MEK. It’s Mrs. Rajavi. But it’s you…the power is with you. The power is with everyone in this room and each one of you represents thousands in Iran that are saying, ‘No dictatorship.’ The end is near. The end is near.”

 

Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey used his time to speak about the weakness of the regime, saying, “Finally the stars seem to be aligned to accomplish what we all want to accomplish, which is the downfall of the mullahs’ regime.”

 

Retired U.S. General George Casey spoke about the ruling regime in Iran and the need for a democratic alternative: “Iran, through its terrorists on the Quds Force, continues to support terrorism and destabilize not only its neighbors but the entire region, and that’s not normal behavior. And I firmly believe that no government that actively imports and exports terror can be a productive player in the world today. Change must come to Iran.”

 

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh spoke first to the Freedom Fighters in Iran, saying: “We support you, we’re there for you, we can move.”

 

He had an additional message for the criminal mullahs in power in Iran, saying: “We have the ability, and will maintain the ability, to bring those criminals to justice. The day will come when not only democratic change will be brought to Iran, but the criminals who have committed crimes against humanity will fill the criminal courts of the international community. They will be brought to justice.”

 

Frances Townsend, the former Homeland Security Advisor, addressed the women of the Iranian Resistance: “You are the roses of the future that will lead us to a free Iran.”

 

Former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli spoke directly to the mullahs, voicing his support for the MEK and his certainty that the regime would fall: “[Y]ou are in the fighting ring of history. We stand with the people of Ashraf. We stand with the MEK. We stand with the people in the streets of Iran fighting for freedom.”

 

 

A large bipartisan delegation of U.S. Congressmen and women sent letters of support to the NCRI. Among them was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wrote: “This year, the world has watched men and women bravely stand up for their rights in peaceful protests across the country. Their courage and determination inspire all to recommit to our shared mission, to build a democratic, free and non-nuclear Iran. America stands in solidarity with every Iranian man and woman and child as they fight for the right to speak freely without fear of persecution.”

 

Dr. Bernard Kouchner, former French Minister of Foreign Affairs and founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres offered this advice for the Iranian Resistance: “Be brave and clear in offering freedom and democracy. The French are with you.”

 

Martin Patzelt, member of the German Bundestag from the Ruling Christian Democratic Party, praised the Iranian Resistance movement: “It is very well organized and is in a position to bring together all those discontented and freedom-lovers who are still not organized.”

 

Former Canadian Prime Minister and Chairman of the International Democrat Union Stephen Harper expressed the support of the international community for the Iranian people. “You have many friends, as today’s gathering shows, from all around the world, who want a new Iran. An Iran governed not by the hatreds of the past, but by the people’s aspirations for their future. Keep up the fight.”

 

Sir David Amess spoke on behalf of a huge delegation of over 50 British Members of Parliament from both the House of Lords and House of Commons and from all political affiliations. “Madame Rajavi, dear friends, we are here to say we stand with you and the Iranian people as you strive for a better future. And we will continue to support you until Iran is free,” he said.

 

U.K. Member of Parliament Theresa Villiers spoke of her hope for the future for Iran’s brave women: “Let us all hope that one day Mrs. Rajavi is able to put into effect her 10-point plan, and finally we will see an Iran that is free of the brutal repression of the mullahs, free of the cruelty and human rights abuse to which it’s been subjected for far too long, and free at last to pursue a democratic future where men and women have an equal chance to follow their dreams, make their own choices, and succeed in whichever field of life they want to.”

 

Former Senator from the Republic of Colombia Ingrid Betancourt spoke of Maryam Rajavi’s success in organizing the resistance: “Maryam Rajavi’s determination has brought this thousand Ashrafs to life inside Iran. But it is the courage, the sacrifice paid with blood, and the love of those who are fighting in the streets in all the provinces, in all the capitals, and also in Tehran, that will bring this uprising to victory.”

 

Former Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, who also served as Defense Minister and a Member of Parliament in Albania, where thousands of MEK members are currently living in exile, said this about Albania’s decision to provide refuge for the resistance members:“[O]ur choice is to help you. And this is the reason that 3,000 Iranians are sheltered in Albania. They are in our faith, and Albanian faith is a word large, like world. We are waiting to see you soon back in Tehran.”

 

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