17.00-20.30 hrs SATURDAY 21stAPRIL 2018

Ladies & Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the International Liberty Association and all its volunteers for this meeting today and their excellent work in support of human rights and especially in recent years for helping the Iranian refugees in Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq and now in Albania. 

You may know that in the years I was in the European Parliament, apart from chairing the Friends of a Free Iran intergroup, I also chaired the European Parliament’s official Delegation for Relations with Iraq and I was involved very much in the process of saving the lives of the Iranian dissidents, members of the democratic opposition PMOI, who were targets of repression by the mullahs, inside and outside Iran. 

I am very happy that today Senator Robert Torricelli is here with us. Bob played a major role in these years for this humanitarian case and was a pioneer in the US Congress and Senate in defending the rights of the Iranian opposition…. and I am proud to have him as my friend.

As a Scotsman, I am always happy to celebrate New Year, or Hogmany as we call it. So the opportunity to celebrate the Persian New Year in April is an added bonus! Happy Nowruz.

Sadly, this is not a very happy new year for the 80 million oppressed, impoverished and brutalised Iranian citizens. In Iran, more than half the population of 80 million is under 30. Around a quarter of young people are jobless, more in some harder-hit regions. Yet Iran is one of the most pro-Western countries in the Middle East.  But they are ruled by a clique of elderly, bearded, deeply corrupt mullahs, who have drained the country’s rich oil resources to featherbed their own lavish lifestyles and to fund their policy of aggressive revolutionary expansionism. After 39 years of misrule, the economic situation inside Iran is dire. 

The middle-class has all but been extinguished, apart from a few affluent neighbourhoods that house the extremely wealthy and largely corrupt clerics, revolutionary guards and key supporters of the theocratic regime. 

Their clear frustration with the mullah-led regime boiled over with the uprisings, which exploded across Iran in 142 cities on 28thDecember last year and continued throughout January and indeed continues sporadically to this day. Millions of ordinary Iranians bravely risked their lives to join these mass public protests against the repressive theocratic regime. The widespread nature of these demonstrations is without precedent. Demonstrators chanting: “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Shame on you, mullahs,” have shown that this is an uprising against the regime itself. Their chants of: “Death to Hezbollah” and “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead” have shown that they are sick of their wealth being looted to fund proxy wars and terrorists throughout the Middle East.

Of course the mullahs reacted to the crisis in their usual, time-honoured fashion, sending in the regime’s Gestapo, the IRGC, who gunned down dozens in the streets and arrested over 8,000 protesters, 14 of whom have already been tortured to death in prison. This is a new and horrifying phenomenon in a country that indulges in horror. Smarting from repeated criticism of their brazen use of the death penalty, the mullahs have now developed a new method for permanently silencing their political opponents. Fourteen of the students and young protesters who were arrested during the uprisings were tortured to death with the mullahs claiming that they were drug addicts who had died of overdoses, from drugs, which they had mysteriously managed to acquire in prison. The bodies of those who were returned to their families were mutilated, battered, broken and bruised.

Iran is the most repressive country in the Middle East; it is also the most corrupt. It executes more people, per capita, than any other country in the world. 90% of executions carried out across the Middle East, take place in Iran. The regime tightly controls the media and education. It is a misogynistic, homophobic and male-dominated society. While the top leaders live a life of luxury, anger has continued to build amongst the poor. Increased repression, mass arrests, public hangings and floggings are the regime’s response, because what they fear more than anything is the popular fury of the masses spilling over into a new revolution, sweeping their fascist regime from power.

Now the mullahs have blamed the recent wave of protests on the main democratic opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI).So the opposition movement, once dubbed by the mullahs as an insignificant grouplet, has suddenly been catapulted into pole position as the main agitator behind the uprising. According to the AFP news agency, President Rouhani even telephoned Emmanuel Macron on 3rdJanuary, pleading with him to take action against the Paris-based PMOI and their leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi. Macron rejected Rouhani’s demand.

The fact that the regime has now openly accused the PMOI of playing a leading role in the uprising has exposed their acknowledgement that indeed there is a democratic opposition led by Mrs Rajavi; there is an organized resistance and an alternative to the ruling theocracy. Mrs Rajavi’s 10-point political platform, calling for a secular, parliamentary government, human rights, women’s rights, an end to the death penalty, and an end to the nuclear threat, is something that the majority of Iranians now crave.

It is sad and disgraceful that here in the West we think that “constructive dialogue” with the mullahs is sufficient, while they export war and terror throughout the Middle East. We close our eyes to the daily abuse of human rights, because we don’t want to derail the chance for rich, commercial contracts with this evil regime. We block our ears to the screams of the tortured and oppressed, because we believe that our policy of appeasement will suffice. Well it is time that we woke up.

And the Iranian people know that they are no longer isolated in their demand for change. In America, both Republicans and Democrats have at long last recognized the Iranian regime as the Godfather of terror. It is time the UK government and the EU did likewise. We must make sure that Europe will be on the side of the Iranian people and not on the side of the mullahs. Business and commerce must never be allowed to trump human rights.

To conclude, let me thank all of you for all your help over these years for our Iranian friends. I have been to Albania several times to visit the Ashrafis there and I know they are so grateful for your help and contributions to their wellbeing. Without your help, their transfer and their settlement in Albania would have been much more difficult. 

I am also aware that many of you have helped various campaigns such as calling for the release of political prisoners, or the rights of religious minorities and women as well as helping to organize different conferences and meetings… So thank you al once again. 

I should add that I sincerely believe that when we help the Iranian democratic opposition, it is not just for democracy and human rights in Iran, but it is also a chance for all of us to play a small role in history and to respond to our collective conscience.

Let us hope that this Nowruz will indeed turn out to be a happy one, with the overthrow of the Ayatollahs and final victory for the people of Iran. Happy Nowruz.