Thank you all so much. That’s an amazing welcome. I hope you are as happy after my remarks. I think you will.

Thank you, Amir, for that kind introduction. It is such a blessing for me to be with you all today. It is a special gathering that we can all be together to talk about an enormous threat to the world and to freedom loving people. It’s truly an honor.

Since I last spoke to you Ebrahim Raisi was formally installed as Iran’s latest so-called President.  You are rightly gathered at this conference with the theme of demanding that he be held accountable for what happened in 1988, the massacre of political prisoners inside of Iran.  And I want each of you to know today that I join with you in your cause!

I came to know Raisi when I was the CIA Director. He should be prosecuted; not tomorrow; not next week; not next year.  Prosecute him now.

And of course, I will talk more about this. But I support a free Iran! Bless you for staying in the fight.

Make no mistake, Make no mistake. Ebrahim Raisi, himself, is personally responsible for the mass execution of thousands of Iranian political prisoners, names of over 5,000 have been published. The bodies of these brave men and women were dumped in unmarked graves. And Because Iran has never, and likely under this regime will never allow an investigation into these killings, we do not know the true number of Iranians who were murdered. But it is almost certainly more than the 5,000 list of names that we have.

Your actions, our actions supporting our love of the Iranian people must begin by holding Ebrahim Raisi accountable for his crimes against humanity. Remember he wasn’t an advisor, he wasn’t a foot soldier.  He was an executioner.

I know there are those in the audience who have family that were killed in Raisi’s massacre.  Too, some of you have loved one and friends currently imprisoned, in Evin and elsewhere in Iran, and, some, who have had loved ones simply disappeared or worse.  We will never forget any of them and will pray for you and each of them.

You know this character Ebrahim Raisi is exactly who Khamenei wants as President – someone who will do his bidding.  Someone willing to brutalize and slaughter the Iranian people at his command.  This is not moving forward. It is moving backwards.

It is only those who are resisting, both inside and out, who provide the hope for Iran.  That is why this gathering and the work you do today is so important.

The contrast between a government that serves its people rather than subjugates them is incredibly stark. We can see it. That should be all of our inspiration for freedom for the Iranian people.

It’s has been almost eight months since I left office as the Secretary of State. When we left as Secretary of State, Iran was more isolated and the regime as weak than ever.  However, I must say I’ve watched the events of the past weeks and months and I worry that events in Afghanistan and the posture of the current administration are allowing the regime to get “off the mat” and re-strengthen.  I know the Iranian people do not want that. That is why we must keep pressure on our representatives to forgo renegotiating the nuclear deal and avoid paying Iran ransom to either re-enter that deal or because they believe it would be a show of “good will.” Good will is not something a terrorist regime understands.  We must also ensure that advancements in the Iranian nuclear program are strictly monitored and action taken whether that’s by the United States, other western nations or by the IAEA to ensure that they don’t just run out the clock on the path not only to a nuclear weapon but to a full nuclear program.

I must say, over the last year or so of the pandemic the Iranian regime has used the coronavirus to continue crackdown on its own citizens.  Its actions are not only ignorant but malevolent.  They have used the pandemic to extinguish uprisings and subdue the Iranian people.  This is totally unacceptable.

As Americans, we know supporting the general welfare of our citizens is the duty of the government, and to subjugate them is horrific.

And while we know that the Iranian regime does not value freedom, we should at least expect the United States to value that freedom.  You have all watched these last few weeks. Our credibility was called into question in our disgraceful exit from Afghanistan and again questioned this past week when our own Secretary of State took down a tweet of support for the people of Hong Kong who were asking for freedom in their struggle against the Chinese Communist Party.

These demonstrations of the absence of resolve and lack of support for freedom-loving people are the welcome by terrorists and those oppressing the people of Iran.

And yet we know that the more the government attempts to strengthen its hold over the people of Iran, the weaker it will become.  This is certainly the case today.  Protests spurred by water shortages erupted in over half of the country’s provinces and protests have taken place in Ahvaz, in Tabriz, in Tehran, an in Isfahan, and other cities all across Iran. These protestors, these amazing freedom-loving people have shown considerable resilience and bravery in resisting the regime. And I know that in the end the Iranian people will have a secular, democratic, and non-nuclear republic.

The actions in 1979 were of course a key turning point. To understand Iran and its rightful place in history we must unpack what happened in 1979. I think this is why Iran will never return to rule by a dictatorial Shah or theocratic regime.  This fight is the real fight and it began in those frightful first moments of the so-called revolution in 1979.

The central fight is the one in the streets, and in the mosques and in the minds of the Iranian people – it is the divide between the people and the organized opposition seeking freedom and democracy on one side, and the entirety of the regime on the other.

Look, I have been at this, but not as long as some of you. But I have been in this fight on the right side for over a decade now, my entire life of decade of public service.  Back in 2010 I spoke with many of you. I spoke of the Iranian people and their history, their kindness and their respect for reason, knowledge and respect for human life.  The Iranian people are tolerant people – They have been a homeland for Arabs and Jews, Christians and Muslims right on Iranian soil.  This is the loveliness of the Iranian people.

The Iranians want to prosper in their faith and protect their families – this is as true in Tehran as it is in any place here in the United States and don’t ever forget that.

There is a new leader, there’s a new elected, I say that word cautiously. The regime headed by the puppet Raisi and the IRGC is no less radical than the one left by the previous president.  It continues to be revolutionary in its zeal.  It is brutal.  It is theocratic.

It is also craven and fearful of the Iranian people. It’s kleptocratic. Its leaders will and have killed their own by the thousands and then choose those who committed these massive atrocities, like Raisi, to now lead their terror organization and their regime.  Its leaders can shoot down a civilian airliner killing hundreds of civilians and think nothing of denying responsibility and hiding the black box that would unpack the clues and finger prints of the regime’s leaders who caused the death of civilians. The leaders in Iran seek not only to dominate their own country and their own people, but capitals from Baghdad to Tehran and from Damascus to Beirut and to Sanaa.  All for the petty desire to maintain their grip on power.

When I last spoke to you I noted that we must dismiss the Western conceit. I hear it even in this city which we sitting today. It’s this western conceit commonly accepted in Brussels, in Paris, in Bonn and in too many places here in the United States that there are moderates inside of the regime.  I never met one, nor read of one. This is important. The lie, that there are moderates inside of this regime. There are too many countries that play footsie with this terrorist regime.  The elections of last month should provide evidence that this claim of moderation is even possible within this regime. We cannot have them fool us.  These are but tiny actors occupying roles in the same show of force.

We know the characters. The Ayatollah plays the father, keeper of the so-called revolutionary faith and is the elder statesman “protecting the revolution” from every threat – including the threats from the heathen secular inside and outside of Iran.  Soleimani played the warrior-hero-role.  Deliverer of rights against made-up grievances from the near abroad and afar.  The newly installed Foreign Minister, Hossein Amit-Abdollahian, was molded by Soleimani.  This man, despite of the fact that he is a diplomat, a Foreign Minister, make no mistake who he is. He is a staunch supporter of the “Axis of Resistance,” the array of terrorists that Iran supports throughout the entire Middle East. He is a terrorist himself who would kill his own people to save the regime just as quickly as any other of the Ayatollah’s henchmen.  Don’t let that title of diplomat fool anyone. Ebrahim Raisi, a murderer of his own people, will now take on the role as heir apparent to the faith and determined negotiator who concurs America by getting the immoral sanctions placed upon the people lifted and improving life for all.  This will be the theatre of Ebrahim Raisi. These actors – each of them, all of them – will keep this show going despite the audience wanting their run to end and they are prepared to use every power, to use the IRGC, to use the Basij and any tool to keep their grip over the Iranian people.

There is nothing new about them. They are just the next generation of the regime, perhaps even more radical than their predecessors.  Every one of them should be held accountable, all of them should be held accountable, for the tens of thousands of Iranians they have murdered.

And world leaders, I hope you are listening, should band together to reject Raisi; each of you, each of you should reject Raisi. You should refuse to engage with him, to acknowledge him as a democratically elected president by the people—since he was no such thing.  A good place to start would be by this week at the United Nations General Assembly, not too far from where we are all sitting, holding Raisi accountable for his crimes against the people of Iran. It’s possible to do.

Speaking of Raisi’s actions, Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International (2018-2020), said in his remarks to the Call for Justice: “I served as the Secretary-General of Amnesty International during which time a report was brought out on this terrible tragedy and the tragedy of 1988 that we saw took place in Iran. Let us be very clear, what happened in 1988 was a totally brutal massacre of political prisoners, which is a crime against humanity.” This former leader of Amnesty closed with this: “And if you go with the definition, notwithstanding the technicalities, it amounts to genocide.” We know a bit about this. We have to keep the Iranian regime in a box.

Contrast the current administration’s posture toward the regime with the one that the Trump administration had.  Our mission was really very simple.  We laid down 12 very simple demands, twelve requirements that made clear that if the Iranian regime failed to do that we would apply every American power and indeed we would build a coalition around the world to deny the regime the power to kill its own people and to foment terror around region and indeed around the world. This seemed so straight forward to me. We formed alliances to achieve these ends and supported Israel’s efforts to enhance our pressure campaign as well.

