The unprecedented strength of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Paris and Albania has severely alarmed the Iranian regime. It has also raised a pertinent question, can the Iranian regime be reformed within?
The signs so far are not encouraging. Tehran sent its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to Paris to prevent the annual gathering of opposition figures. As French officials found the regime’s position very weak, they ended up signing a contract for the benefit of the French oil giant Total.
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief Kayhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote an article titled “Humiliated and Rewarded”, which mentioned the Total contract being signed at the same time as the PMOI gathering in Paris.
“The remarks of former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner at a PMOI meeting one day after Zarif’s return from France is another sign of the French government's insistence on humiliating our nation,” he wrote.
Zarif in France
At the gathering in Paris, Kouchner said: “Zarif was welcomed in France yesterday. I do not want to blame French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. We are an old republic, and on this basis we can welcome everyone and accept him in our country, but perhaps we should do the right thing at the right time”.
He said that in his opinion, welcoming Zarif the day before this gathering was not a good idea. “But we are very happy and proud that in fact the government did not publish a general statement about Mr. Zarif’s visit,” Shariatmadari wrote.
In 2003, the Chirac government provided huge concessions to the Iranian regime and attacked the opposition headquarters in Avers-sur-Oise with a pseudo-coup. Dozens of PMOI members and activists, including their leader Maryam Rajavi, were arrested and imprisoned. This attack was a disgrace to democracy and human rights, and yet was severely defeated and defamed.
The annual PMOI gathering was held on July 1 at the Villepinte convention hall, northeast of Paris. Tens of thousands of supporters from all over the world gathered to attend this gathering. As the hall did not have the capacity to accommodate all participants, thousands remained outside the hall.
A gathering in Tirana, the capital of Albania, was held to join the Paris summit via satellite. Nearly 3,000 PMOI members who relocated from Iraq to Albania attended this gathering.
This huge rally represents the PMOI’s strength despite being in exile. It shows their capability of organizing such a large gathering and hosting hundreds of political and parliamentary figures from all over the world.
Maryam Rajavi, the main speaker of this gathering, is an influential leader of this Muslim-democratic movement who believes in gender equality and pluralism. In her speech she emphasized on three essential facts.
Freedom and liberty
It seems the light of change is shining on Iran. The ruling regime is in disarray and the Iranian society is simmering with discontent. These circumstances, she said, highlight three fundamental truths related to freedom and liberty in Iran, as well as peace and tranquility in the region.
First, according to her, is that the overthrow of the regime is an imperative. Second, this overthrow is within reach. And third, a democratic alternative and an organized resistance exists, which is capable of toppling the theocracy in Iran.
The message and purpose of this gathering, according to the participants, consisting mainly of the youth and some recently arriving from Iran, was literally a declaration of war against the regime. The people of Iran and the region can only be freed of their misery when the regime is overthrown.
There is also a political and social appeal to all countries, especially those in the region, who are suffering at the hands of the Iranian regime.
Its track record suggests that the regime has so far shown regressive nature and cannot be reformed from within. In a recent speech, Khamenei himself warned that any change in the system’s behavior means changing the whole system.