Uniting for Freedom, Democracy & Equality

Free Iran Rally 2020: A full report of the July 17 conference

On Friday July 17, 2020, the Iranian Resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), held its annual Free Iran summit, virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, but this allowed for 30,000 people in over 100 countries, with a 17-hour time difference, to take part as they safely attended rallies in major cities. 

The event began at 3.30 pm Central European time, which is the time zone that all times will be noted in to avoid confusion, with a speech from former secretary of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Zohreh Akhiani, at the MEK headquarters of Ashraf 3 in Albania. She thanked people for attending the conference and said that their support would voice support for the Iranian Resistance and the overthrow of the regime, something echoed by MEK Deputy Secretary General Rabie Mofidi, who said that the Free Iran rally “shows how unity can bring change to Iran”. 

Then, the conference was turned over to speakers across Europe. 

 The mayor of Paris’ District 1, Jean François Legaret, said that the MEK’s efforts to bring a Free Iran from Ashraf 3, as well as Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq, have shown the world that the MEK and its parent coalition, the NCRI, are “the light at the end of the tunnel” and the only alternative to the mullahs. 

While British MP Dr. Matthew Offord cited a recent statement by the British Committee for Iran Freedom, which was signed by 120 MPs, showing support for the Iranian people’s anti-regime protests and Resistance Leader Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan for a Free Iran. He called for the British government and others to join with the US’s maximum pressure campaign on the mullahs to deny them of the money used for terrorism and repression. 

Philipe Gosselin, a member of the French National Assembly, spoke about the regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters, specifically the 1,500 killed in the November uprising last years, as well as the attempted bombing of the Free Iran rally in Paris in 2018, for which an Iranian diplomat is currently on trial. 

He said: “This is a dictatorship regime. Yes to a free and democratic Iran.” 

Theresa Payton, the CEO of a cyber security and intelligence company, said that the regime is using cyber warfare and terrorism to carry out its plans and must be stopped. She then spoke specifically about the regime’s disinformation campaign against the MEK and its domestic censorship of opposition sites, as well as social media and foreign news agencies. 

She said that the US must address this or a Free Iran would never come to pass, suggesting financial backing to ensure that Iranians know they support in their quest for regime change. 

Then came the speech of Martin Patzelt, a member of the Human Rights Commission of the German Bundestag, who said that the Iranian people have made it clear that they want change and that the mullahs must go. 

He said: “The regime wanted the people to forget the MEK. But the active role of the MEK prevented this from happening. We stand with you and tell the world that the people of Iran should be allowed to live in freedom.” 

He said that the European Union must support the Iranian Resistance. 

That sentiment was echoed by former Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga, who explained that Europe’s policies have not been very successful thus far and called for governments to be “more decisive” in order to bring peace to Iran and ensure that the brave Iranian expats fighting for freedom could soon return to their homeland. 

At 4.15 pm, the conference aired a video featuring different clips recorded by the MEK’s Resistance Units, which showed Iranians demonstrating their support for the Free Iran summit by placing graffiti in public spaces. Some members also held up banners or posters showing their support for Maryam Rajavi and their hatred of the mullahs. 

Maryam Rajavi’s keynote speech 

The conference then moved on to its keynote speaker Maryam Rajavi, who began by saying that the conference echoed the people’s cries for the overthrow of the regime, which were made in 2017, 2018, 2019, and early in 2020, and advising that this overthrow was more and more imminent, given the constant “checkmate” that the regime found itself in. 

She explained that the regime was dumbfounded by the Iranian people’s support for the MEK and the increase in resistance activities since 2017. Of course, she reminded us that the regime cannot change its ways without risking destruction, so they’ve opted to consolidate power around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; a plan that will fail. 

Maryam Rajavi then spoke about the regime’s, perhaps intentional, mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, explaining that the pandemic had exposed the regime’s “ghastly” destruction of Iran’s healthcare and welfare programs, which has left more people vulnerable to the virus in Iran than in any other country on earth. 