This administration is returning to the roots of its past, It’s the Obama Policy 2.0. They are seeking to walk away from the support we had provided to the Iranian people just as they did in 2009, when the Iranian people demanded freedom and the administration walked away from them.

But here is the good news. The resistance forces in Iran, these noble Iranian patriots, are as strong as they have ever been and they provide optimism for everyone around them who supports them. You do that too.

You can actually see this. You can actually see the effects of the last years of our work in their recent elections.  Every more effort had to be made. The regime became more desperate, the fraud had to be increased and the Iranian people could see it as plain as day.  Since 1979, every election in Iran has served only to give an appearance of republicanism to a corrupt, brutal theocracy. The 2021 presidential election, however, was really different. It is vastly different from those before it, primarily because it is taking place when the theocratic regime is at its most precarious state since it took power in 1979, and the people of Iran know this. Its prospects of survival are openly questioned by regime insiders and challenged by a restive, freedom-seeking nation.  In short, you all know the math. Very few actually voted FOR Raisi.  Turnout was the lowest since 1979 marking a total rejection of the regime and its candidate.

Even the regime admitted for the first time in 40 years that the majority of Iranian people stayed away from the ballot box.  It was, in fact, a boycott of the regime – and the regime leader fear and know it.

This boycott is evidence that the Iranian people pin no hope on elections as a conduit for substantive change.

The program that we implemented also served to lay bare the regime’s economic incompetence, systemic corruption, and outright plunder of the country’s wealth that have pushed 80% of the population below the poverty line. They see the corrupt ruling theocracy as their true enemy and the first and foremost cause of the economic crises. One of the most dominant slogans in the recent uprisings has been, “Our enemy is right here; they lie when they say it is America.”  History is replete with protest movements. As with all protest movements, flags were burned, right? This is what people do, but now, the most common flag being burned was not the Israeli or the American flag, but the flag of this evil regime.

So, what is ahead?  So how do we all move forward together? What is the path that we move down to?

The regime is at its weakest point in its now 40 plus years of existence.  Iranians from every corner of the nation are seeing with their own eyes, the failure of the regime to deliver on the very promises that it made.  the epic incompetence in handling COVID-19 is on-going — vaccination in Iran is at among the lowest rates in the entire world not because the vaccine is not available, but because the regime refuses to accept vaccines from those prepared to give them to them. Indeed, they rejected it from the Trump administration. This epic incompetence and quest for nuclear power has made it pariah, has made Iran, the regime, pariah, even to its fellow Muslim countries in the region.

It’s epic incompetence in simply ruining the nation has resulted in has made food and gas and the most basic staples unaffordable and the nation’s ability to respond to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes virtually non-existent.  The Iranian people are wise. They can see that Iran is not working.  The people know it.

As for President Raisi, he is the not he President of the people of Iran.  He is the President for the Ayatollah.  His mission is clear.  Inflict pain. Frighten, continue to loot and plunder.  Protect the clerics and protect the Republican Guards.  He was chosen by the Ayatollah now because he is only 60 years old and thus could lead for the next two to three decades. I don’t believe that’s the fate of the Iranian people. These years will give him the time he needs to get his own people into place and demonstrate that the Supreme Leader wants him to have time to prepare for the next phase of the of the so-called revolution. He will use the IRGC and his Qods Force to generate conflict externally to deflect attention and to maintain the narrative of the oppressed.

The path forward calls This calls for a clear response — the United States must lead the world, starting today, on this occasion, to hold him accountable for crimes against humanity that he committed Any dealings with Raisi, would be tantamount to dealing with a mass murderer. This is not only immoral but counterproductive.  All of us should make this crystal clear to our allies in Europe and Asia as well and hold them accountable if they deal with this man that sent thousands of his country to execution in 1988.

It is worth noting that the apologists for the regime suggest that Raisi’s election and the power now in the hands of “hardliners” is a result of the American pressure on the regime.  This is nonsense.  Utter nonsense. The latter notion that of hardliners versus reformers or moderates is not remotely reflective of the total control of the Ayatollah over everything that so that nothing moves without his blessing inside of that country.  As for whether pressure drives Iran to continue it authoritarian ways, it is obvious that Iran’s leadership has been static or trending right for two decades.

The world often overstates its influence on domestic politics. It is the people of Iran who have the power.  The Ayatollah has been very intent. Raisi demonstrates that IRGC generation is replacing the Revolutionary generation. Moreover, while Raisi and others have criticized this nuclear deal, it touches none of their equities.  Thus, they get to use the deal politically and reap the benefits from the resources received to protect the Ayatollah and his henchmen.  So, he will complain about the deal, he will use it to gain more concessions from a deal-hungry U.S., but won’t, in the end, block it.

I worry, too, that the situation on the Iranian border with Afghanistan will only strengthen the Iranian regime’s hand.  The Iranians watched as the United States projected weakness and chaos as it withdrew from Afghanistan.  And we know that the Iranians thrive on weakness. We also know that it always emboldens our adversaries.

The truth is that the present administration inherited an orderly plan for a drawdown in Afghanistan based on firm conditions to keep our people safe. And the people of our allies who were fighting in Afghanistan and alongside of us as well.

The Administration ripped up that plan and turned it into a chaotic rush for exit. And thirteen brave Americans paid with their lives.

I worry that same weakness will enable a blood thirsty Iranian regime to be even more harsh on its own people who oppose the regime and the American weakness will embolden the “Axis of Resistance” to spark increased terrorism in the Middle East and, indeed, all around the world.

In fact, in the wake of our Afghanistan withdrawal, here is what Raisi said, “America’s military defeat and its withdrawal must become an opportunity to restore life, security and durable peace in Afghanistan. Iran backs efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan and, as a neighboring and brother nation, Iran invites all groups in Afghanistan to reach a national agreement.”  Let me translate that for you: Iran welcomes Afghanistan as another tool in the terrorist hub of the “Axis of Resistance.”

They don’t want good things for the Afghan people any more than they want good things for their own people. They want the very power that they have so dearly clutched onto for these decades at the expense of the Iranian people. It is worth us all remembering today that this is not the first connection to external terror. The Ayatollah already hosts the most senior Al Qaeda leadership in his country.  Let me say that again:  Al Qaeda international, the headquarters for Al Qaeda’s operational leaders that builds up plots across the world is not in Afghanistan is NOT in Afghanistan, it is not in the Afghan border, it is not Pakistan – we know they are being hosted, protected and operating today from Iran.

And don’t forget this. The Ayatollah did not truly conduct a revolution; although he will claim that.  No, revolutions move their people towards modernity and reason and to light; this was not a revolution, but a devolution of the basic standards of human rights that the rich of history of Iran had promoted for decades and decades.

There is not far from here, think tanks and salons and some of the nicer parties where there is this idea that there is no solution if the regime is overthrown.  The Ayatollah – and many will tell you that you are better off with the devil you know. The Iranian people don’t believe that for a second because it is fundamentally untrue.  There are many paths forward and all of them are better for the Iranian people than the status quo.

And preparing, as we are doing, preparing the transition to a New Iran is a task for today.  We should start by securing the humanitarian well-being of the Iranian people as they make this transition.  Over the years, it has been demonstrated that the Iranian culture makes toppling governments a part of the national spirit. You should know that nearly 100% of ordinary Iranians believe the regime’s days are numbered. I believe that too.

I am also deeply heartened by the fact that the Iranian people have made it abundantly clear that they are increasingly unafraid of the regime.

Rather than punish Iran for its continued aggression against us and our partners in the Middle East, Sadly, the Biden Administration is trying to get back to the nuclear deal with a much weaker hand.

As was the case with the Trump Administration, human rights and counter terrorism should be at the forefront of our policy; not appeasing the Iranian regime.

We worked tirelessly to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon and a nuclear program. We have to apply pressure until they change, or until reforms which move Iran toward a democratic form of government take place. We cannot shower the Ayatollah with money and economic benefits in the hopes that they won’t be used to inflict terror and oppression.  We have seen this sad story before. This thinking is foolish and backwards. The program of sanctions and pressure that was employed by the Trump Administration needs to remain the model if we want to ensure the security of the American people and the freedom of the people of Iran.

I pray that the United States will not increase the resources the Ayatollah has at his disposal to do empower the theocracy.  Engagement with the regime will lengthen the time that Iran and the regime has to behave as it has for these past decades denying basic human dignity.

Remember, the Ayatollah’s power grab was not so much a revolution but a devolution. It’s important to remember that. It was a lesson for me that I learned. And I must say I am hopeful.  I am hopeful that the world has learned much about the theocracy in Iran these past few years. And it’s not that we didn’t know it before; you have all seen it before. Around the world, you can see that even in Europe the tide of tolerance for the regime is slipping. This is a good thing.

We must continue to support the Iranian people as they fight for a freer and more democratic Iran in any way that they can. There is so much good work to do and you all are doing today.

