The keynote speaker was Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who stated that the only way to liberate the Iranian people from religious tyranny and to establish peace and tranquility in the region is to overthrow the velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule). Mrs. Rajavi emphasized that the overthrow of this regime is indispensable, feasible, and within reach, and that a democratic alternative and an organized resistance already exists. She added that this democratic alternative is working to establish freedom and democracy in Iran, and that it will bring harmony to various ethnic groups, and will bring an end to the tensions between Iran and its neighbors.
Many distinguished political figures spoke at the event:
• Gilbert Mitterrand, head of the France Libertés Foundation, welcomed the participants: “Your broad presence here is like a referendum against the clerical regime and it shows the ability of this resistance to a democratic change in Iran. I also have to convey to the organizers of this gathering, the message of gratitude of the French President Francois Hollande (2012-2017). He has said that he will continue to pay attention to the human rights situation in Iran, due to the invitation you have made to participate in this gathering.”
• Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York: “Finally, I can say, and I can probably say this with a good deal of authority, that the government of the United States supports you, we are behind you, we agree with your values. … The regime is evil and it must go. Free Iran. … We have an alternative, and that alternative is you. It is a democratic alternative. It is a force for change. It is well organized. It has popular support. And it has a vast network of supporters.”
• Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives: “Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement, and appeasement is surrender. The only practical goal is to support a movement to free Iran. Any other goal will leave a dictatorship finding ways to get around any agreement and to lie about everything.”
• Prince Turki Bin Faisal Al-Saud from Saudi Arabia: “This gathering is a place of assembly for all Iranians who left Iran due the oppression of the Velayat-e Faqih regime. Along with the representatives of many countries in the world who have suffered from the terrorism of this regime, the regime that is the biggest sponsor of terrorism. The Velayat-e Faqih regime needs to export crisis to survive, but the first victims of Khomeini and his followers are the Iranian people. Your efforts to confront this regime is legitimate and your struggle is for the liberation of the Iranian people with all its spectrum from Arabs, Kurds, Baluch, Azeri and Fars from the oppression of the Velayat-e Faqih.”
• Ed Rendell, former Chairman of the U.S. Democratic Party and Governor of Pennsylvania: “Now the next step is to free Iran. You all know down deep that regime change is up to the people of Iran, and that means you, that means the people who are in Albania, that means the Iranian dissidents all around the globe, and it means Iranian dissidents in Iran, in Tehran, and all of the different cities. But the United States has to stand firm and stand behind this movement. And I believe we will.”
• Joseph Lieberman, former U.S. Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate: “The capital, since 1979, of Islamic extremism and terrorism has been in Tehran under this extremist regime, and that is why it’s got to go. … To just talk about [what happened to the 30,000 Iranians, mostly members of the MEK, who were massacred in 1988], to hold Madame Rajavi’s picture up in public places, is a sign of the unrest of the people and the growing confidence of the people that change is near. … It is time for America and hopefully some of our allies in Europe to give whatever support we can to those who are fighting for freedom within Iran.”
• Bernard Kouchner, former Foreign Minister of France: “Change in Iran will open the way to end extremism, the extremism born in the name of Islam throughout the region. This is not because Islam is a good ground for terrorism, instead they are using Islam as a tool for extremism and murder. So your role is not only necessary for change in Iran, but change Iran is certainly the beginning of a real change for democracy in the whole region.”
• Tom Ridge, former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary and Governor of Pennsylvania: “We join you in solidarity to raise our voice in support of a free Iran, regime change, and certainly the strong and inspirational leadership of Madame Rajavi. … There is only one popular, organized, magnificently led organization that can provide the democratic alternative to the existing regime.
Only one group with proven leadership. Only one group with an exciting and clear vision for the future of Iran. A group led by an inspiring Muslim woman who mirrors the aspirations of the Iranian people who seek a secular republic with gender equality, separation of church and state, respect for human rights, and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. A new Iran, a force for good, for human rights, for stability, and for peace.”
• John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN: “The fact is that the Tehran regime is the central problem in the Middle East. … There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs and that opposition is centered in this room today. … I have said for over ten years since coming to these events that the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that’s why before 2019 we here will celebrate in Tehran.”
• Nasr al-Hariri, chairman of the Syrian opposition negotiating team: “Anyone who is serious in the war on terror should put his position on Tehran and overthrow of this fascist regime. This regime should be put under pressure at the international level and at the United Nations, condemning it for its war crimes and its crimes against humanity, and should be expelled from the Islamic Cooperation Organization.”
