Mass Protest Against Rouhani
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member
September 20, 2017
New York United Nations Plaza
Good afternoon everyone, welcome to my hometown, New York City. [applause] When I look up I see all these wonderful signs. They’re all wonderful, but the one I like the best says “Free Iran.” [applause] [chanting] The Iranian people are great people, but right now they are being kept down by leadership that strangles them. But we’re not going to allow that leadership to continue to strangle, we’re going to fight until we have a free Iran. [applause] Now change can come from within. There are many young people in Iran, people who have only known oppression, have only known this horrific government, have only known things that are against the Iranian people. And we believe that from within change can come because the Iranian people have always been leaders, have always been able to do what’s right, and this terrible regime that strangles the Iranian people has got to end—and the sooner the better. [applause]
Now when you look at Iran, the government of Iran, the illegal government of Iran, what they do is they provoke war and hatred and support terrorism. Hezbollah is a terrorist group, been declared so by the United States, and Hezbollah is under the thumb and the Iranian regime is under the thumb of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran, a proxy to do bad things for the Iranian people, and we are not going to stop until the Iranian people are free once again. [applause] Now I can tell you that you have a lot of friends in the U.S. Congress on both sides of the aisle. And I can tell you nothing gave me greater pleasure just as within the past year to go to Iran and Albania and meet people from Camp Liberty to help get them out, to make sure that they were safe. I was very pleased we were able to do that. [applause] Thank you, thank you for your courage. I want to tell you that as long as I’m in Congress—and I’ve been there for 29 years—I will continue to fight for freedom for the Iranian people, continue to say [applause] continue to say [1:15:56] continue to be free.
You know, I have many, many Iranian-American friends, and the Iranian-American friends show me time and time again what a great people the Iranian people are. And to have them under the power of this dictatorship, this cruel dictatorship, this dictatorship that supports terrorism, this dictatorship that supports all kinds of mischief, this dictatorship that kills people, that executes people, that does things against its own people, that regime should not stand and that regime should not represent the great Iranian people. [applause] So I say to the Iranian government, to the mullahs in Tehran, to the people that don’t allow the Iranian people to breathe free, let’s have a fair and free election in Iran. Let the Iranian people decide who they want to represent them and what kind of a government they want to have. [applause] And I’ll bet you if they have a chance to vote it won’t be a theocracy, it won’t be a kind of a group and office that’s been forced on them now, it will be a democracy just like we have here in the United States of America. [applause]
Every day, people are being executed in Iran for being political prisoners and speaking their minds. We say that these kinds of executions need to stop and the alignment of the Tehran regime with terrorism has got to end—and the sooner the better. [applause] I’m sure you all know that two years ago when we had the opportunity to vote on the agreement between Iran and the United States and the other nations, the 5+1, I was very, very proud to vote against that agreement in the United States Congress. [applause] It was well-intentioned, but when you look at the agreement and you read the agreement, you see that it doesn’t prevent the Iranian regime from having a nuclear weapon. It simply postpones it for 15 years. It simply means that in the year 2030 Iran can become a nuclear threshold state. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want nuclear power or nuclear bombs to be in the hands of the bloody, murderous regime in Iran. [applause]
So I want to make you this pledge. I want to pledge to you that I will work with all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, work with all the government officials, keep the pressure on the regime which hurts the Iranian people, and continue to demand that the Iranian people have the same rights as the American people of free and fair elections showing what the Iranian people really want. Only then can change come from within. And I have no doubt if and when that referendum is held in Iran we will be able to go to Iran and watch the Iran people in democracy, not in a government that hurts them, kills them, does everything that’s bad for them. We have to say that the United States must always stand with the freedom loving people of Iran. I want to pledge to you that I will continue to fight for a free Iran, will continue to fight for all the things we want. And I want to thank all of you for your great courage in coming here and saying free Iran. God bless you and God bless the Iranian people. [applause]
New York City; August 10, 2017 – Thousands of Iranian-Americans will gather in New York City to protest Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani’s presence at the United Nations General Assembly, and call for regime change in Iran. Organized by the Association of Iranian Americans in New York (AIAINY), a member of the Organization of Iranian American Communities-US (OIAC), the 3-day program includes a September 20, 2017 rally outside the U.N. headquarters as well as street acts and a photo exhibition to commemorate the anniversary of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.