In the end the Iranian people will have a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Republic. I pray that this day will come soon.  It is a such a joy to be will you all today. I pray that these days will come soon with the Iranian people with the support of Iranians living all around the world – and those who resist from within, they are noble people, — that day will come sooner.  I am committed to this cause; I know you everyone in this room is as well.  May your mission be blessed and the Iranian people protected and provided for always.  It is a hopeful time, a deeply hopeful time, and a time to redouble our efforts.

Thank you for having me here today. God bless you, and may God bless the Iranian people.


Iranian Americans to Rally in New York to Denounce Ebrahim Raisi 

NEW YORK, NY – On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, simultaneous with the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian American community leaders will rally outside the U.N. Headquarters in New York to demand Iranian regime’s human rights dossier be referred to the U.N. Security Council and they call on the body to investigate Ebrahim Raisi for his key role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.

In nationwide protests since 2017, the people of Iran have shouted “Death to Khamenei, Death to dictators”, demanding the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime and establishment of a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic Iran. Accordingly, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its president Ebrahim Raisi do not represent the Iranian people and should not be given the podium at the U.N.  Instead, they should stand trial before international tribunals for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The rally, which coincides with the time that Raisi addresses the UN, will also call on member states to impose comprehensive sanctions on the regime for flagrant human rights violations, export of terrorism, as well as nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs.

An exhibition illustrating pictures of the victims of Raisi’s mass executions will be on display, and a number of survivors and families of the victims will share their ordeal.

WHEN:      Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 11:30 am – 2:00 pm

WHERE:    Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (Across from the UN)

2nd Avenue & 47th Street

SPONSORED BY: Association of Iranian Americans In New York, Iranian American Community of New Jersey, Members of the Organization of Iranian American Communities, OIAC


CONTACT: Majid Sadeghpour

‘I chose beatings over solitary confinement’

this is what it was like to be locked up in prison in Tehran

Yahoo News     |     Mostafa Naderi     |     10 September 2021

Last week, leaked surveillance footage showed shocking abuses of prisoners in Iran’s Evin prison. Watching the videos reminded me of my years in Evin – with one notable difference: the guards of my time seemed even more barbaric.

I want to explain why what happened 33 years ago matters today. Iran’s society has changed, but its regime has not – in fact, Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, is one of the leaders of the horrific 1988 execution of thousands of political prisoners following the supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa (religious decree).

The past could wibe a pattern for tomorrow, with horrific consequences. For example, years ago, Evin prison guards were like butchers. They used heavy cables to lash prisoners which cut into their skin. Then, if the guards thought someone was too injured by the torture for them to survive, they would simply execute the victim. For the guards, there were no consequences, nothing to worry about.

In Evin prison, we were often blindfolded while being transferred between different sections, in the interrogation room, even under torture. This cruel tactic would create intense fear and panic – when you’re blindfolded, your mind takes over. It’s true that the guards wanted to prevent anyone from witnessing their crimes or seeing their faces but keeping people fearful was very helpful when they wanted to mentally break the prisoners.

Long solitary confinements were another tactic. As political prisoners, we tried to stay connected; but the guards punished any kind of human contact. Even caring for a tortured cellmate carried harsh consequences.

I was held in solitary confinement once for three years, and again for two years. During these endless isolations, memories of everything and everyone you love start to fade, and you can feel utterly alone and empty.

Initially, those of us in solitary confinement used morse code to communicate with each other through the walls. But over time, the regime’s authorities added steel-reinforcement concrete to the walls, so no sound could get through.

In my case, when the isolation became unbearable, I would start kicking the door and making noise. The guards would come and take me out for a beating. But getting hit was a distraction; a savior if you will. The process of fighting the physical pain, going to the medic, and dealing with bandages was better than the never-ending isolation and mental anguish.

In the spring of 1988, the guards wanted me to provide information about a relative. One day in August, due to severe kidney bleeding, I lost consciousness, and a guard took me to the prison’s clinic. When I woke up, I saw bloody IV fluids around me, and my head felt achy. The guy lying next to me told me that my name had been called several times, but since I had been unconscious, I never responded to it.

After several days in the clinic, when I finally returned to my own section, all the cell doors were strangely open, and there were handbags and rucksacks lying next to empty cells. I realised these were the possessions of my friends who had been executed during the massacre. My section was almost empty. The next day, I heard someone calling the guard, saying, “Hey, you’ve forgotten to take me!” When the guard asked the man’s name, he said, “Yaqub Hassani.” The guards took him away, and he was executed the same night.

I grieved for all these people. When you have suffered alongside a group of people for a long time, you have strong feelings for them. When the guards took some people for execution, those who remained had terrible feelings of shock and sorrow.

These were chaotic days – some people didn’t know they were going to be hanged until the very last minute. The guards transferred people around and might even put you on death row only to take you back to the public section. You literally lost track of yourself. I will never know what Yaqub was thinking that day; I just heard him calling the guard.

I was around 17 when I was first interrogated, but I refused to write my friends’ names and whereabouts. I was then told that I was to be executed with a few others. The guards gave me a piece of paper and told me to write down my will. I said I had nothing to say or give to anyone. One night, five of us were handcuffed, blindfolded, put on a bus, and taken to a place inside the prison. As we exited the bus, my friends and I started to sing a popular song known as the anthem of martyrdom.

The guards roared at us to shut up and then pushed us against a wall. We heard someone like a cleric reading our verdicts: “In the name of God the merciful, you betrayers of nation and religion…” and then… fire!

The sounds of bullets piercing and exploding the bricks above our heads were terrifyingly loud. Since we had prepared ourselves for the worst, we all fell down. It was like when you dream and you’re falling down from a high plateau. I felt something like wet, warm blood on the ground, and I thought this was the end. But a few moments later, I heard the guards laughing and hysterically barking: “Is this the way you want to fight Islam?”

It was a mock execution and everyone was still alive… if you can call it that way. We were shoved back onto the bus and driven back to our sections. Due to the shock, we all suffered severe physical and mental symptoms. I couldn’t stop shaking and I later learned that one of my friends became almost blind. Another friend whispered that he could not move his arm anymore and his body was partially lame. He had had a stroke, we later learned.

Back in prison, they sent us to the interrogation room to see if we were broken and ready to surrender. I do not know what happened to the others, but I’m sure that night changed us all. I never raised my voice again.

The 1988 massacre has never ended. As the recently-leaked videos show the oppressive treatment of prisoners in Evin prison hasn’t stopped.

But if you ask me, the international condemnation of the Iranian regime’s abysmal human rights record appears to have halted over the years.

If Raisi is going to be allowed to address world leaders during the UN General Assembly in September, it’s important to remember the audiences he addressed 33 years ago– and what he has done in his career. The world must send a clear rebuke and warning to Tehran. Many lives depend on it.

My generation was called on to bring about a “free Iran”. In Europe, which endured eras of human rights abuses, nations are teaching the lessons of history so new generations can understand what the price of freedom has been and how to hold it dear. I think this is what we need to do in Iran, as well. The next generation should learn about these brutal stories so they too can cherish freedom.

Sometimes people ask me how I endured all that pain, how I survived. But I say that there was something far more important to me than survival.

There were tens of thousands of people that never expected to be seen or heard again, yet they “outlived” the torture. The dictator wanted them to submit and reject their beliefs; he wanted to break them all. Those who remained loyal and brave and said “no” have proved that the  regime might kill humans – but can’t break our humanity.


AP     |     By JON GAMBRELL     |     August 23, 2021

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The guard in a control room at Iran’s notorious Evin prison springs to attention as one by one, monitors in front of him suddenly blink off and display something very different from the surveillance footage he had been watching.

“Cyberattack,” the monitors flash. Other guards gather around, holding up their mobile phones and filming, or making urgent calls. ”General protest until the freedom of political prisoners” reads another line on the screens.

An online account, purportedly by an entity describing itself as a group of hackers, shared footage of the incident, as well as parts of other surveillance video it seized, with The Associated Press. The alleged hackers said the release of the footage was an effort to show the grim conditions at the prison, known for holding political prisoners and those with ties abroad who are often used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.

Iran, which has faced criticism from the United Nations special rapporteur over its prison conditions, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to its U.N. mission in New York. Iranian state media in the country have not acknowledged the incident at Evin.

However, several embarrassing hacking incidents have struck Iran amid ongoing tensions over its accelerated nuclear program and as talks with the West over reviving the atomic accord between Tehran and world powers remain on hold.

Four former prisoners at Evin, as well as an Iranian human rights activist abroad, have told the AP that the videos resemble areas from the facility in northern Tehran. Some of the scenes also matched photographs of the facility previously taken by journalists, as well as images of the prison as seen in satellite photos accessed by the AP.

The footage also shows rows of sewing machines that prisoners use, a solitary confinement cell with a squat toilet and exterior areas of the prison. There are images of the prison’s open-air exercise yard, prisoners’ bathrooms and offices within the facility.

Much of the footage bears timestamps from 2020 and this year. Several videos without the stamp show guards wearing facemasks, signaling they came amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Though there is no sound in the videos, they speak to the grim world faced by prisoners at the facility. One sequence shows what appears to be an emaciated man dumped from a car in the parking lot, then dragged through the prison. Another shows a cleric walking down the stairs and passing by the man, without stopping.