She said that the rising death toll – the second highest in the world despite a population of just 80 million – is the result of the regime’s criminal policies that are designed to counter a people’s revolution. 

Maryam Rajavi further noted that the regime has done nothing to fight the coronavirus, but rather increased their malign activities in Iraq and Syria that are paid for by robbing the Iranian people. 

She said: “Today, in Iran, one of the greatest battles and one of the greatest tests of our time are being waged between freedom and religious fascism, between democracy and religious fundamentalism. We urge all governments and the international bodies to stand with the people of Iran in this historic showdown with the greatest threat to world’s peace and security.” 

She then began to speak about just some of these threats, including the attempted bombing of the 2018 Free Iran rally, saying that this showed that the regime “will not hesitate to perpetrate any crime or pay any price to destroy MEK and the Iranian Resistance, which it views as an existential threat”. 

Maryam Rajavi then said that the resistance was not fighting to claim glory, but rather to “restore freedom and people’s sovereignty in Iran”. 

At 5.30 pm, following her speech was another video from resistance units inside Iran showing support for the Free Iran rally. Given the inherent danger of being found to support the MEK in Iran, these people are putting their lives on the line. 

Then, it was time to turn to the speakers in the US. 

First up was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said that this gathering was for the Iranian people, to let them see the high levels of support for their ongoing fight for freedom. 

He said: “Iranians have demonstrated their desire for freedom. Over 1,500 people were killed by the regime. The people of Iran have made it clear to the world that they want a free and democratic Iran, ruled by law, in which women are treated equal as men. These are the goals of MEK, of NCRI, of Maryam Rajavi.” 

Giuliani, who is a frequent attendee of the Free Iran Summit, said that the protests are not slowing down, despite intense suppression by the regime’s security forces. Instead, they were getting stronger and bigger. 

He then praised Maryam Rajavi, saying that he believes that when she becomes the President of Iran for the six-month transitional period after the fall of the mullahs until free elections can be held, that she will transform not just Iran but the Middle East as a whole and the world at large. 

Giuliani said that the MEK is “the driving force for change” when it comes to Iran, which is why the regime want to obliterate the group. He noted that the regime have often claimed that the MEK are insignificant, but that in the past couple of years, the mullahs have begun to admit that the NCRI and the MEK is the only group that could replace the regime. 

Following Giuliani was Former Senator Joseph Lieberman, who called the conference a “historic event” that would not be possible without the NCRI and its strong leader Maryam Rajavi. 

He said: “I stand with Maryam Rajavi. There is no better ally than the NCRI.” 

He further explained that the Iranian regime pose a threat not just to the security of the Iranian people and the Middle East, but also to ordinary Americans. That’s why he is so insistent on the maximum pressure policy, noting that negotiations have not succeeded in tempering the regime in terms of their nuclear program or their abuse of the Iranian people. 

He said: “We have reached a point that we can conclude after all that has been tried with this criminal syndicate, nothing has worked.” 

Another former Senator, Robert Torricelli, spoke next, talking about how the regime has wasted the people’s money on terrorism and essentially left the population to fight coronavirus on their own. 

To the mullahs, he said: “This is how you spend your resources? These are your priorities? The game is up. We see you now for who you are.” 

Then, Martha McSally, a current senator, told the Iranian people who are “putting everything on the line for [their] god-given right to freedom” that she stands with them and would work to increase the maximum pressure policy, bringing in Europe as well, in order to tackle the oppression of Iranians. 

Representative Lance Gooden, who was part of the US delegation to the MEK conference last year, stressed that the US Congress and the US people stand behind the Iranian people and support their right to freedom. 

Next up was former speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, who said that the regime was getting weaker, which is why it was becoming more aggressive domestically and internationally. 

He said: “I am committed to do everything I can to help the people of Iran to have freedom and the economy you want them to have.” 

Then, it was time to turn to the Middle East, with a speech from Khalid Yamani, the Former prime minister of Yemen. 

