Meeting with Iranian Community in Germany
Wednesday 15th February 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters,
It is great being here in Berlin to see you. As you know we had a very good meeting in the Bundestag yesterday. You have a lovely office here in Berlin. I think it is called the White House! That’s very appropriate! Last November I visited the PMOI offices in Washington DC. They are on Pennsylvania Avenue, within sight of the White House…just a block away!
I came here to listen to you and learn from you. I am indeed very happy to see you all. But please let me say a few words to you.
I have been to Berlin many times. It’s one of my favourite cities in Europe. But one of my most interesting visits was when we were fighting the terrorist listing of the PMOI. We had organized a big rally in Paris but the French government, under pressure from the mullahs, cancelled it. Then it was moved to Berlin and scheduled to take place on 10th February 2005, but on that same day it was also cancelled in Berlin. But by that time thousands of supporters had travelled to the city for the rally. So I made my speech with a megaphone standing on a mound in front of a restaurant owned by Mansoor Vojood (A PMOI activist in Berlin), surrounded by fully armed riot police and with helicopters circling overhead. We also held a press conference in protest inside Mansoor’s restaurant! We were near the end of the press conference when we heard that a German court ruled in favour of the PMOI and we were given permission to have our demonstration after all, so we rushed to the Brandenburg Gate and held a big rally there under heavy rain! That was an unforgettable experience.
When we criticize the west for giving too many concessions to Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal, we mean that if we were tougher and took a firmer line with the mullahs, we could have gained much more because of the regime’s weaknesses and many problems.
The West should remember that it was the PMOI network inside Iran, at huge risk to their own lives, who first informed the world, way back in August 2002, about the mullahs’ secret nuclear programme. Western intelligence agencies had simply failed to uncover this conspiracy. And yet, rather than rewarding the PMOI for this information, the US, UK and EU fought tooth and nail to keep them on their international blacklists, where they had been placed at the direct request of the mullahs, based on trumped-up and farcical charges dreamed up by Tehran. This was appeasement policy at its worst and it took us many years of difficult, complex and expensive court battles in Washington, London, Paris and Luxembourg to have the terror tags removed.
A year after the nuclear deal, no major economic problems have been solved and the money the government of Rouhani has received, has been spent on exporting terror in the region.
The nuclear deal led to the release of $150 billion of frozen assets, providing a windfall for the Tehran government, which was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. But far from investing in its own beleaguered people, the regime used this money to redouble its spending on exporting terror through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force, both of which are involved in almost every conflict in the Middle East. As well as Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Yemen's Houthi rebels, Iran funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi'ia militias in Iraq.
I am acutely aware of the dangerous and destructive role of the Iranian regime in Iraq and Syria. It was the mullahs’ support for former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq and for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed their own people and particularly the Sunni communities in those two countries, that resulted in the rise of Daesh in the region.
Because the Sunnis were humiliated and brutally repressed, they were driven into the arms of the Islamic extremists. So thanks to Tehran, ISIS grew and became a threat to the whole world. Now the Iranian regime has exploited the war on Daesh as an opportunity to consolidate its policy of aggressive expansionism in the Middle East.
Any relaxation of their oppressive laws would result in a crack in the system, a fracturing of the atmosphere of fear and terror. That is why Ayatollah Khamenei has even issued a fatwa, banning women from riding bicycles! That is why the same mullahs who have been responsible for the mass executions in the eighties in Iran, are still in government. So the theocratic nature of this Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship has not changed, but its appearance has changed. Instead of Ahmadinejad, we have Hassan Rouhani who smiles and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif speaks very good English and frequently tweets, as if speaking good English or being active on Twitter is an indication of moderation! Bear in mind that the rest of Iranian society is blocked from having access to Twitter and Facebook.
The ‘smiling’, ‘moderate’ Rouhani is in charge of a venally corrupt government, which has executed over 3,000 people since he took office in 2013. More than 90 were hanged this January. Many executions are carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Many journalists are in jail. Women activists have been given long-term prison sentences. Ethnic and religious minorities like the Kurds, the Baha’is and the Christians are brutally persecuted. Such executions and repression just show how weak and unstable the mullahs are.
Of course to this day one of the biggest targets for arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution in Iran is the PMOI. Supporters of the PMOI face a mandatory death sentence under the Iranian Constitution for ‘Waging War Against God!’ You all know about the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners mostly from the PMOI. The current Justice Minister of Rouhani’s government was one of the key executioners in Tehran during the 1988 massacre and he says he is proud to have killed so many PMOI members.
Tehran fears and loathes the PMOI and in particular the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, whom they recognize as their main opposition and the main threat to their power. When Mrs Rajavi talks about restoring freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, an end to torture and the death penalty and the eradication of nuclear weapons, it sends shivers down the spine of the turbaned tyrants in Tehran.
Many of you also perhaps attend the huge annual rally in Paris in July, when over 100,000 PMOI supporters are present to listen to Mrs Rajavi. No other group or movement that I know of can organize such a major event and attract such a big crowd. It just shows how important your support is. PMOI supporters in the US and Europe have forced the regime onto the back foot again and again.
In the years I have been working closely with PMOI, and NCRI I have found them to be a truly democratic force who don’t want anything for themselves. What they want and what they fight for is liberty and justice for 80 million Iranian citizens.
Of course the Iranian regime is really paranoid about this opposition movement. Whenever Mrs Rajavi is invited to any parliaments in the EU, the regime and its lobbies go crazy and try to block such visits. Due to my support for the NCRI, I was under constant pressure not just from the Iranian embassy in Brussels, but also from officials in the EU and even from my own government. On several occasions the British foreign office sent people from London to Brussels to try to convince me to stop supporting the NCRI.