Guards in another video are seen beating a man in a prisoner’s uniform. One guard sucker-punches a prisoner in a holding cell. Guards also fight among themselves, as do the prisoners. Many are crammed into single-room cells. No one wears a facemask.

The account that shared the videos with the AP calls itself “The Justice of Ali,” a reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law who is revered by Shiites. It also mocks Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

It claimed to have “hundreds” of gigabytes of data from what it described as a hack conducted several months ago. It did not answer questions about who was involved in the leak.

The account linked the timing of its leak to the recent election of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line acolyte of Khamenei involved in the execution of thousands in 1988 at the end of the Iran-Iraq War.

“The Evin prison is a stain on Raisi’s black turban and white beard,” the message on the screens in the prison control room also read.

Iran, long sanctioned by the West, faces difficulties in getting up-to-date hardware and software, often relying on Chinese-manufactured electronics or older systems. The control room system seen in the video, for instance, appeared to be running Windows 7, for which Microsoft no longer provides patches. That would make it easier for a potential hacker to target. Pirated versions of Windows and other software are common across Iran.

In recent months, Iran’s railroad system was targeted by an apparent cyberattack. Other self-described hacker groups have published details about Iranians alleging hacking on behalf of the theocracy. Meanwhile the most-famous cyberattack — the Stuxnet virus that destroyed Iranian centrifuges at the height of Western fears over Tehran’s program — is widely suspected to have been an American and Israeli creation.

Evin prison was built in 1971 under Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It housed political prisoners then and later, after the 1979 Islamic Revolution swept the shah from power.


While in theory under the control of Iran’s prison system, Evin also has specialized units for political prisoners and those with Western ties, run by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Khamenei. The facility is the target of both U.S. and European Union sanctions.

After Iran cracked down on protesters following the disputed 2009 re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, many of the arrested protesters ended up in Evin. Lawmakers later pushed for reforms at Evin, following reports of abuses at the prison — which led to the installation of the closed-circuit cameras.

Problems continued, however. Reports by U.N. Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman repeatedly named Evin prison as a site of abuses of prisoners. Rehman warned in January that Iran’s entire prison system faced “long-standing overcrowding and hygiene deficiencies” and “insurmountable obstacles for responding to COVID-19.”

“Prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have contracted COVID-19 or experienced symptoms, with many denied testing or treatment or suffering unnecessary delays in receiving test results and treatment,” he wrote.

Nearly 3,000 miles from Tehran where mass executions were carried out in 1988, a murder trial in Sweden could produce new revelations that complicate life for Iran’s president-elect.

New York Times     |     By Farnaz Fassihi     |     July 30, 2021

He was a 28-year-old student and member of a communist group in Iran serving a 10-year prison sentence in 1988 when, according to his family, he was called before a committee and executed without a trial or defense.

Family members said they did not get the body, a will or the location of a burial site. They received a duffle bag with a wristwatch, a shirt and a certificate that did not specify execution as the cause of death.

The student, Bijan Bazargan, was among an estimated 5,000 prisoners belonging to armed opposition and leftist groups in Iran, who Amnesty International and other rights groups say were executed in the summer of 1988.

Now, a Swedish court will prosecute a former Iranian judiciary official for war crimes and murder in connection with Mr. Bazargan’s death. The case carries some notably public and damaging implications for Iran’s president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, who helped decide which prisoners lived or died during those mass executions.

The defendant, Hamid Noury, 59, was indicted on Tuesday in Sweden, under what is known as the principle of universal jurisdiction, a tenet of international law that theoretically allows any national court to pass judgment on defendants in egregious crimes regardless where they have been committed.

His trial begins on Aug. 10 — less than a week after Mr. Raisi takes office nearly 3,000 miles away in Tehran. The trial, which is expected to last until next April, risks exposing new details about Mr. Raisi’s role — a period of history that he has sought to minimize or ignore.

Mr. Noury served as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison where Mr. Bazargan and hundreds of prisoners were sent to the gallows.

The mass executions represent one of the most brutal and opaque crackdowns by the Islamic Republic against its opponents. International rights groups say they amount to crimes against humanity.

“Some people tell us to forgive and forget, but we can’t,” said Laleh Bazargan, Mr. Bazargan’s sister, a 51-year-old pharmacist who migrated to Sweden and lives in Stockholm. “The truth must come out, for the sake of closure and for accountability.”

Mr. Raisi, 60, was a member of the four-person committee that interrogated prisoners and issued execution orders. Mr. Raisi has said he was acting under the direction of the founding father of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had ordered a committee be formed to facilitate the executions.

Allegations of Mr. Raisi’s work on that committee have shadowed him through his ascent in Iran’s hierarchy, where he had been the head of the judiciary before the June election that vaulted him to the presidency. Amnesty International has called for a formal investigation of Mr. Raisi’s past.

Although Mr. Raisi will enjoy diplomatic immunity if he travels abroad as the country’s president, the Sweden case could, at the very least, confront him with a vexing optics problem as he sets to engage with the world.

The United States, which placed Mr. Raisi on a sanctions list two years ago for rights abuses, is obliged to grant him a visa as host country of the United Nations should he wish to attend the General Assembly in New York this September. Even so, six Republican senators asked President Biden to deny Mr. Raisi and other top Iranian officials visas for that gathering, the world’s biggest diplomatic stage.

Iran’s Mission to the United Nations said through a spokesman that it had no comment about the trial in Sweden and that Mr. Raisi’s travel plans for the General Assembly remain unclear because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But Mr. Raisi is scheduled to speak at the event, either in person or virtually.

The case against Mr. Nouri appeared to make him the first Iranian defendant in a criminal prosecution that invokes the principle of universal jurisdiction. Iranian officials and operatives have been convicted in Germany, France and most recently Belgium for assassinations and terrorism-related plots inside those countries — but never for crimes committed inside Iran, legal experts said.

“The trial is extremely important for breaking the cycle of impunity from Iran to elsewhere for officials accused of serious human rights violations,” said Shadi Sadr, a prominent human rights lawyer in London.

In announcing the charges against Mr. Noury, Sweden’s public prosecutor, Kristina Lindhoff Carleson, said that the “extensive investigation resulting in this indictment shows that even though these acts were committed beyond Sweden’s territory and more than three decades ago, they can be subject to legal proceedings in Sweden.”

The prosecutor’s statement said the defendant was suspected of having participated in the mass executions, intentionally taking the lives of prisoners and subjecting them to torture and inhumane treatment. Such actions, Swedish authorities said, violated the Geneva Conventions.

The prisoners were mostly members of an armed opposition group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, now widely known as the M.E.K., and leftist political groups. Human rights activists have said most of the executed prisoners had not been convicted of capital crimes and had been serving prison sentences.

Mr. Noury was arrested at Stockholm’s airport when he arrived to visit family in 2019. Activists had learned of his travel plans and had alerted the authorities, who denied him bail. They began an investigation, interviewing dozens of victims’ family members, survivors and Iranian human rights activists who had for years recorded testimonies and details of the mass executions.

Mr. Noury’s lawyer has told Swedish media that he denies the accusations and that the authorities arrested the wrong man.

The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, a Washington-based Iran rights advocacy group named after a pro-democracy Iranian lawyer assassinated in 1991, published a report in 2010 on the 1988 mass executions. The report was prepared by a British lawyer who was the head of an international tribunal on Sierra Leone’s civil war.

Roya Boroumand, a daughter of Mr. Boroumand’s who is executive director of the foundation, said its subsequent investigation showed that Mr. Noury, known by the alias Hamid Abbasi, had been the right-hand man for the deputy prosecutor of the Gohardasht prison.

She said Mr. Noury and others like him had played an active role in questioning prisoners, preparing the list of names for the so-called death committee, and then escorting listed prisoners from their cells blindfolded down a dark hallway to a room where the committee members, which included Mr. Raisi, interrogated them.

The committee asked the prisoners about their political beliefs and willingness to condemn comrades and express fealty to the Islamic Republic. The committee often made an on-the-spot decision on whether the prisoners lived, Ms. Boroumand said.

“The significance of the Sweden case is not about a person, it’s about the Islamic Republic being put on trial,” said Ms. Boroumand. “It’s coming back to haunt them and hopefully it will prevent repetition of such crimes.”

The mass executions took place in Tehran’s Evin prison and in Gohardasht prison in Karaj, about 12 miles west of Tehran. In Gohardasht, the condemned were hanged on pipes at an adjacent area known as Hosseiniyeh, which is typically used for religious ceremonies and prayers. The bodies were buried in mass graves in secret locations.

About 30 plaintiffs, including Mr. Bazargan’s sister, are expected to testify against Mr. Noury at the trial in Sweden.

Ms. Bazargan said she thinks of her brother every day. She was 13 when he was arrested at 23 and had been allowed to visit him once a year until his execution five years later.

In an interview, she recalled him as a protective and caring older brother, taking her to the movies and restaurants, giving her advice about school and friends.

