Also over the course of the last three summer rallies, the gathering has placed some emphasis on countering the notion of internal moderation in the Iranian regime, as embodied by President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in 2013 on promises to engage constructively with the West over the nuclear issue and to initiate domestic reforms.
Although the nuclear agreement was indeed finalized last July, the promised domestic reforms have not been forthcoming. As well as causing Rouhani to lose much of his original support inside the country, the persistent abuses of the Iranian regime have comprised a major talking point for the exiled resistance. This is evident at each rally, and was certainly evident in the early sections of Mrs. Rajavi’s speech, which provided a laundry list of worsening human rights violations, restrictions on the media, and so on, before declaring, “This is the reality about masquerades of moderation in Iran.”
The resistance leader’s account of persistent and endemic abuses and social problems also served as an indictment of the Obama administration’s doctrine of rapprochement with the Islamic Republic. However, her criticism was not limited to the current administration. Rather, she declared that “US policy toward Iran has jumped from one mistake to the next,” with examples including previous attempts at outreach to other so-called moderates, and political attacks on the NCRI’s main constituent group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
The apparent mistreatment of the resistance has had substantial effects not only on its acquisition of political capital but also on the safety of its membership. Just days before Saturday’s rally, the PMOI exile community of Camp Liberty in Iraq was made subject to the latest in a series of rocket attacks, which are understood to have been carried out by local Shiite militias affiliated with the Iranian regime. In prior instances, the rockets used in the attacks could be traced back to Iran, and it remains to be seen whether the same will be the case in the instance of the July 5 barrage, which injured 50 people but – in contrast to previous attacks – did not immediately kill anyone.
Despite the avoidance of major bloodshed in the latest incident, many supporters of the NCRI, both during and prior to the rally emphasized the danger posed to those who remain stranded there, awaiting relocation to other countries. In a panel discussion on Friday, former ambassador to the US human rights commission Kenneth Blackwell expressed his concern that the last remaining residents of the camp would surely be executed if the evacuation of the last 1,000 residents took place as gradually and inconsistently as the first 3,000 or so.
Five attacks on Camp Liberty were preceded by three attacks on Camp Ashraf, the community that was established in eastern Iraq by PMOI exiles in the 1980s, and which was forced closed under an agreement among the Iraqi government, the US, and the UN, on the understanding that the former US military base of Camp Liberty would be a brief temporary stop on the way to stable homes from which resistance members could continue their work.
This promise has been slow in being realized, but Mrs. Rajavi’s speech on Saturday put much emphasis on the importance of this relocation and its role in preserving the legacy of Camp Ashraf, formerly the PMOI base of operations closest to the group’s homeland.
“We will build 1,000 Ashrafs,” Mrs. Rajavi declared, indicating the truly international scope of the Iranian resistance. “We will build 1,000 bastions of rebellion and resistance against the ruling theocracy.”
She later added, “We have chosen to resist anywhere and in any form to bring the dream of freedom to fruition… We will not relent until freedom and democracy roar like a powerful torrent from Azerbaijan to Baluchistan and from Khorassan to Bushehr.”
To this it may be added that the diverse geographic backgrounds of the many thousands of participants in Saturday’s rally indicates that the source of that torrent – and the location of 1,000 Ashrafs – will be spread throughout the world.