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OPINION

Frightened Iranian Mullahs Seek to Demonize the Opposition

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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STR

As a former British Member of the European Parliament (MEP), I have worked with the Iranian opposition for more than 20 years, from its time in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq, to the present Ashraf 3 in Albania. I know how many courageous women and men in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)/Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) have given up their careers, their family lives, and often life itself, to fight for the liberation of their country.Their struggle has continued for the past 4 decades, since the 1979 revolution hi-jacked by the mullahs, and even before that in the fight against the tyranny of the Shah. Now, MEK Resistance Units are coordinating the nationwide uprising that has engulfed Iran for the past four months. These brave Resistance Units are on the frontline of the burgeoning revolution.

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Having failed to annihilate the MEK during the horrific massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 and later in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq, the mullahs were infuriated, and a campaign of demonization and terror began. For this purpose, they focused their attention on elements of the Western media, manipulating key journalists to embrace a smear campaign against the MEK, trotting out the Iranian regime’s greatest hits about the main opposition movement like calling them an ‘Islamic-Marxist cult’ and claiming that they are a terrorist organization. The fact that the MEK now boasts a huge entourage of prominent international political supporters from left to right of the political spectrum, gives the lie to all these ludicrous assertions and weary propaganda fed into the system by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), a sinister KGB-style organization that actually is itself on the US and EU terrorist lists. 

The medieval mullahs see the MEK as the greatest threat to the continuation of their venally corrupt and vicious regime with good reason. Over the past 40 years, the MEK has been the first and only serious opposition movement calling for the entire theocracy's overthrow and advocating for regime change at the hands of the Iranian people themselves. They oppose all forms of dictatorship, be it the mullahs’ theocratic regime or the dictatorship of the Shah. Now. in panic at the ongoing insurrection, the regime has further intensified its anti-MEK activities. Over the past two weeks, almost every day, state-controlled media including the regime’s national television stations, have been publishing or broadcasting reports and programmes attacking the MEK, with repeated targeting of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI. On a number of occasions, the increasingly deranged Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself has publicly lambasted the MEK as the main organizer and leader of the nationwide protests. 

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The mullahs have also mounted a sophisticated, unrelenting,and well-funded vilification campaign against the MEK, as a matter of state policy. They’ve deployed a cyber army as part of this operation. In December 1220, Treadstone 71, a California-based independent cyber intelligence company, exposed how the IRGC, MOIS, and low-level Basij militia cyber units flooded Twitter with nearly 112,000 tweets over sixty hours using hashtags and content targeting the MEK. More recently, in September 2022, Microsoft was asked to investigate a destructive cyber-attack against the Albanian government which threatened state security and led to the expulsion of the entire Iranian diplomatic staff and their agents and the closure of the Iranian embassy.

The nationwide insurrection in Iran has continued for almost four months now and shows no sign of subsiding, despite a ruthless crackdown by the theocratic regime’s security forces, which has seen more than 750 protesters killed and over 30,000 arrested. Four young protesters have already been hanged, two of them at the weekend, after being tortured into making false confessions and subjected to sham trials with a denial of legal representation. On the morning of Saturday 7th January 2023, the mullahs' regime hanged Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini. The two men had been falsely convicted of killing a member of the Basij paramilitary force. Three other protesters have been sentenced to death in the same case, while a further eleven received long prison sentences. Many more protesters have been sentenced to death. In the past year, the mullahs’ regime has executed over 500 people, in a wave of killings designed to crush all opposition. 

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The United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed to establish an investigative mission to probe Iran’s suppression of the nationwide insurrection. There must be no impunity for the perpetrators of these atrocities. Those responsible for the brutal crackdown on the protests leading to the injury and death of thousands of men, women and children and for the arrest, torture and execution of innocent protesters, must be held accountable for their crimes.

The UN, the US, the EU and all democratic countries must take practical steps to stop the executions and killings in Iran. Silence is unacceptable and even words alone will not be enough. Inaction will certainly lead to further illegal executions. The time for tough action is now. Civilized nations must recall their ambassadors from Tehran, then close all of the Iranian regime’s embassies and expel their diplomats, staff and all of their agents and cohorts. The massacre of the innocents cannot be allowed to continue. Peace, justice and freedom for 80 million Iranians and for the wider Middle East and the entire world, can only be achieved by the ouster of the fascist clerical regime.

Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14).  Struan is also Chair of the ‘In Search of Justice’ (ISJ) committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

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