• Judge Ted Poe, Member of the US Congress: “There were countless attacks at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. The IRGC was behind all of these attacks. And I have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to designate the IRGC as a terrorist entity. And we will get that done, I can assure you. He added: about thirty years ago Khomeini, murdered 30,000 people because they were political dissidents. They wanted a regime change. It’s time to have a day of reckoning for those people that were murdered.”
• Sir David Amess, Member of the British Parliament: “The Iranian regime has been severely weakened; Mullahs are internally and externally very isolated. In Iran, the society is in an explosive state. People are crying out in the streets for change. The country’s official opposition, the Iranian resistance, is expanding its activities inside the country. Internationally it has emerged as the only democratic alternative to the theocratic regime. Today we do not want to talk about condemnation of the mullah’s crimes, we want to talk about regime change, which is at long last within our grasp. We want to talk about a future Iran with Maryam Rajavi’s ten point plan, which gives freedom and human rights to all the people of Iran.”
• Giulio Terzi, former Italian Foreign Minister: “European leaders and businesses are ill-advised rushing – at their own risk – to the Iranian market as if Rouhani were making of it a new El Dorado: too often their partners are linked to the IRGC.
World leaders should look to the Iranian people, to the expatriate community: they should stand with them, support the Iranian Resistance, the freedom and human dignity the Iranians are striving for. The message to the mullah’s must be: It’s time for them to go.”
• John Baird, former Foreign Minister of Canada: “Instead of engagement, accommodation, and appeasement, there is a better way. The time has come for the Iranian people to take charge of their own future. The time has come for regime change in Iran. The crowd at this rally today is the best indication of the desire for the Iranian people to seek a new path. … I’d like to acknowledge the courageous leadership of all of you in this hall today and especially the courageous leadership of Madame Rajavi.”
Broadcast at the event were videos and images of the campaign of youths and supporters of the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance in Tehran and 50 other cities throughout the country in support of the Great Gathering. Slogans such as “Freedom, Equality with Maryam Rajavi,” “Death to Khamenei, Hail to Rajavi,” “Death to the principle of Velayat-e Faqih, long live National Liberation Army”, “No to death penalty”, “Hail to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran”, “Equality of all nationalities and followers of religions with Maryam Rajavi” were displayed.
At great risk, political prisoners across the country sent various messages from inside the prisons that expressed solidarity with the Grand Gathering, supported regime change and democracy and freedom in Iran.
Mrs. Rajavi laid wreath at the memorial of 120,000 martyrs of freedom.
In addition to dozens of speakers from more than 50 countries, several U.S. senators and Congressmen expressed their solidarity by sending video messages to the annual gathering of the Iranian Resistance. They included Robert Menendez, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Lord Carlyle and Lord Clarke from the UK; and Senator Gianluca Castaldi of Italy, as well as a large number of European Parliament lawmakers, including Vice-President Ryszard Czarnecki, and personalities from other countries.
Twenty-nine prominent American former officials declared their solidarity with the goals on the eve of the gathering, “Under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman standing for gender equality, which is an antidote to Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, it [MEK] is working every day to bring about a tolerant, non-nuclear Iranian republic based on separation of religion and state, that will uphold the rights of all. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, pursuing its long journey that began more than a half-century ago, has the vision, leadership and courage to lead the way to the creation of a new Iran. The obligation to stand up to this corrupt and illegitimate regime and say ‘no more’ rests with the Iranian people alone, but the international community must meet its responsibility by condemning the Mullahs’ oppression and embracing the Iranian people’s aspirations for a free and prosperous Iran accepted and respected around the world. Today, we join with the Iranian people and colleagues from many other countries in pledging our support to this great cause.”
In addition, MPs from different countries issued statements of support, including:
– Statement by 265 members of European Parliament in condemning human rights abuses in Iran and calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist entity;
– Statement by more than 300 lawmakers from the Houses of Commons and Lords in the UK and 100 British Bishops, condemning the massacre of political prisoners in Iran in 1988 and in support of comprehensive sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC);
– A statement by 320 Italian parliamentarians, condemning human rights violations and the massacre of political prisoners in 1988 and underscoring the need to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice;
– A statement by more than 100 Polish parliamentarians, condemning human rights violations and the wave of executions in Iran and on the need to prosecute its perpetrators;
– A statement by the majority in the Parliament of Malta and a large number of lawmakers in the Romanian Parliament;
– A statement by a number of Nobel laureates in support of the goals of Free Iran gathering.