Yamani wished the Iranian people luck in their struggle against the dictators and stressed that the Yemeni people stood with them, supporting Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan for a Free Iran. 

He said: “The expansion policies of the regime through its terrorist forces is an extreme violation of international law. The regime of Iran is a threat to the Iranian people and the interests of the people of the region.” 

After Yamani, the conference turned back to North America and Europe. 

Patrick Kennedy, a former Member of the US House of Representatives, compared the regime to a virus, with the MEK and NCRI being the proven cure. 

He said: “It’s great that we have organizations like [the] NCRI and MEK to bring that about. This is a fight of all human beings. We know that Iran, as the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, is a threat to justice and peace everywhere around the world.” 

Then, former French Foreign Minister and current MEP said that the conference participants stood for human rights, which is what they want to see in Iran, before advocating support for Iranian women to live freely and play a role in the coming democracy. 

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that the coronavirus is being so badly controlled in Iran that it’s like “the regime and the virus are united against the people” and explained that the country was overwhelmed by the pandemic more quickly than any other because the regime’s priority was always it’s terrorism and nuclear programs. 

He said: “the regime is not strong. It is weakened. Corruption is rampant. Street protests continue to break out across Iran. The regime is ready to fall and replaced.” 

Harper didn’t want to tell Iran who its leader should be, but did advocate for Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan for a free Iran said that its “something that all good people want for their country”. 

Following on from that, former US Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge urged the Iranian people to “pursue happiness” and said that what the MEK had accomplished today sent a message to the Iranian regime that the world stands with the people of Iran and their quest for regime change. 

He said: “Covid-19 could not deter the world from gathering for the cause of freedom in Iran. If a global pandemic is ill-equipped to silence us to keep us from gathering and support freedom, then the mullahs can’t possibly do it. They tried again and again, and they’ve failed. Over decades and decades, they’ve imprisoned and tortured thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens to silence the call for freedom, for regime change, and they’ve failed.” 

Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey continued on that train of thought, noting that the regime has constantly uses “agents with diplomatic credentials” to terrorise the Resistance because it sees the NCRI as the only credible threat, 

He said: “The belief of the Iranian people is that the regime is entirely rotten to the core. The most restrictive sanctions must be snapped back against the regime… The only way to end the regime’s behaviour is to end the regime.” 

The conference then moved back to Albania, which is the headquarters of the MEK, as mentioned above. 

Sali Berisha, former Albanian President and Prime Minister, said that the Iranian Resistance was the “only real hope” for a free Iran and stressed that the regime’s increased aggression only proved that the resistance was close to victory. 

He said: “I am proud to support your movement and that Albania is your second home today.” 

Former Tirana Mayor and leader of the Democratic Party of Albania, Lulzim Basha, said: “We are committed and in solidarity with the Iranian people’s aspirations for freedom… We support the Iranian people’s goal for a secular, democratic and non-nuclear country.” 

He spoke briefly about the attempted terrorist attacks on the MEK in Albania, which led to the expulsion of three Iranian diplomats, and said that the conference was proof that the world was united against the regime. 

While Albanian Minister of State Pandeli Majko said: “Ashraf in Albania, you’re part of our family. MEK is the flag of the future freedom of their country. MEK are the unwritten rule of freedom. They are the flag of hope. Today is a good day to be reminded of [that] responsibility. Hope to see you in Tehran.” 

Next was Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who stressed the importance of looking towards the future, which would include a free and democratic Iran. 

He said: “The wind is moving the forces of freedom in Iran. The regime is collapsing. The people are fed up with the oppression of the totalitarian regime.” 

Freeh stressed that the crimes of the regime against the MEK “rival what happened in Nazi Germany and Bosnia”, so the mullah must be brought to justice. 

Then, it was the turn of John Prichard, Bishop of the Church of England, who also called for the regime to be tried for human rights abuses, specifically against Christians in Iran, who were being arrested en-masse in recent weeks. 

Next, British MP David Jones said: “We call on the UK government to stand firm against the Iranian regime. Maryam Rajavi is the legitimate ambassador of the Iranian people, and she should be recognized as such by the British government.” 