For many years, Ms. Bazargan said, she had imagined what she would say if brought face-to-face with one of the people suspected of responsibility for executing him.

That day is now scheduled for Oct. 19 in a courtroom in Stockholm.

“I want to look him in the eye and say, ‘Speak,’” Ms. Bazargan said. “Speak of what you have done. Speak of what you did to him. Speak of how you killed so many people.”


Iran: The Untold Story Segment 9
August 15, 2019

ENJETI: Welcome to our series, Iran: The Untold Story, and our continuing look at the main Iranian opposition group. I’m Saagar Enjeti, I’m filling in this week for Buck Sexton. Today, we examine Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

NARRATOR: Born into an educated, middle-class family in Tehran, Maryam Rajavi began her activism in college. She called for freedom, justice, and the end of the Shah’s dictatorship. The Shah’s regime imprisoned her brother, an MEK member, in the ‘70s. The secret police, or SAVAK, killed her sister in 1975. After the 1979 revolution, Maryam Rajavi became one of the MEK’s most effective organizers. She ran for Parliament in 1980 and received 250,000 votes despite bans and ballot fraud. As the mullahs cracked down on dissent, many friends were killed. Her younger sister, pregnant at the time, was executed in 1982. She advanced in the MEK and Maryam embraced the role of women even in the military who are shut out of political power by the mullahs. Her advocacy for women and 10-point plan for Iran today enjoys wide support among the Iranian people and hundreds of world leaders. Her efforts transform the group into one of the most progressive political parties in the world, in which women play the leadership role. For her and her movement, gender equality is a plan of action and at the heart of the Free Iran movement.

TOWNSEND: Women will continue to lead this movement and it is among the greatest threats to the current regime.

NARRATOR: In 1993, Rajavi resigned from the MEK when the NCRI coalition elected her its president-elect. As she has made clear in dozens of interviews, she’s planning now to help run Iran after the fall of the mullahs and to prepare her country for free and fair national elections. Today, Rajavi leads an opposition movement that is considered Tehran’s number one enemy.

RAJAVI: Today, the ruling mullahs fear the rule of the Mujahedeen e-Khalq, MEK, and resistance units in leading and continuing the uprisings.

Linda Chavez: I want to thank first and foremost Madame Maryam Rajavi. She is a woman who deserves our admiration, for her grace, for her strength, her determination and most of all for her leadership in this movement.

NARRATOR: In a display of bipartisan global support for her movement, some 350 dignitaries and lawmakers from 47 countries joined thousands of MEK members in their new home in Albania, called Ashraf 3, in July of this year.

ENJETI: We are now joined by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the former prosecutor and mayor of New York and who now serves as an attorney to President Trump. Welcome, Mr. Mayor, we really appreciate it.

GIULIANI: Very nice to see you, thank you for having me.

ENJETI: Sir, I understand you were recently in Albania where you met Maryam. What is she like and why do you support her?

GIULIANI: Sure, I was there for the four-day conference called Free Iran 2019. Probably the 11th year that I’ve gone to a conference like this. Usually they hold it in Paris. And this year we held it in Albania because Albania is a place where the Iranian dissidents have built a city, really, called Ashraf 3. It’s a beautiful city. It has residences, it has tremendous amount of conference rooms. So the conference was about basically how can we replace the regime of Iran with a democratic government, which the MEK has been attempting to do for 20 years. I have about 11 years involvement with them. But they have a tremendous amount of support in the United States, bipartisan, about 200 members of Congress, equal number of Republicans and Democrats. I was there with former Senator Lieberman, Democrat, former Senator Torricelli, who’s actually one of their principal people. He’s been involved with them longer than I have. And what they are is basically the National Council of Resistance in Iran is headed by Madame Rajavi. She’s the president-elect. And it’s made up of a group of organizations including the MEK that are resistance groups, like the French Resistance, against the Ayatollah. They’ve been active since the revolution. A hundred and twenty thousand of their people have been killed but they still are going strong. And both the ayatollah and Rouhani have announced within the last year that they are the biggest threat to the regime. In the years past, it was always doubt that was created about how strong are they in Iran, how much support od they have. I think that all has been put to rest now with basically Rouhani’s statement and the Ayatollah’s saying that the MEK, and sometimes they’ll call PMOI, is our most dangerous threat, the only one capable of putting a government together, and therefore we’ve got to wipe them out, which is what they do. If they find that you’re a member of this organization, or suspect that you’re a member of this organization, by and large you don’t get a trial. You’re either imprisoned or you’re shot depending on the circumstances. And so 120,000 since the beginning of the revolution. Probably another thousand in the last couple of years. And they have a government-in-exile. They have tremendous support. They have tremendous support in what’s called the Iranian diaspora. And they have a charter, 10 points, which largely looks like our Bill of Rights. Significant thing is, they’re headed by a woman. This is, this is the Middle East. This is right next to the Arab world. Not only are they headed by a woman, roughly half their leadership are women. And when they were an active revolutionary group, some of their tank commanders were women. So, like Israel, women, everybody in this organization, is prepared to fight to free Iran. Although 20 years ago they basically gave their arms to the American military and now they’re just a political operation, not a military operation. But their history was as both a political and military operation.

ENJETI: So, sir, Ms. Rajavi, she’s presented a 10-point plan for Iran. It covers things like universal suffrage, free market economy, non-nuclear. Does she have a chance to lead Iran into a democratic state?

GIULIANI: She does. I mean, she does have a chance. I mean, I don’t think people realize how much turmoil there is inside of Iran. Since January of 2018, I think I have my facts correct here, there have been over 250 major protests all throughout the country, not just in Tehran. And now they have spread into the economic sectors. So there have been taxi drivers that have gone out on strike and protest. There are teachers, all the teachers of the country went on strike. There are farmers, professors have joined the political activists. And you can see it. Videos that I saw when I was in Albania, because they have probably the MEK people, the PMOI people have the best window into Iran because they have very sophisticated communications equipment. For example, our entire conference was broadcast, to the consternation of the Ayatollah, all over Iran. So, he heard people from 47 different countries basically condemn him as one of the biggest tyrants in the world, which he is. And that there’s great support within Iran. It’s always hard in these situations to determine what’s the tipping point. We didn’t know what the tipping point was in Berlin. We didn’t know what it was in the Soviet Union. We didn’t know what it was in Eastern Europe. And even with the Arab Spring we didn’t quite know what the tipping point was and when it when it happened we were surprised. I tend to think that’s going to happen here. I think we underestimate just how fed up the Iranian people are with being oppressed for 40 years. After all, this regime has been in power 40 years. It enforces an extremist religious view. Iran was one of the more secular Muslim countries going into this. So, it isn’t like it’s embedded in the country to be extremist. And then things like women being stoned, women you can divorce a woman but she can’t divorce you, women are treated like worse than second-class citizens, like chattel. And I think that’s one of the reasons that Madame Rajavi has so many support from very strong women. You go to Ashraf 3 and the commandant, the head of it is a woman. A lot of the major roles filled by women. And they feel that this is important because they feel that a government has to be stood up. Doesn’t have to be just them, they have a lot of coalition partners. But there has to be a pretty close to an equal representation of women if you’re going to quickly move around away from the terrorist-supporting government it is now to being a contributing, you know, member of a community in the Middle East that’s moving toward democracy.

ENJETI: So, you spoke at Ashraf 3 at that conference about a new optimism and previous events. What did you mean by that?

GIULIANI: What I meant by that was, many of the times that we spoke in this event we were trying to save their lives in Iraq, get them out of Iraq, negotiating with the Albanian government. In the course of the delay that was imposed on us, even during the Obama administration, the Iraqis and the Iranians came in several times to Ashraf 2 and then to Camp Liberty where they were moved, and in the course of two to three years killed 120 of them. The last one, they have a museum there of the atrocities committed by the Iranian government which are crimes against humanity. At one point at the end of their being in Ashraf 2, they came in and they tried to eliminate all the remaining residents. There were about 110 remaining, but only 58 were there that day.


GIULIANI: And they also went into the hospital and killed the people in the hospital. If you go to Ashraf, you can see the pictures of the people in their hospital beds on the operating tables, shot in the head. Back in 1988, within a two-month period, the regime killed 30,000 members of MEK. Thirty-thousand people! We’re talking about, you know =

ENJETI: A small city, yeah.

GIULIANI: = crime against humanity type crimes. Crimes for which they should be prosecuted in the World Court or they should be prosecuted in the United States because among other things they attempted to kill me, Newt Gingrich, Bob Torricelli, a lot of Americans. Two bombing plots were uncovered. One was in February of 2018.


GIULIANI: They caught people in Albania who were coming to the New Year’s celebration. And I attended that with Madame Rajavi. And they were going to blow us up. And then in Paris, last year, in late June of 2018, four people were arrested in Brussels, one an Iranian diplomat, and they had both explosives and plans of the Paris Convention Center where I was speaking, Newt Gingrich was speaking, former Attorney General Mukasey, Tom Ridge, many prominent Americans. So, among other things they were plotting to kill Americans. Somebody should take this seriously. I mean, the French government is prosecuting it, but not with the determination that should accompany something like this.

