Iranian Resistance leader Maryam Rajavi met virtually with members of the Irish parliament on November 16, two months into the wave of protests that have shaken the Iranian regime to its core. Rajavi emphasized that “Iran is on the brink of change” and that Tehran’s brutal crackdown has failed to stop this greatest challenge to the ruling theocracy.
Rajavi is the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of political groups promoting unity for regime change and the establishment of democracy in Iran. The NCRI is the longest-lasting political coalition in Iran’s modern history.
A longtime advocate for the role of Iranian women in the resistance, Rajavi said “In the face of a misogynist regime, Iranian women are the main force for change,” she said in her remarks on November 16. “For over four decades, tens of thousands of freedom-loving women have been imprisoned and executed in Iran on political charges. One hundred and twenty thousand Iranian men and women have sacrificed their lives because they believed in freedom.”
The NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), maintains an extensive network inside Iran and regularly reports on politically-motivated executions and the suppression of dissent. The PMOI has determined that 550 protesters have been killed since the current unrest broke out in mid-September after Mahsa Amini was killed by Tehran’s “morality police” for allegedly violating the strict Islamic dress code.
Although women’s defiance of this forced veiling has been a defining feature of the uprising, its message is much broader in scope and reflects fierce outrage at the entire ruling system and its ideology.
Rajavi explained: “Today, in the streets of Iran, people chant, ‘Death to Khamenei,’ which shows their desire for regime change. Their other slogan is ‘Death to the oppressor, be it the shah or a mullah,’ expressing their rejection of all forms of dictatorship. They say they look forward to a democratic future, a republic where all people – men and women of any nationality and religion – are equal. The Iranian people are determined to establish a democratic republic based on the people’s vote and the separation of religion and state.”
During the meeting, Jim Higgins, a former member of the European Parliament similarly emphasized that the current uprising is about more than the hijab: “It’s about fundamental human rights, it’s about democracy. It’s about people on the street having the right to protest.”
Higgins also emphasized these aims cannot be secured through a return to the prior monarchic system or by relying on “moderation” under the current system. “They do not understand moderation,” he said of the ruling mullahs. “Appeasement means absolutely nothing. Diplomacy means absolutely nothing. So what we’ve got to do is to ensure that the international community now sees in full glare exactly what’s happening and that we make our political momentum count internationally to make sure that [Maryam Rajavi] will become the democratically elected leader of a full and free Iran.”
Irish MP Padraig O’Sullivan echoed this same sentiment, addressing Rajavi to say, “I admire you greatly, and I think you’re a formidable, able woman, and it will give me great joy to see you elected as the first democratically elected president of Iran.” She added: “I find this rising particularly exciting because it is women driven.”
Meanwhile, Senator Joe O’Reilly, the Deputy Speaker of the Irish parliament’s Upper House, called for “concerted international action” to address the conditions in Iran’s notorious prison system, especially its political wards. He went on to praise Iran’s activist community for continually defying the threat of systematic abuse within that system, saying, “I am seriously impressed by your resilience as a group, by your constant optimism and by your willingness to keep going.”
Former Senator Catherine Noone credited the female leadership with helping to guarantee that “Iran is more in the news than ever.” She went on to praise those women for “leading the charge in Iran” and “putting themselves in personal danger in order to seek to overturn the current regime.”
Noone urged the international community to “listen to the people of Iran” and recognize that “a strong majority of the people” are committed to overturning this regime as they did with that of the Shah.
Since 2014, the PMOI has been developing a network of “Resistance Units” throughout Iran, to take the lead in protests that are pursuing a full-scale transformation of the country’s political identity. Rajavi addressed how that change will come about, saying: “The only answer is organized resistance inside Iran. To this end, the Resistance Units have been formed all over the country. Despite widespread, daily arrests, these units are growing, and they are playing a significant role in the continuation of the uprising.”
She stressed the Iranian people’s demand for the international community to recognize the right of the Iranian people to defend themselves in the struggle for the regime’s overthrow. Rajavi also urged the Western powers to shut down Iranian embassies and designate the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as foreign terrorist organizations.
The United States added the IRGC to its terror list in 2019, marking the first time it has given that label to a branch of another country’s armed forces. Many critics of the Iranian regime considered the move as having been long overdue. The European Union, however, is still discussing the prospect of doing the same.
Members of the Irish parliament who took part in the meeting with Rajavi expressed support for listing the IRGC as a terrorist group and for the Iranian people’s uprising, as well as the Resistance movement as a whole.
“This is a very important issue for Irish politicians to occupy a strong position on…What we’re seeing in Iran is illegal. It is against international law. It is against the laws of human rights. And far from interfering in Iran’s internal affairs, it is the responsibility of democratic politicians around the world to make sure that they are very clear that they cannot tolerate this kind of behavior; which I consider to be totally illegal and unlawful behavior in the context of international human rights law,” said Senator Barry Ward, adding, “People are interested in seeing democratic regime change. A regime change to a democracy. The sooner the better, as far as we’re concerned.”
Fellow MP Alan Dillon addressed the Resistance activists directly to say, “The past 50 days has certainly given the people of the world an insight into the current regime and the brutality that the people of Iran are currently facing. The fearlessness that you have shown has to be commended.”
He went on to promise that he and his colleagues would do everything in their power to keep the public’s attention focused on the uprising and to pursue accountability for the Iranian officials and institutions responsible for human rights abuses and “the massacre of the people.”
Former Minister John Perry expressed optimism that the uprising will continue, and we will see freedom for the Iranian people, adding, “I think what comes after this must be democratic. And I think it would be an extraordinary world if we had a free and democratic Iran. It would change the face of the world.”
Perry also endorsed Rajavi’s “ten-point plan” for Iran’s future, noting that it is “universally accepted by other factions within Iranian society.” He concluded by declaring that “Ireland will not be wanting when it comes to fighting for your ten-point plan. And I hope to see you installed as the democratically elected leader of Iran.”