Protesters will urge the international community to evaluate Rouhani on his deeds, not his deceptive demeanor or words. They will emphasize the ever-escalating discontent in Iran. According to the regime’s own officials, some10 million Iranians struggle with addiction and around 18 million people live below the poverty line. Yet on December 31, 2015, Rouhani ordered his armed forces, “to quickly and significantly increase their missile capability.”
Parallel to the regime’s ballistic weapons program and terrorism across the Middle East, the number of executions in Iran has skyrocketed during Rouhani’s presidency. In July 2017 alone, at least 100 Iranians were executed. Individuals who served in his previous administration, and those now being picked as ministers, not only perpetrated the current barbarism, but also had a major role in the mass executions of 1988. His choice for Justice Minister for the last 4 years, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, was a member of Tehran’s infamous “death commission.” He was replaced this term by Alireza Avaie, who was directly involved in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran’s Khuzestan Province
Rouhani’s deeds are indeed an affront to modern civilization and highlight the abject failure of Western appeasement policies vis-à-vis Iran. While applauding the growing international awareness of Rouhani’s contempt for democracy and human rights, and his unsavory role in the growing instability in the Middle East, Iranian Americans
will emphasize that regime change in Iran is imperative and achievable, not by means of outside military interference, but from Iran’s own people and their organized Resistance, which is fully prepared to facilitate that change.
Our community members, their Congressional representatives, human rights defenders and their interfaith supporters will also attend and call on U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley to refer the 1988 massacre dossier to the U.N. Security Council.
NEW YORK RALLY 2017
Past Rallies —-2016—-
The 2016 NYC Free Iran Rally: Standing up to Oppression and Human Rights Violations in Iran
UN Plaza, September 20, 2016
Images provided by Getty Images- View their report of the protest here.
On September 20, 2016, thousands of Iranian Americans gathered outside the UN to express their concern and outrage towards the state of affairs in Iran. An unfit president, oppressive military police, political prisoners, and an increase in executions were their main grievances as they took to the streets in protest. (See official OIAC statement regarding the rally here.)
The movement did not start with the rally. The past week was full of exhibitions, planning sessions, and protests to build up to the big event on Friday.
First, there was the 1988 Massacre Photo Exhibition on Monday to remember the victims of the 1988 Massacre (see OIAC’s press release about the photo exhibition here). This massacre was a mass execution of up to 30,000 prisoners by the Iranian regime. Despite the horrific nature of the act, many of the political leaders in power at the time of the massacre still hold power today, such the current justice minister in the Rouhani administration, Mostafa Pourmohammadi. Pourmouhammadi “was the Intelligence Ministry’s representative on the Tehran “death commission,” and stated that he was proud to have participated in the 1988 Massacre.
Check out OIAC’s blog post about the 1988 Massacre here.
As preparation for the main event, there were several demonstrations in the streets of Washington all week to raise awareness for the rally and the troubling situation in Iran. Iranian Americans from 40 states came to NY just to prepare and participate in this rally, and this overwhelming support from volunteers was a contributor to of the events success.
Social media was also at the forefront of the preparation efforts. In the days leading up to the rally, volunteers shared their experiences of coming together for a great cause on Twitter and Facebook. Below, a Twitter post captures the demonstration on the streets of NYC on the days leading up to the rally.
OIAC also was able to promote the rally through moving advertisements, such as the #No2Rouhani truck pictured here.
As this Twitter follower, Nasrin Saifi emphasizes, not even the rain could stop the dedicated volunteers from preparing for the rally!
Bright yellow outfits and informative signs were the uniform as volunteers raise awareness in the days leading up to the NYC Rally.
