According to Soona Samsami, Representative for the NCRI-US, while the Iranian regime attempts to display itself in a position of strength on the 40th Anniversary of its rise to power, in reality it is at its weakest point in history.
40 years after the fall of monarchic dictatorship, the NCRI, the regime’s main opposition, believes that the prospects of change are shining brighter than ever before. Samsami examined the current situation, including major crises that the regime is facing, and struck a note of optimism about prospects for democratic change in Iran.
“The Iranian people are calling for the establishment of a republic, based on democracy and separation of religion and state,” she said. “In contrast to the regime’s attempts to paint a picture of strength on its 40th year in power, in reality it is at its weakest point in history.” Corruption, embezzlement by officials, poverty-stricken Iranians, the national currency’s spiraling value, and the unprecedented decline in citizens’ purchasing power were some of the indicators she cited of a failing theocracy.
On February 11, 1979, “the Iranian people toppled the Shah’s dictatorship known for his notorious secret police, SAVAK, the infamous Evin prison, and the lavish spending of his corrupt regime,” said Samsami. Shortly after, however, Ruhollah Khomeini denied the Iranian people the democratic and representative government that they so desperately sought, and imposed a religious dictatorship.
A video compilation of scenes of massive protests in 2018 and 2019, which encompassed more than 160 cities and towns in all of 31 provinces in Iran, was shown to the panel.
Former State Department official and ambassador to Bahrain, Adam Ereli , stated, ”Looking back on forty years of revolution: Yes, the mullahs are still there, but so is the MEK,” said the ambassador, referring to the main opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
He added that the fact that the regime’s senior officials, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, IRGC commanders, and Iranian President Rouhani, continue to slander the MEK “validates and substantiates the impact that this organization has had and continues to have.” Ereli said, “From the American side, I would simply argue that you’ve got a very capable opposition,” and, “the best thing the U.S. can do is to just stop appeasing the current regime.”
Ali Safavi of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee described as “the ineffectual Western policy” over the past four decades, saying, “Everything [in the West’s policy] begins with the regime and ends with it. Lost in this approach have been the Iranian people.” Western outlook amounted to a “policy of appeasement” that has actually “helped prolong the mullahs’ rule,” he added. “The right policy is to recognize the rights of the Iranian people and the organized opposition to overthrow this regime. Unlike Syria and other countries suffering from dictatorships, Iran has a historic, real and viable alternative,” Safavi said.
On at least four occasions in 2018, Khamenei personally and publicly named the MEK for organizing large-scale protests. Rouhani has also blamed the MEK for organizing public protests. He also appealed to the French president to curtail their activities in Paris.
The regime has launched an extensive propaganda campaign against the MEK. Movies, drama series, and documentaries have been produced by the state to demonize the MEK’s image. “In 2018 alone, 18 major books were published by the regime against the MEK, bringing the total over the past few years to 519,” said Samsami.
The NCRI, formed in Tehran in 1981, can be described as a parliament-in-exile. It boasts hundreds of democracy advocates as members, half of whom are women, including athletes, politicians, musicians, economists and well-known personalities. The MEK is part of the broader coalition of NCRI.
Samsami explains, “The NCRI’s President-elect, Maryam Rajavi, represents the demands and aspirations of the Iranian people and protestors in recent years. Units of Resistance posted her pictures in major highways and street corners.” She adds, “Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan for Iran’s future includes policy formulations like: separation of church and state; abolition of the death penalty; universal suffrage and elections; gender equality; peace and co-existence with neighbors; and freedom of the press and speech.”
According to Samsami, “Recognition of the NCRI as the sole democratic alternative to the terrorist religious dictatorship in Iran is the imperative to rectifying and ending the disastrous policy of appeasement over the past four decades.”