ENJETI: Sure. Why do you think the Iranian regime is so afraid of her? Why do they keep having these cyber attacks against her and her followers around the world?

GIULIANI: Because they are a true threat. I mean there’s no other real organized opposition to their government. This is an opposition that can bring together, in Paris, a hundred thousand people, which is what they’ve done for the last ten meetings over the last ten years that I’ve been at. And this year, of course, Albania is smaller so you can’t do 100,000. But they got about 10,000, eight to ten thousand people, representatives of 40 different nations. Former prime minister of Canada. The former prime minister of four or five of the European countries, the deputy prime minister in France, I mean just a large amount. And of course, the biggest delegation was U.S. delegation. And it was about an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, including several present members of Congress. There’s a resolution in Congress supported by approximately 200 members of Congress, about the MEK and about the fact that they are a vehicle for democracy in Iran and should have the support of our government.

ENJETI: So, if the Iranian regime were to fall and Ms. Rajavi she was able to govern, could she be able to govern during a transition period? Do you think she could prevent the chaos?

GIULIANI: Well, what they do, what they—these are the questions of course we ask them all the time, and I’ve seen evidence that they have a functioning government-in-exile. They evaluate the problems in Iran every day. They are enormously active in communicating within Iran. They remind me of the Voice of American in one aspect during the Cold War, which used to broadcast into =

ENJETI: Absolutely.

GIULIANI: = the Soviet-dominated countries every single day. They broadcast, they try to 24 hours a day. And they have ministers, shadow ministers for each one of the agencies of the government. And they have a plan for transition. And the plan for transition would say they’d put up an interim government immediately and they would attempt to get to a full election within six months so that there’s—so it isn’t an imposed government, it’s a democracy. And her proposition is that she doesn’t want to dominate, she wants to be elected or not elected, or elected to something and they would share leadership with maybe 10, 12 other groups. This was the original plan for Iran when they deposed the Shah, which was hijacked by the Ayatollah, who completely outmaneuvered them, got them to agree to have him come back on the theory he’d be peaceful and just a religious leader. And the moment he came back, violent demonstrations broke out all over Iran to demand that he take over as the Supreme Leader. And within a short period of time, a new constitution was written. It’s not a constitution at all. There’s a parliament, there’s a prime minister, but the supreme leader makes all the decisions. He can veto anything the Parliament does. He can veto anything the prime minister does. And he can just give out decrees and that becomes the law. So, they could pass a law saying, “Women can’t be stoned.” He can take the law, tear it up and say, “Oh, we’re going to stone ten women a day.” And he does things like that.

ENJETI: Final question for you, sir. What else should the American public know about Ms. Rajavi?

GIULIANI: What they should know is that this is a true disciple of peace, democracy. Her whole life has been spent trying to obtain democracy for her country, first against the Shah who killed I think her sister. And then against the Ayatollah who killed another relative. I think another sister. Her family has been the victim of both the Shah’s oppression and murder and been the victim of the even more increased murder under the Ayatollah. And people should know that this is a regime that has more blood on its hands than any regime in the world, and that it is the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world. Why do we want to negotiate or trust a regime that’s the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world? And I made that challenge to the European governments. Hasn’t Iran proven to us that they are too irresponsible, that they are too murderous to have nuclear weapons in their hands? It would be too dangerous for the world. And I think the European governments have to develop the kind of courage that President Trump has.

ENJETI: Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Mayor.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

ENJETI: We appreciate it. Thank you, Mayor Giuliani. And we’ll see you next time on Iran: The Untold Story.

Iran: The Untold Story – Part Eight
June 13, 2019

BUCK SEXTON: Welcome to our series, Iran: The Untold Story, and our continuing look at the main Iranian opposition group. This week, we examine the growing international support for the MEK and NCRI.


At its giant Paris rallies, and at demonstrations around the globe, the MEK and NCRI have become an international presence, advocating for democracy and change in Iran.

John Baird, former foreign minister of Canada: “We come together to support the people of Iran in their great struggle.”

They organize street protests in the US, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, London, Warsaw, and Toronto, always calling for freedom in Iran.

Many observers consider the National Council of Resistance of Iran as having established itself as a formidable alterative to the Iranian regime, initiating diplomatic and international efforts.

Its international standing began decades ago, in Paris, when the NCRI leader tried to negotiate an end to the Iran-Iraq War.

Massoud Rajavi: “I requested from the President of Iraq to stop bombing against our cities and innocent civilians. Now, we have a solution for this war in our hands.”

Struan Stevenson, former member of the European Parliament: “They are well organized, and they have a 10-point manifesto that I would be proud as a western politician to stand under.”

Today, with its modern 10-point plan calling for legitimate elections in Iran, separation of church and state, gender equality, abolition of the death penalty and Sharia law, and the rule of law, the NCRI is winning support in capitals around the globe.

Senator Joseph Lieberman: “It’s hard not to see the resemblance between the resistance that you and the people of Iran are a part of and those who fought for America’s freedom in the revolution in the 18th century, or those who fought for the freedom of France during the 19th century, or those who fought against Nazism and fascism and communism during the 20th century.”

As a host of international leaders made clear at a recent “Free Iran” Summit in Poland, support for a change in Iran is growing.

Senator Robert Torricelli: “We have hoped for the best for 40 years. And they have answered us with terrorism, oppression and death. There is no negotiating with this regime. The regime must end. Now!”

Interview Section

SEXTON: We’re joined now by Governor Tom Ridge, the former Congressman and Governor of Pennsylvania. He’s also the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Governor ridge, great to have you here, thank you so much.

RIDGE: Nice to join you.

SEXTON: So, as you know, the MEK was designated for many years by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. President Clinton’s administration acknowledged at the time that this was a kind of goodwill gesture toward Tehran. Now, many years later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delisted the MEK as a terrorist group. What do you think about this change, this back and forth? Was it ever the proper thing to do to list the MEK as a terrorist group?

RIDGE: Well, the short answer is no. I thought it was somewhat naïve back then, if I look in the rearview mirror, President Clinton suggesting you could extend a goodwill gesture to an autocratic regime that took hostages out of our embassy, kept them for 400 and something days, and then since that hostage taking has overseen a reign of terror and oppression against opposition groups, particularly the MEK. And the other thing that I remind everybody is that as Secretary of Homeland Security on a day to day basis I got briefings that lasted for several years, written briefings, oral briefings. Not one day, not one page, not one mention of MEK as a terrorist organization and that’s what the briefings were really focused on. And the irony was, was that President Clinton put the organization on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list and Secretary Clinton couldn’t possibly sustain it. The only reason she withdrew the designation is the court said demonstrate, demonstrate it, how and why they should be on the list. She was unable to do it, so naïve from the start, wrong, and I didn’t have any interaction with them as Secretary of Homeland Security where I saw in any manner, shape or form, that this government thought they were adverse and operating adverse to American interests or taking action against American citizens anywhere.

SEXTON: So you’ve been supporting the MEK for a long time, publicly now. Why do you put your reputation built over many years of government service, why do you put your reputation out there and at some level on the line for this group?

RIDGE: Well, thank you, I think it’s a very important question. But I’m not the only that’s been in public service that has embraced the notion that this is an organization worthy of not only our personal support but the support of the government. Give you a couple reasons. One, they were improperly designated as a terrorist organization way back when. Secondly, have come to know and appreciate the service of a lot of men who worked with them when they were in Iraq. And they’ll tell you firsthand that they were responsible, the MEK saved a lot of lives, were an important source of information. Thirdly, when we as a government took their weapons away from them when they were in Iraq, their ability to defend themselves as an organization, we promised to provide protections to them under the Geneva Convention and we failed to provide those protections either from some sources within Iraq who looked the other way when Iranian forces lobbed mortars in, actually kidnapped a few of them. So for me it was there was a long list of things, improper designation, their support of us, of our military while we were there, our fact we gave our word to protect them and we failed until more recently to provide that kind of support. So, I’m proud to join frankly a list of rather substantial list of men and women, public sector, Republicans and Democrats, religious leaders, diplomatic leaders =

SEXTON: And where is the international support for the MEK =

RIDGE: Well, I think that’s a great question =

SEXTON: Is that support growing? Do they have supporters in Europe? Are there other allied governments of ours where the MEK is finding a sympathetic ear?

RIDGE: Yeah, Buck, every year they normally have a meeting in Paris, and the list of individuals from multiple countries around Africa, Europe, and the Middle East continues to grow and grow as they recognize that this is an alternative to the theocracy, the very repressive authoritarian regime in Iran. So the list of international support continues to grow day by day and it’s very significant.

SEXTON: What do you see from the leadership of the MEK and their history of resistance against the Iranian autocrats that is encouraging to you? Why is this group ideologically effective and why are they the ones that you think have had the greatest impact and obviously are the ones that agitate the mullahs the most?