While his colleague Theresa Villiers explained that the regime is using the coronavirus as a weapon to increase pressure on the Iranian people because they believe their survival is more important than the lives of their people. 

She said that the UK should show support for the Iranian people in their fight for democracy. 

Indeed, the fight for freedom in Iran was the main topic of the speech by former White House Director of Public Liaison Linda Chavez. She stressed that these uprisings against the regime are working and that the regime is collapsing, before noting that Maryam Rajavi and the NCRI would be the ones to take its place. 

Former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army General Jack Keane also said that the regime was on the brink of collapse, highlighting that Iranians in Behbahan gathered to chant anti-regime slogans, like ‘Shame on you Khamenei, leave our country’, just yesterday. 

He said: “That is always inspiring. These people don’t want to die, but they’re willing to. It is about the future of their children and their grandchildren and their love for their country. This is true love and honour and can never be taken for granted.” 

The regime’s imminent collapse was also the main topic for Robert Joseph, former US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, who said that the end is “in sight” and the regime has “nowhere to turn”. 

He said: The mullahs know they have lost all legitimacy…The mass killings are desperate acts of a dying regime. The mullahs know the people will never forgive them for the role they’ve played in the tragic deaths of the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Joseph stressed that the regime should not be given a lifeline in the form of allowing the arms embargo to expire in October or providing sanctions relief, saying that the world owed it to the martyrs of Iran to allow regime change from the people to become a reality. 

James Conway, 34th Commandant of the US Marine Corps, also spoke about the soon-to-be demise of the regime.  

He said: “The regime has had a tough year. No other country shoots its citizens dead when they come to the streets to protest. The NCRI has done much over the years to correct what is happening in Iran. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose faith.” 

This was seconded by former Iranian political prisoner Reza Fallah, who said that the mullahs’ regime is the only government to take pride in terrorism and that the MEK have always been a threat to the regime’s survival. 

He said: “We are former political prisoners who have suffered the regime’s torture will expose its agents. We will continue our efforts until the overthrow of this regime.” 

Then, came the speech of former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali, who is a great friend of the Resistance, and took the time to praise the NCRI and its ten-point plan as a great alternative to the regime. 

This was agreed to by the next speaker, former Irish Minister John Perry, who said that the NCRI is capable of bringing freedom and democracy to Iran.  

He said: “I urge the Irish government to support the extension of the UN weapons embargo on Iran. The Irish government should take the lead at the UN level and push for the reimposition of international sanctions on the Iranian regime.” 

While former US Senator Kelly Ayotte said that she stood with the people of Iran, who deserve a government that protects them, which is why the mullahs must go.  

Indeed, the next speaker, Ad Melkert, a former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, pointed out that the regime unnecessarily endangered the lives of the Iranian people during the pandemic, when Khamenei has hundreds of billions of dollars in his foundations. 

He said: “Those who stood up in protests are severely persecuted and are at risk of being executed. It is time to raise our voice for the Iranian people. I support your endeavour for a free Iran.” 

This was echoed by Canadian MP James Bezan, who called on Canada to do more to defend freedom in Iran and hold the regime accountable for their ongoing terrorism and crimes against humanity, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. 

He said:  “We must not allow the regime to escape accountability. Freeze the assets of regime officials who are responsible for the shooting down of the [Ukrainian] airplane [in January]. Designate the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Stop diplomatic relations with the regime. Appeasement must stop.” 

He then personally thanked Maryam Rajavi for inspiring everyone and stressed that a free Iran is in the best interests of every country. 

The praise for Maryam Rajavi continued with the next speaker former Columbian Presidential Candidate Ingrid Betancourt, a long-time supporter of the Iranian Resistance. 

She said: “[Maryam Rajavi] is leading the democratic struggle in Iran. The reason we are all united from all over the world from all ideological backgrounds, all culture and religions around Maryam is that we believe she is the only one who can guarantee to the Iranian people that they will not be betrayed again. “ 

Betancourt then praised the Iranian freedom fighters and told them that they were not alone, as the mullahs may have told them, and that they have the support of so many. 

