Every year, the Iranian Resistance holds its annual Free Iran gathering in which tens of thousands of people gather to discuss current events in Iran and how the quest for freedom and democracy can be advanced further.
Although the main event was held virtually this year, it was still a huge success. Distinguished guests including politicians, dignitaries, religious leaders, and so on, spoke about how their own countries are changing their policies towards Iran and what action they are pushing for.
On the second day of events, speakers discussed the 1988 massacre and how the regime can be held to account for the extrajudicial killing of more than 30,000 political prisoners – one of the most horrific crimes against humanity in recent times.
Former political prisoner Kazem Panahi described his time in prison and his subsequent escape. He spoke about how he was arrested because he was a supporter of the (PMOI / MEK Iran) and was then brutally tortured in prison. During his short time in prison, he witnessed violence against other prisoners.
Mr. Panahi said that he was given the death sentence, yet was never given a trial or a lawyer. The interrogators, he said, decided on the fate of prisoners. He highlighted that the MEK has been trying to demonize the (PMOI / MEK Iran), but vowed to never give up on the journey to overthrowing the regime.
Bahador Kiamarzi, (PMOI / MEK Iran) member and eyewitness to the 1988 massacre, described how his father, whom he had never met, was executed during the 1988 massacre. He said the MEK is “more determined than ever” to overthrow the regime.
Another eyewitness to the massacre and member of the MEK is Damona Taavoni who was in prison with her mother from the age of just six. She said that she remembers the noises coming from prisoners in the torture chambers, but also that she got to hear so many inspiring stories about the victims of the 1988 massacre over the years. Ms. Taavoni’s father was executed by the regime and she said that although it caused her a great amount of sadness, it also gave her such pride to know that he “chose to sacrifice his life for the freedom of his people”.
Homa Jaberi, a former political prisoner, described the inhumane and brutal torture that was experienced by political prisoners, but she focused on the other form of torture the regime is responsible for – lies and misinformation. She said that the claims that MEK members in Ashraf are torturers are ridiculous and that the MEK represents freedom.
Speaking about the regime’s continual human rights abuses, prominent French lawyer and Honorary President of the Human Rights League Mr. Henri Leclerc said that the regime takes the law into its own hands and interprets it as how it likes. He said: “The international community must take action.”
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), spoke from Ashraf 3 in Albania, describing the 1988 massacre as one of the regime’s “most horrifying and indescribable crimes”. She explained that the Supreme Leader at that time was trying to get completely rid of the PMOI / MEK, but emphasized that the organization is more determined than ever.
In 2016, Mrs. Rajavi started the call for justice movement and has worked relentlessly to shed light on the regime’s crimes. She said that the regime has barbarically destroyed the country and killed and tortured the people, but that Resistance Leader Massoud Rajavi continues to inspire the people to rebel and fight for freedom.
Speaking about bringing justice to the victims of the 1988 massacre, Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian presidential candidate, said that the regime’s collapse will be the only justice. She said that the people have had their freedom removed from their lives and that the regime is the enemy.
Renowned human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC said that after interviewing dozens of 1988 massacre survivors 32 years ago, he concluded that the incident is “the worst crime against humanity since the concentration camps of the Second World War”. He said that the United Nations failed to hold the regime accountable and ultimately “failed in its duty”. Mr. Robertson said that there will soon be more aware of human rights and that the history of Iran will be rewritten. He advised countries to sanction the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre because many of them are still alive and hold positions of power.
Echoing Mr. Robertson’s calls for the regime to be held accountable was former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi who said that the situation in Iran must be addressed immediately.
British MP Steve McCabe slammed the regime for trying to cover up the extent of the 1988 massacre. He said that the perpetrators of this crime are known and they must be held accountable.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former Vice President of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2014 and President of the International Committee in Search of Justice, emphasized that the 1988 massacre has brought so much pain to the people of Iran, even more so because justice has never been served. He said that we cannot rely on the Iranian authorities to investigate as it is the perpetrator of this crime against humanity.
Speaking about how the UN has been dealing with the 1988 massacre, Taher Boumedra, former head of the UN Advisory Mission for Iraq’s Human Rights Office, said that it has been informed about the specificities of the crime but that it needs to be made clear that the regime cannot carry out the investigation. He said that the path to justice has come a long way but there is still some way to go.
Lincoln Bloomfield, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Military Affairs, said it is important for the international community to recognize that the NCRI is not willing to “seek power at any cost”, rather it emphasizes the importance of free and democratic elections, human rights, freedom, equality, and peace. He expressed his hope that the situation is getting better, saying that it is positive news that the Iranian diplomat behind the attempted bombing on the 2018 Free Iran rally is on trial. “The truth about this regime is available for the whole world to see in Ashraf 3. I am confident that the truth will come and when it does, it will set Iran free. Justice will be done and Iran will be free.”
Former Norwegian MP Lars Rise emphasized that the regime is ruling with fear but that “those who stand for truth and justice will prevail in the end”.
Concerning how justice can be pursued, British solicitor Geoffrey Bindman advised that regime officials are sanctioned for violations of human rights. He said: “The regime continues to make a mockery of human rights standards and laws.”
Former Palestinian Chief Justice Taisir al-Tamimi pointed out that among the victims of the 1988 massacre were 62 pregnant women and more than 700 people under the age of 18. He said that the regime must be held accountable and that we need to “work together”.
Agreeing that works need to be done together, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission Ken Blackwell, said that the Resistance and its supporters are giving “humanity and freedom a fighting chance”.
Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the former UK Speaker of the House of Commons, said that the pandemic is not putting the brakes on the pursuit of justice. She reassured those listening that a democratic and free Iran “is within reach”.
Italian Senator Lucio Malan said that the Iranian regime is an impediment to international peace and security and called on leaders in Europe to support the extension of the arms embargo.
Distinguished American Civil Liberty Lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz made it clear that the Iranian government is “the most serious human rights violator on this planet”. He said that addressing its belligerence is an absolute priority.
Belgian MP Els Van Hoof said that it is unacceptable that “men and women are rotting in cells because they have a different opinion”.
The session ended with Canadian Senator Leo Housakas declaring that “nothing will hinder this movement”.