RIDGE: Well, it’s interesting, the last part of your question is probably the most significant signal that they are an alternative to the Iranian regime. Since the early ‘80s, this regime has probably has murdered an excess of 100,000 MEK members and supporters. I think in 1988 Amnesty International said that they had massacred over 30,000. Since that time they continue to imprison, torture, murder. They hang members publicly to remind the opposition, remind the rest of the Iranian community that this is a threat to the theocracy that exists there. The Minister of Intelligence Services announced proudly that they just arrested a bunch of several MEK units of rebellion. They just hung a young man, I think it was 34, 35 years, in May because he was a supporter. So if you want to understand why the international community has embraced this organization because they see it as the mullahs do, as Khamenei does and as Rouhani does, as an alternative, potential democratic alternative to the regime.

SEXTON: The Iranian regime has also hunted down MEK members outside of Iran and the Middle East, right? This has been a global effort to stamp out this MEK resistance movement.

RIDGE: Yes, they have. Matter of fact, there was I think in both Belgium and in France and other locations around the globe there have been some attempted assassinations globally. The fact of the matter is, is that this is an alternative to the regime. The regime understands, does everything they can internally to discourage it. They’ve been unable to do so. And there’s such discipline, and we talk about the vision and their leadership and the organization, but there’s one other quality that I think all of us admire about this group: their resiliency. I mean they continue to stand up for freedom, for liberty, for democracy, even though 100,000 plus members of the organization and supporters have been assassinated, even though there are these attempts day in and day out to pull these individuals out, hang them publicly or throw them in jail. That speaks a lot to who they are but I think we’ve got to talk about the resiliency. They stand up for what they believe in.

SEXTON: What about other alternatives that are out there? Are there any that are viable, relatives of the Shah that are in exile, groups similar to but not the same as the MEK in terms of their mission, is there an alternative resistance group that has the same gravitas?

RIDGE: I don’t think so, Buck. I think clearly the people of Iran have said, well, we’re not interested in a regime similar to the Shah’s, we’re not interested in theocracy, this very authoritarian rule. I think they’ve demonstrated for the past 30 years nearly that they’re interested in selecting their own leaders and around the NCRI and around the MEK a regime that embraces democracy, that is non-nuclear, that is much more tolerant of both political and religious expression, that’s what they want. They’re looking to the future. The Shah is the past, the theocracy is the past. They want a democracy and they’ve been writing that commitment in blood since the early ‘80s.

SEXTON: For years you were receiving government briefings at the very highest level when it comes to national security. Do you have any faith, do you have any real hope that the Iranian regime as it stands now will bend to U.S. demands, will bring itself fully into the international community, essentially will change its essence and the nature of what it is?

RIDGE: Well, I think the only way they will be embraced by the broader community is if at some point in time the regime in place now that is totalitarian, that is repressive, that is the number one exporter of terrorism globally, is replaced. And the only viable democratic opposition presently is the MEK. Their international group is NCRI, as I’m sure you probably reported. But I think the change has to come from within, it has to be indigenous, and it’s quite obvious that this organization is not going away. So, I think continued sanctions are important. I also think it would be a good move if this administration would recognize the NCRI, recognize the MEK, as a democratic alternative to the regime that exists. But I think it has to be an internal, internal change in the way that America and the rest of the global community can support it and encourage it if one continued economic sanctions, and elevate the visibility, the political visibility and the credibility of the NCRI and the MEK.

SEXTON: Governor, really appreciate your time. Thanks for sharing your expertise today.

RIDGE: Buck, nice to be with you.

SEXTON: Next time on Iran: The Untold Story, we profile Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. I hope you’ll join us.

Iran: The Untold Story, Segment 7
June 6, 2019

Buck SEXTON: Welcome to our series, Iran: The Untold Story, and our continuing look at the main Iranian opposition group. This week we examine how a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and House members have supported the MEK and the NCRI for nearly four decades.

US political support for the MEK and National Council of Resistance of Iran runs deep and spans nearly four decades.

Senator Gary Peters:

“… And move to a democratic regime where the people of Iran actually have a say, we have to be united. Thank you for bringing us all here to be united because together we can make that happen.”

And it’s always been bipartisan. The support dates back to the 1980s… when Senator Ted Kennedy and then-Congressman John McCain wrote letters on behalf of human rights for MEK dissidents, many locked in Iranian prisons.

By the 1990s, a bipartisan majority of members of the House and Senate declared that the NCRI “will contribute to the achievement of peace and stability…”

That continued support picked up steam in 2009… when hundreds of bipartisan co-sponsors demanded that the US protect MEK members living under near-constant attacks at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

Later, Congressional delegations who successfully fought to delist the MEK, were able to directly engage with the NCRI and MEK at their bases in Paris and Albania.

Cheering, McCain enters Albania event

One of the strongest supporters was Senator John McCain, who visited Albania with the NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi in 2017.

Senator John McCain: “You have stood up and fought and sacrificed for freedom, for the right to live free, for the right to determine your own future, for the right that is God given. I thank you for being an example, an example to the whole world, that those people who are willing to fight and sacrifice for freedom will achieve it, and you are an example to everyone in the world that is struggling for (freedom).”

Congressional support from prominent Democrats and Republicans continues to this day:

Rep. Brad Sherman: “Your fight is our fight. And we stand with you as you face down a regime that cares nothing for your own people’s freedom or prosperity.”

Rep. Tom McClintock: “The Iranian regime is illegitimate and needs to be overthrown. And there are many Democrats who believe as Republicans believe that that is absolutely essential to the peace and security of the Middle East and the future of civilization”


SEXTON:  We’re joined now by a former member of Congress, Representative Ted Poe of Texas. Congressman Poe, great to have you here. We appreciate you joining us.

POE: Thank you, Buck.

SEXTON:  So, in your experience, what level of support does the MEK have in the U.S. Congress?

POE: It’s interesting because the MEK and the resistance movement for years has been one or both chambers and in a bipartisan way have supported the MEK throughout the 40 years that they have been in existence, especially the last few years. And the support is very strong both in the House and both in the Senate by leading members of both parties in the Foreign Affairs Committee primarily. So, it’s been good. And it’s one of those issues where I hope it continues to be bipartisan in the future.

SEXTON:  Now, this has been a group that is controversial, was at one point listed as terrorist group, has been delisted as a terrorist group. Why do you and other members of Congress feel so strongly about supporting them to this day?

POE: It’s interesting because of this, they gave up their weapons as the United States demanded that they do, and they have continued to not only give the United States information about the regime that is taking place, the mullahs, what they’re doing and their nuclear activity, but these people, Iranians support the most important thing that we support in this country, which is freedom and human rights. And here we have a group of people that their government is at war with them and has been since 1979, 120,000 people in the resistance have been murdered by the regime over the last 40 years. And members of Congress still—and this is good—believe in helping people who believe in freedom and support freedom. And that’s all that these people wants. It’s a human rights issue. And I think we should continue to support them. Like President Kennedy said a long time ago, that we will support anybody who will pursue freedom. And that’s what they’re doing and that’s why members of Congress support them, because they have been oppressed by their own government. Their government has been at war with them. And we hope that the resistance is able to become now leaders of the Iranian people, the Iranian government.

SEXTON:  In Iraq, the MEK camps, Ashraf and Liberty, they came under repeated attacks by pro-Iranian militias, the Iraqi government. Over 140 MEK members were killed. What did the United States Congress do in reaction to this?

POE: There were numerous resolutions presented, bipartisan of course, bicameral, supporting the people of Camp Ashraf. And calling out the killers. There were 140 killed Iraqi militias that were supported by Iran. And they invaded these camps that were defenseless that we were supposed to be protecting with the U.S. military. And not one of those killers has been brought to justice by any government. And so, members of Congress, once again in a bipartisan way, wanted to make sure that these people who’s seeking freedom and liberty were protected and made sure that there were some people held accountable. No one has ever been held accountable and we have I think strong support of those people who are Iranians who just want to go back home and have a free democracy.

SEXTON:  When the MEK was still in Iraq, you joined a Congressional delegation to go visit them. Is it true that the Iraqi prime minster at the time blocked your visit?

POE:  [laughs] Yes. He did. We went to =

SEXTON:  Why would he do that?

POE: [laughs] We went to see Maliki and find out many things about what was taking place in Iraq, the U.S. support for the government. And we asked him and told him we wanted to go to Camp Ashraf and see some of the problems that were going there, including the visit with people who had been attacked by the militias that had attacked the camp. And he got indignant. I was really surprised how indignant he was. He said, “You are not going to Camp Ashraf.” Refused to allow us to go. And eventually because we persisted on wanting to see the people in the camps, ordered us out of Iraq. Told us, “you have to leave my country. You cannot be here.” Very indignant, quite loud when he made that statement. Of course we didn’t leave until we were ready to leave. But the reason he did it was because he didn’t want us to see the truth. He didn’t want us to see what the consequences were of the attacks on this camp of several thousand people, Iranians who were in Iraq, supposed to be protected by the Iraqi government and the United States. And I think he was just being a puppet of the mullahs in Iran and preventing Americans to go see the camp that we supported.

SEXTON:  In 2015, as the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism and Nonproliferation, you invited Maryam Rajavi to testify as a witness. Why?

