The Iranian alternative supports recent protests
The main Iranian opposition held a rally near Paris on Saturday to support the recent protests in Iran and to offer a democratic alternative to the current regime. Tens of thousands of supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rallied in support of the overthrow of the clerical regime and democratic change in their homeland. They were joined by a stellar and unprecedented group of officials from around the world, including from the US, Europe, and the Middle East.
The main message of the event was that the Iranian crisis has a solution and that there is an alternative to the backward and fundamentalist regime. Chants of “down with the velayat-e faqih” (absolute clerical rule) filled the huge exhibition hall in the suburbs of Paris as the president-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, gave a rousing keynote address.
“The ‘velayat-e faqih’ lacks legitimacy. Khamenei’s standing has plummeted dramatically,” Rajavi exclaimed, as the crowd rose up and shouted “Death to Khamenei!” The two chants have become commonplace during the recent uprisings. In fact, most of the slogans chanted by the protestors inside Iran have been formulated and echoed by the NCRI and its pivotal organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK’s popularity inside the country is growing and many of the speakers and analysts I talked to at the event believe the organization is coordinating the protests.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei publicly cited intelligence reports earlier this year and said that the MEK has been organizing the nationwide uprisings. He said the MEK has been calling for demonstrations in their media outlets for months.
In December and January, more than 140 cities in Iran saw massive and unprecedented protests against the clerical rulers. Since then, farmers, religious minorities, truck drivers, taxi drivers, students, and laborers have increased their protests against the regime, especially as the economy deteriorates substantially.
In her speech, Rajavi said the continuing protests and strikes over the past several months will ultimately lead to the overthrow of Tehran’s clerical rulers.
US President Donald Trump’s legal adviser and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was also on hand to speak at the international event. Giuliani said: “This president does not intend to turn his back on freedom fighters,” Giuliani said.
“We have an alternative” in the form of the NCRI that respects human rights, democracy, women’s rights, and a non-nuclear Iran. “That’s what Madame Rajavi stands for.”
Bill Richardson, former governor and US ambassador to the United Nations, said: “The end (of the mullahs) is near. What you’re seeing is enormous change.”
He addressed the cheering crowd and said: “You are the source of change in Iran, the young people, the women, the resistance. Is there an alternative to the mullahs? Yes, it’s the resistance, the MEK, Mrs. Rajavi.”
In December and January, more than 140 cities in Iran saw massive and unprecedented protests against the clerical rulers.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The former Democratic senator said: “We stand here as Democrats and Republication, liberals and conservatives, we may have our differences, but listen to my voice in Tehran, make no mistake, everyone of us stands behind Donald Trump in seeing the destruction of the mullahs to the end.”
Mayor Giuliani said the protests in Iran do not take place spontaneously. “Protests are happening because they’re being coordinated (unlike 2009) by many of our people in Albania [where MEK members reside], many of our people here and around the world.” He added: “This woman will be the face of a new moderate liberated Iran.”
Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper said: “The executioners work relentlessly” in Iran. “The protests in the streets rise in the streets and they will rise until the regime is gone.”
Former Canadian foreign minister John Baird said: “Today, we join Madame Rajavi, a woman of great courage and great determination.”
Other speakers and attendees included a former FBI director, a former US attorney general, two former French foreign ministers, a former Italian foreign minister, diplomats, and parliamentarians from around the world.
Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, said: “Our goal is not to renegotiate. Our goal is to have a free democratic Iran that respects the right of every individual.”
The NCRI is a democratic coalition of Iranian opposition groups. The organization has a mandate to transition power peacefully to the Iranian people following the toppling of the current regime.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh