Following a musical demonstration and parade of the flags of the dozens of participating nations, the first remarks were delivered by Linda Chavez an author and political commentator and founder of the Center for Equal Opportunity, who expressed her pleasure at returning to the event as “master of ceremonies” once again.
In addition to being tasked with introducing dozens of Europeans and fellow Americans on Saturday, including former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio, former French Secretary of State for Human Rights Rama Yade, former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, and first Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Chavez also participated in a panel discussion on Friday considering recent changes in Iran and the prospective role of the Iranian resistance.
At Friday’s discussion, Chavez expressed hope that within a year, the NCRI and its main constituent group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran would be treated the same as any other pro-democratic political movement. This sentiment was echoed by her fellow panelists – Howard Dean, former ambassador to the US human rights council Kenneth Blackwell, and European Iraqi Freedom Association President Struan Stevenson.
Each of the panelists also made reference to the roughly 1,000 NCRI members who remain stranded in the former US military base of Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport. Although the number of camp residents has diminished by approximately three-quarters since 2012, Dean reported being “incredibly frustrated” by the slow pace of the evacuation and the lack of American leadership in facilitating the relocation of the pro-democratic community, which suffered from the fifth major attack on Camp Liberty on July 5.
Footage of that attack was played for the crowd at the beginning of the Iran Freedom rally on Saturday, signifying the fact that Camp Liberty and its predecessor community Camp Ashraf remain a major rallying point for the NCRI. This fact will presumably remain for as long as any PMOI members remain in the camp.
The rally served to urge rapid action from the world community regarding this evacuation. And a day earlier, the panel discussion invoked significant hope that this action would be forthcoming. However, Blackwell warned that if the evacuation continued to take place in a piecemeal fashion as it has since the PMOI exiles were relocated to Camp Liberty from Camp Ashraf more than five years ago, the last individuals remaining there would almost certainly be executed.