POE: She is the President-in-exile, as I call her, for the MEK. And wanted to hear from her firsthand the history of the MEK and what the plan was for when the government finally becomes under the control of the citizens. And so we invited her to testify. We had great resistance from people who did not want her to testify, including the State Department, which the State Department has always been on the wrong side of this issue of helping and protecting the MEK. Anyway, we did. And she testified by satellite for a long time and told us about the members of Congress. And this was a bipartisan request, the members of Congress, to have her testify by satellite. And she enlightened us on the plan for the country being taken by the resistance and the people of Iran. And she gave us a ten-point plan which is very good, which is about as democratic as Jefferson would like it to be, talking about the basic human rights that the new plan, ten-point plan would present. So, she presented all that and made awareness to American people about what has taken place to a group of wonderful people across the land.

SEXTON:  What do you say to critics of the NCRI who claim that it’s just not a legitimate and capable alternative to the Iranian regime?

POE:  Well, those critics really don’t know what they’re talking about. Because it is. This group of people have been wanting to have the people in control of Iran. We have a government in Iran that is at war not only with Iranian people in Iran, but a war with exiles across the world, and at war with the world. The Iranian government is the state sponsor, number one state sponsor of terror in the world. And they are causing terror not only in their own country but in other countries: in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Yemen and others because of the organizations that work with them. And that government must eventually fail because they are at war with us. They claim they want to, you know, death to the United States, death to Israel. I think the Ayatollah means it. So that is their plan. The people, the MEK and this group of people have an alternative. They have a free alternative. And they are in exile of their own country. So, I think they can totally support their government, a new government, and have free elections and let the people choose who rules over them. And have a secular government, not one that is a religious organization that is wanting to kill anyone who disagrees with them. So, they are quite capable of being the resistance. And I’m glad they exist. They’ve been fighting for a long time. They’ve been in exile a long time. And I think they’re quite capable.

SEXTON:  Congressman Poe, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate it.

POE: Thank you. Thank you, Buck.

SEXTON:  Next week on Iran: The Untold Story we examine the MEK’s growing international support. I hope you’ll join us.

Iran: The Untold Story, Part 6

By the early 1980s, the MEK was organizing massive rallies to protest the growing dictatorship in Iran.

Meanwhile, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi [RAJ-a-vee] formed a broad coalition—the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)—inviting opposition leaders to join.

But with arrests and attacks of supporters mounting, in July 1981 the MEK moved to safety in Paris.


The Iran-Iraq War was raging, and the NCRI proposed a peace plan that picked up international support.

But by 1986, Tehran pressured the French government to expel the NCRI and MEK. Rajavi and his supporters were forced to move to Iraq, a war zone.

In northeast Iraq, the MEK turned an arid piece of land into a thriving community, called Camp Ashraf.

And they formed the mechanized National Liberation Army of Iran, conducting military raids into Iran.

Once the US invaded Iraq in 2003, the MEK  disarmed voluntarily …and Tehran gained a toehold in Iraq.

Camp Ashraf was attacked, repeatedly by the pro-Tehran Iraqi government, killing more than 140 MEK members, and wounding more than 1,300 between 2009 and 2016.


The attacks convinced members of Congress to issue six bipartisan resolutions to protect the MEK as “protected persons.” And the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 called for the protection of MEK members in Iraq

Senator John McCain:


Senator Jack Reed:


By 2016, the residents were safely resettled to Albania with the help of the United States and the United Nations.

Secretary of State John Kerry:


SEXTON: We’re now joined by soldier and patriot, General James Jones. General Jones is the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and former Special Envoy for Middle East Security. He also served with distinction as National Security Advisor to President Obama. General Jones, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you.

SEXTON: So, tell me, you’ve been an outspoken supporter of the MEK for many years. Why is that?

JONES: I haven’t been alone in this. There’s about 60 or 70 outspoken former national figures including attorneys general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, members of the Joint Chiefs, ambassadors, politicians on both sides of the aisle. And the reason for the support is that in 2003, when the Iraq War started, we found a camp called Camp Ashraf which was hosting about 4,000 families of the so-called MEK. And this organization was in opposition to the Iranian regime. And we interviewed every one of these people. We gave them safe passage individual ID cards in return for their disarming. We assigned some great officers there to be the liaison officer to this group. They provided many, many valuable bits of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program to us and helped us immeasurably. And then when we pulled out of Iraq during the Obama administration, we thought we had a deal with the Iraqi government that they would also protect these people in turn. But what they did do is participate in the almost systematic extermination of these people along with Iran. So =

SEXTON: Why would the Iraqi government do that?

JONES: Well, I think the Maliki regime frankly was more of an Iranian—more populated with Iranian sympathizers. They certainly weren’t thanking us for anything we did. And with regard to this particular group of almost 4,000 people, they conducted overt raids, military raids, and attacked them and killed hundreds of them over a few years.

SEXTON: Did we fail to live up to our obligations to help protect these dissidents in Camp Ashraf?

JONES:  the group that I’m with and that have been arguing this case and actually successfully in U.S. courts, the Court of Appeals directed the State Department to show cause as to why they should be listed as a terrorist organization when clearly they weren’t. And eventually won that fight. But and the people were relocated from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty with the idea being that they were going to be soon taken to another country. Well, that took several years and several more attempts to eradicate these brave people. And so, a lot of us have rallied to their cause. It’s really now known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI, which is a coalition of the MEK but other opposition groups. And they have a democratically elected leader by the name of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi. And they have a 10-point plan for what the government of Iran is going to look like after the regime falls. And we hope that that happens in the near future.

SEXTON: What can you tell us about the vision the NCRI, as you’ve said, their vision for Iran. What are the broad strokes of the 10-point plan?

JONES: Well, sure, the broad strokes are absolutely Jeffersonian and democratic. One is universal suffrage, freedom of assembly, rule of law and justice, separation of church and state, gender equality, human rights, market economy and the right to own private property, foreign policy that’s based on peaceful coexistence, and a non-nuclear future for Iran. Non-nuclear weapons. And we have met, and those that I’ve associated with since I left office—I actually had never heard about this group until after I left the White House in 2010. And I quite by accident stumbled upon former colleagues of mine who were supporting this group. And I tried to find out a little bit more about them. And the more I found out about the more concerned I was. And then in April of 2011, I was called in New York, I was in a hotel in New York, and I was called from a cell phone at Camp Ashraf, and I could hear the shots being fired in the background. And uniformed Iraqi soldiers had essentially attacked and were killing women and children. And there are videotapes of this. So, I have them in my possession. So, it is a democratic organization. There are people who will not give up on this idea that it’s a semi-terrorist organization. It’s not. Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield wrote this report on the MEK called Shackled by a Twisted History. And this is to me the seminal document that basically talks about what these people are and what they aren’t. They’re alive and well today thanks to my colleagues and others who argued persuasively to get them out of Iraq before they were all exterminated. And they’re living peacefully in Albanian, doing quite well. But even there, the long reach of Iran has tried to persecute them.

SEXTON: Why does the Iranian regime have this fixation? Is it just purely a function of their efficacy as an anti-Iranian

JONES: This is the coalition that the regime fears the most. And it’s =

SEXTON: Why is that?

JONES: Simply because they’re effective. They’re well-connected in the country. They have a following in many countries around the world. They have annual gatherings. They have a very important support base here in the United States. But we have not, we have not gone the extra mile I think we need to celebrate someone like Mrs. Rajavi who is a wonderful human being. Her husband has been persecuted and has been in hiding for many years.

SEXTON: What should we do? Right now there is a discussion about the extent of U.S. involvement, I mean at the highest level at the presidential level, U.S. involvement in terms of dealing with Iran, how much pressure we should put on, should there be additional forces sent to the region as perhaps a signal somewhere that could be a harbinger of things to come. In terms of a group like the MEK how can we, how should we in your opinion help as Americans?

JONES: Well, first of all I think we have to understand that Iran is fundamentally unchanged regardless of what the previous administration tried to achieve. Iran is still one of the number one exporters of terrorism in the world. And they have not changed. So, I support the administration’s position on Iran. I think we should celebrate the NCRI and their existence. I think Mrs. Rajavi should be invited to visit Washington. We have all kinds of unsavory people who come here; this is one of the good people and we should invite her I think. And I think one of the colleagues who helped get the MEK out of Iraq was the current National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who knows this group very, very well and was one of the big supporters of them before he went back into government. So, I think we’re on the right track about identifying Iran for what it is. I do think that the NCRI organization has got a plan to say this is what we are going to do within the first six months after the regime falls, and the Iranian people are going to be much happier and much better off for it.

SEXTON:  And finally, has the Iranian regime harassed you or other prominent supporters of the NCRI?

JONES: I don’t know that they have recently. I know when I was in office they published a list of most wanted people in the American government, and when I was National Security Advisor I was one of them. So, that’s about =

SEXTON: That’s a yes, I think we’ll take that as a yes.

JONES: It’s a badge of honor.

SEXTON: All right, well General, thank you so much for your expertise in this. We appreciate it sir.

JONES: It’s my pleasure.