She then spoke about the ongoing trial of Iranian diplomat-terrorist Assadollah Assadi, who was arrested after trying to bomb the 2018 Free Iran rally, attended by 100,000 people, including Betancourt. 

She said: “He was covering himself as a third-consul of the Iranian embassy, but the governments of Europe already knew he was a terrorist and were following him.”  

The next participant, Canadian MP Judy Sgro, also showed solidarity with the Resistance members, highlighting that many Canadians have also been attacked by the regime. 

She said: “The sacrifices will not be in vain. Much hope for victory is near. Let’s join our voices to the youth who are chanting freedom is our inalienable right.” 

Next to speak was Rama Yade, the former French Minister of Human Rights, who asserted that this conference showed how determined the NCRI was to fight for freedom. 

She said:  “The Iranian Resistance is a major player, a key to the solution. The international community must recognize this. Europe must stand with you. The EU must condemn human rights violations in Iran and it must condition trade with Iran to an end to human rights violations. It must support the Iranian [resistance’s] desire for freedom and a state based on separation of church and state.” 

This, Yade explained, is both the moral and the safest possible option for foreign governments. It’s not about lofty ideals, but about doing what’s right because there is no true economic prosperity for Europe if the regime remains in power. 

She said: “We must side with humanity. If we do not react, the heroes of the resistance who have sacrificed so much will be alone.” 

Gilbert Mitterrand, the President of France Libertes Foundation, also said that it’s vital that Europe supports “universal values” espoused by Maryam Rajavi and her ten-point plan, highlighting the case of two political prisoners who were recently executed as anti-regime protests once again roar across Iran.  

Ahmad Jar Allah, the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Siyasa Newspaper, also praised Maryam Rajavi and wished the Iranian Resistance “all the success”. 

He warned that the world should not trust the regime and said that the regime has nuclear weapons, is dealing drugs, has been assassinating dissidents, is laundering money, and much more. 

The next to speak was the editor of Nabard-e-Khalq, the publication of the People’s Fedaian Organization of Iran, Zinat Mirhashemi, who said the regime was using the coronavirus to preserve itself, but that the Iranian resistance is fighting back now, just as they have in the recent uprisings. 

She said: “The only request we have from foreign powers is to remain true to the principles of human rights and international norms and to not aide and appease the regime.” 

Luis Reit Ramos also spoke about the coronavirus pandemic, noting that the regime with their billions of dollars abandoned the Iranian people. He asked why the World Health Organisation wasn’t doing anything about it. 

Italian Senator Roberto Rampi praised the conference as a demonstration of the Iranian Resistance’s strength and highlighting that there are many reasons to advocate for a Free Iran. 

He said: “I ask the UN, the EU and my country to be stronger about the idea that human rights, that has to be preserved around the world, also have to be preserved in Iran.” 

Next to speak was Sara Giacora, a college student from Slovakia, who told the Iranian people that their voices were being heard and that the whole world must work together to change Iran. 

Then, Former Jordanian Ambassador to Iran, Bassam al-Amoush, spoke about how the regime was victimising the entire world when it spent the Iranian people’s money on terrorism. 

He said: “We must change the regime to make the state respectable so that it can have normal relations with its neighbours… This regime, we can’t deal with them.” 

A country that knows all about not being able to have normal relations with Iran is Yemen, where the regime is backing the Houthi rebels in a takeover of the state, deposing the legitimate government. 

Yemen’s Human Rights Minister Mohamed Askar said: “The mullahs’ regime waged a war against the Yemeni people by instigating the Houthis into violence and war. Yemen is now in a state of humanitarian crisis.” 

He explained that the regime created sectarian militias and killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis. He said that so long as the regime is in power, they will destroy human rights in the Middle East. 

He said: “The international community must put an end to the practices of this regime. The Iranian people deserve a democratic government that respects their rights and their neighbors.”