This key Iranian opposition movement is of course under a constant bombardment of misinformation by the mullah’s regime. Their hysterical reaction only serves to prove that the NCRI is perceived as the real and only persistent threat to this oppressive regime’s tenuous grip on power.
This is why I have strongly recommended to governments in Europe, including the government here in Germany, that they should open dialogue with the NCRI, to benefit from their experience, knowledge and information.
They have an extensive network inside Iran and a strong organization, which is why they have become the largest organized Iranian opposition movement. We shouldn’t waste further time on the failed policy of appeasement towards Iran. The lure of rich commercial contracts must never blind us to the repellent abuse of human rights that has become an endemic feature of the Iranian regime’s theocratic dictatorship.
I wrote this book – ‘AUFOPFERUNG’ – about the Iranian opposition because I firmly believe that the only solution to the current crisis in the Middle East, the only way to counter the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, is to support the main democratic Iranian opposition in its fight against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is time we woke up to the fact that as long as the mullahs remain in power there will be no possibility of peace in the Middle East. The mullahs will always be the problem. They can never be part of the solution.
I should add that recently the number 2 of the regime, Ayatollah Rafsanjani died. He was a main pillar of the regime and now that he is gone, the regime has become much weaker.
Let me say a few words about the Ashrafis.
As you all know, the Iranian resistance has had a major victory recently when all PMOI members were transferred from Camp Liberty in Iraq to Europe. About 100 were moved to Germany before, but most of them are now in Albania. The mullahs wanted to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or make them surrender, so it was a terrific victory to see all of the remaining Ashrafis flown out to Albania.
It must have enraged the mullahs. This is another example of the strength of the opposition and the weakness of the regime. Because the mullahs were determined to kill and arrest many Liberty residents but they failed to do so, which demonstrates how fragile the mullahs have become in the region.
The courage of Albania in rescuing the PMOI residents from Camp Liberty, against a backlash of fury from Tehran, should be a lesson to us all.
But all of the expenses associated with these transfers and with their subsequent living-costs in Albania, have to be met by the PMOI. This is understandable since Albania is a very poor country, but it is unacceptable that the US and EU contribute so little to this project and do not even put pressure on Iraq to pay compensation for the properties left behind in Ashraf, or for the personal goods looted from every batch of refugees before they were allowed to fly to Albania.
I went to Albania in December and spent several days and saw many of them who are all in high spirits. I have promised them to continue to fight for a free, democratic Iran.
In this big family of the Iranian democratic resistance, whenever we have stood firm, whenever we have joined forces and have been prepared to pay the price, we have managed to open up our way forward and brush aside the obstacles. In many cases we have managed to bring the USA and Europe together in our support. The great international campaign to remove the PMOI from various terrorist black lists was another example where the Iranian opposition and its supporters stood firm and with the great friendship of many parliamentarians in Europe and members of congress in the USA, we managed to de-list the PMOI from those international terrorist lists.
So because of your efforts we have managed to achieve these great victories. In the beginning, Western governments were not on our side and in many cases they collaborated with the Ayatollahs against us, but with your steadfast support we managed to win them over. This is power. This is the power of the resistance. A huge power.
Now that the residents of Camp Liberty are out of Iraq and safe, we can turn all of our attention and focus all of our energy on regime change in Iran.
I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your constant, unflagging support over the years. The reality is that the PMOI and NCRI has always relied on its own Iranian supporters and thousands of US and European citizens who have contributed to this movement.
Every euro that’s been raised, every signature that’s been placed on a petition of support, has been a help and contribution for peace and freedom, not just in Iran, but for the whole world.
For decades, Iran has systematically jailed, tortured, and executed dissidents without due process of law and assassinated political opponents, even outside its state borders. But I am absolutely confident that if it were not for this resistance movement, the political situation in the region and in Iran would have been much worse and the Iranian regime would have been able to commit even more crimes in the world.
You, my brothers and sisters in this big family of the Iranian resistance, all of you who have stood side by side with this opposition movement, you have broken the mould. Although no government has supported you, although you were unjustly put on various black lists, although many of you have paid a heavy price in your personal life, nevertheless you are running this huge movement with the help of the people…..people inside Iran, Iranians outside Iran as well as tens of thousands of people in the western democracies. This is quite unique. This is due to your brave and competent leadership and to your faith and commitment. In all these years that I have been in politics, I have never seen any resistance movement, or indeed any political party, to be so committed to its principles and be prepared to make such self-sacrifices for the noble cause of freedom.
I have worked closely with the PMOI for around 15 years. I have had numerous meetings with their leadership, met literally thousands of their members and supporters and I have found them to be a truly democratic force. They are a formidable asset.
Unfortunately Western governments have closed their eyes to the human rights violations in Iran and have pinned their hopes on some factions within the regime. At the same time, instead of supporting the opposition, Western governments have acted as obstacles for the Iranian opposition because of their economic aspirations and the lure of rich business deals with Tehran.
But as an elected European politician, it was always my belief that we need to represent and defend European values and not just commercial interests.
That is why I wrote this book AUFOPFERUNG’ and that is why we must fight for regime change in Iran to restore freedom and justice for 80 million beleaguered Iranians.
When that day comes and it will come soon, I will be proud to remind my children and grandchildren that ‘I AM AN ASHRAFI.’
Thank you very much.