The Morning of the Rally
On the morning of the 20th, Men, women, and children from all over the United States gathered outside the UN to set up the rally. Bright green and yellow was visible from every direction as flags, banners, and signs went up.
According to OIAC, the gathering of thousands “called on the United Nations to hold those with direct involvement in the massacre accountable for this crime against humanity”, especially since many of those accountable still serve at the highest levels of Iranian government.”
There were many influential speakers at the rally whose message focused on the horrors and injustices in Iran. Pastor Saeed Abedini, a former political prisoner in Iran, took the stage to express his unity not only with the fallen victims of the 1988 massacre, but with those trapped in Iranian prisons today.
“We are here to be a voice for the people who don’t have any voice. And we are here to say to the world that if you close your eyes to the human rights in Iran by removing sanctions by talking to the leaders and talking to government, still we stand with the weak, we stand with the people in prison and we’re going to be a voice for them and say that “you’re alive in our heart you’re alive in our voice and we are standing with you.”
Check out OIAC’s blog post about Iran’s continued habit of arresting of dual citizens here.
Human rights barrister Sir Geoffrey Robertson also joined the rally with a moving and emotional speech. His research into the 1988 massacre led him to detail the horrific findings, stating,
“They were hung from cranes four at a time, or groups of six from ropes hanging on the front of the stage of the assembly hall. Some were taken to army barracks at night, directed to make their wills and then shot by firing squad. Their bodies were doused with disinfectant, packed in refrigerated trucks, and buried by night in mass graves…without trial, without appeal, and utterly without mercy.”
“There has been no reprisal, no retribution, unlike the other (similar) atrocities…The people who ordered it, most of them, are still in high command in Iran.”
-As quoted in the Toronto Sun Times article, UN proves it’s still a farce by welcoming Hassan Rouhani
Senator Joe Lieberman was another honorary guest whose speech focused on the two-faced nature of supposed moderate president Hassan Rouhani.
“The fact is that the regime in Iran has more blood on its hands than even the regime in Pyongyang, so we say to the United Nations, don’t be fooled by Rouhani’s smile. And anyway he’s simply a puppet for Khamenei and the IRGC. It is time my friends for a change. It’s time for a change.”
There was also a strong youth presence at the rally, including a demonstration holding the hashtag #FreeIran that has been active on Twitter in the past few weeks. The different youth advocates took the stage to talk about what a Free Iran means to them, and why democracy in Iran is essential for the next generation.
Young supporters of the rally also performed a moving reenactment of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
Positive Outcomes of the Rally: Protest of Rouhani and Resolution 159
The rally was viewed as a great success, with a turn out in the thousands and a day full of invigorating speeches and heartfelt cries for justice. Perhaps the most meaningful result of the success of the rally was the subsequent issuance of the House Concurent Resolution 159 with the purpose of condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims.” The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Michael T. McCaul and is currently gathering support in congress.
The day following the rally, there was a protest of Hassan Rouhani who was speaking at the United Nations. The protest reinforced the idea that Rouhani is unfit to be president, focusing on his dismal human rights record.
Though the memories of the victims of political injustice in Iran will remain for centuries to come, the overall mood of the Free Iran rally was one of hope and perseverance, and it’s clear that there is a lot to look forward to in the coming years as Iranian Americans continue to stand up and fight for true democracy in their country.
VOA Persian Language Report on OIAC-US Rally Against Rouhani, September 28, 2015
Each year, Iranian-Americans and their friends gather in New York City to rally against presence of Iranian-regime officials at the United Nations and to demand that international community hold Iran accountable for its abhorrent human rights record.
On September 28, 2015, Iranian Diaspora and concerned citizens converged in NYC while Hassan Rouhani spoke at the U.N. The rally highlighted the rights violations in Iran and Rouhani’s abysmal rights record as Iranian government continues to execute more of its citizens per capita than any other U.N. member state. In their coverage of the event, Associated Press highlighted many of the rally’s messages, including the need for the international community to hold Iranian leaders accountable for the more than 2000 people executed under Rouhani.
We thank everyone for their participation in our rally, included the distinguished speakers.