John Bercow—Speaker of the UK House of Commons, 2009-2019, addressed at the International Conference entitled, “Holding the Mullahs’ Regime Accountable for Genocide, Terrorism, and Nuclear Defiance.”
This conference hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris, on Monday, January 17, 2022.
These are excerpts from the original remarks:
Madam President, Mrs. Rajavi, it is truly a privilege to be invited to be amongst you today. It is an outstanding display of sacrifice that you and others are making and you do so because of an inextinguishable belief that you have right on your side and that your cause needs to be championed not just principally for your own personal sakes, but for the liberation of the people whom you hold dear.
I remember from my own experience over two decades in the House of Commons as a member and indeed from my decade long tenure as speaker, the ubiquitous presence of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in and around Westminster. So it is a cause of which I’ve long been conscious.
The cacophony of international revulsion at and condemnation of the Shah because there was much anger about that regime. But what I so quickly discovered was the one bestial and unaccountable regime can be succeeded by another bestial and unaccountable regime.
I’m thrilled to be here to highlight your cause, to acknowledge the suffering of the people of Iran and to join forces with others in seeking to be as best I can, a voice for freedom.
A key slogan of yours is down with the oppressor, be it the Shah’s dictatorship or that of the Supreme Leader. In the most voluble terms I can back your calls for a secular and democratic republic; And indeed, Mrs. Rajavi, if I may, to support what I regard as your ten-point plan for the country’s future: people’s sovereignty, universal suffrage, pluralism, that is to say, the opportunity of democratic and political competition; freedom of speech, freedom of parties; freedom of the internet, individual and social freedoms in accordance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights; a separation of religion and state is crucial; complete gender equality; an independent judiciary and legal system; autonomy for the Iranian nationalities who shouldn’t have to submit to some sort of centralized yoke but should be entitled to express themselves; equal opportunities in employment and entrepreneurship, and protection of the environment; crucially, a peaceful non-nuclear Iran co-existing with others around the world and cooperating with them.
But you can’t erase or ignore the past. In order to plan the future, you’ve got to recognize what’s happened. And that’s why I agree with Amnesty that the 1988 massacre must be investigated. We have to get to the bottom of the full, grisly horrors of it, and Ebrahim Raisi must be investigated for crimes against humanity. The man is a disgrace to Iran. I can’t help but feel that although it is common for abusive regimes to deploy a foreign minister, a diplomatic sort of figure, to try to mitigate the perceived excesses of his regime, reformers and hardliners don’t seem to me to have much to choose between them when the president signed thousands of death warrants. “Reformers, hardliners, the game is over.” Your tactics are exposed and around the world the regime is known as a state sponsor of terrorism and for its egregious abuse of human rights.
The nuclear issue has been focused on to a degree already. All the evidence so far is that the conciliatory approach hasn’t brokered any notable advance. The regime now is at its weakest position. It faces serious crises at home, and this is a point at which to be firm and to send a clear message to the regime that if they do not abandon their nuclear weapons program, the suspended U.N. resolutions will again be applied. That is the language that a totalitarian regime understands. It doesn’t respect conciliation. It respects and even sometimes fears strength. It is utterly derisive towards and contemptuous of weakness.
On human rights, since the start of this year, three women aged 59, 62 and 69 were sentenced to 12 years in prison in total for supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Two were sentenced to five years and another to two years. This was in November of last year, following days of sit-ins and large scale protests. The regime’s security forces attacked the farmers and local residents of this farm because those people were demanding their rights.
There are examples galore. 357 people executed in 2021 markedly more, more than 100 greater than in 2020. But Hassan Rouhani ended his eight year term with nearly 5000 executions, including a very significant number of political prisoners.
On the 1988 massacre, the regime might not like it being mentioned, which is a good reason to keep mentioning it over and over and over again. We are talking about mass crimes against humanity and seven UN experts put it in a letter published just over a year ago. The failure of international bodies to act has had a devastating impact on the survivors and families, as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran. It has emboldened Iran to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continues to date.
The relentless quest for freedom in Iran continues on a magnificent scale. Protests by workers in their thousands, protests by teachers and educators. Protests by retired people, farmers, ranchers, nurses, businesspeople, truck drivers, chicken farmers, taxi drivers, engineers, flood victims, prisoners and others. A common characteristic of these protests is people clashing with the regime’s security forces. The presence of women and children in uprisings has been significant. A significant number of these protests have been organized with calls on social media and the opportunity.
Last year’s election and the nationwide boycott thereof were very revealing. The election was a sham. It was an absolutely, infinitesimally small turnout. And the regime even was embarrassed by it. The boycott showed that people reject the sham differentiation between moderate and hardliner, and it was a blow to Khamenei and the regime. We must never forget Raisi was a key player in the death commissions which massacred so many people. So I want to repeat this notion that “No to the Shah, no to religious dictatorship, no to theocracy and yes to democracy.”
You have friends. You have allies. You have cheerleaders all over the planet. You have people who, irrespective of race, of color, of creed, of gender, of disability or of orientation will want to fly the flag of freedom in Iran and to ensure that the flame of freedom burns brightly, and that it must never be extinguished.
We will get there in the end. I’m very lucky to have been invited to speak to you. Thank you very much indeed.