By: Nima Sharif
Protection of Camp Ashraf and its 3400 residents from atrocities of the Iranian regime and Iraqi government was the main message a cheering crowd of tens of thousands of Iranian dissidents gathered at Villepinte, Paris tried to get across.
In the biggest demonstration in Europe since the start of the Middle East uprising for freedom and the Arab Spring, and in a clear show of power and popular support, the Iranian main opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK) of Iran, brought in thousands of supporters on Saturday June 18 to France to rally for freedom.
The keynote speaker at the rally was Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran which also includes PMOI. Other speakers included the once presidential candidate, US Mayor Giuliani, former American Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, Tom Ridge the first US Secretary for Homeland Security and the Whitehouse Chief of Staff during the Bush Administration, Andrew Card.
“Today we all are behind the campaign to free Ashraf and to protect its residents,” said Patrick Kennedy, a former US Congressman and the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy who introduced the speakers at the rally.
The Villepinte Stadium was decorated brilliantly in blue with yellow banners and balloon hanging from all over the hall. Notably missing was the color green other than the colors of the Iranian flag which includes that.
A European participant expressed his astonishment at how the rally was organized by an opposition movement in exile, “It only shows how big the support for NCRI is,” he said.
A woman wearing a yellow vest baring pictures of Maryam Rajavi and holding a yellow balloon shouted, “I love Maryam Rajavi and I love the PMOI people in Ashraf. I think they represent my peoples’ will and ambition for freedom.” Then she took a serious pose. “The US and UN have a responsibility to protect Ashraf. They are responsible for the 35 people who were killed last April. That is inexcusable. They should not allow another massacre happened there,” she frowned.
Camp Ashraf in Iran was the scene of an assault by Iraqi forces back in April in which 35 unarmed residents of the camp were killed. The attack drew international condemnations and the incident has become known since as a massacre. The US and EU parliamentary delegation have since been unable to go to the camp to assess the humanitarian situation there. In fact the Iranian dissident camp currently is under complete blockade by the Iraqi government. The European Parliament has introduced an initiative to give refuge to the residents in Europe and United States.
“I’ve come from Australia to join this rally,” said another demonstrator waving an Iranian flag, adding, “because I’m very much against the regime in Iran and I think that world should unite to get rid of this regime and I think we all have a responsibility within our capacity and I was amazed to see that people from different countries, different backgrounds and verity of ages supported the opposition. To me this proves that this opposition has wide social support inside Iran.”
An Iranian-American from Los Angeles said, “This gathering shows to me that the PMOI is the force that can bring change to Iran with this kind of support. This crowd symbolizes the PMOI’s support inside Iran.”