Live Updates: 120 Years of Struggle by Iran's People for Freedom: Iranian Opposition MEK Conference in Albania
Ashraf-3, home to Iran’s democratic opposition in Albania, is hosting the second of a series of conference about Iran and the alternative that exists to the mullahs’ regime. Today’s conference is titled: "120 years of struggle of the Iranian people for freedom." Several thousand members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq, PMOI or MEK) reside at Ashraf-3. The NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee will be covering the event live as it unfolds. We'll be live-steaming and tweeting the event beginning 15.45 European time on July 12, 2019. See below for updates.
Today's Iran conference will hear several panels discussing topics including:
• The Iran protests
• The role of the MEK in the Iranian uprisings
• The Iranian regime's terrorism and cyber terrorism
• Human rights in Iran under the mullahs' regime
• The 1988 massacre of political prisoners
• The MEK's years of perseverance in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty under continuous attacks and massacre by the Iranian regime and its proxies in Iraq
15.30: Renowned dignitaries from across the globe are gathering in Ashraf 3, home to members of the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), to attend a conference on over a century of the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom.
Iranian opposition President Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), is the keynote speaker at the event. Other speaker include:
• Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York
• Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian Senator and Presidential candidate
• Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Foreign, Defense, Justice and Interior Minister of France
• Joe Lieberman, former United States Senator
• Matthew Offord, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom
They are attending the conference and will deliver speeches honoring the Iranian people’s ongoing resistance to establish democracy and human rights in Iran.
15.45: Prior to the conference, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi and the distinguished guests take part in a ceremony honoring the Iranian Resistance martyrs at the Memorial Wall in Ashraf 3.
15.55: Dignitaries from around the world are shown arriving at the conference hall in the Ashraf 3 compound, greeted by a band and waving Iranian flags. The atmosphere is filled with hope, with everyone smiling despite the sombre topics they are soon to discuss.
16.10: Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, arrives at the MEK exhibition related to the 120 year struggle of the people of Iran for freedom and democracy. She commemorate the fallen MEK members who have sacrificed their lives for freedom in Iran.
16.15: Maryam Rajavi greets the speakers at the exhibition of Iranian Resistance and expresses her gratitude that they are there to defend the right of Iran’s people to achieve freedom from religious tyranny. The party tour the exhibition with a guide who is well versed in the history of the MEK, explaining who the martyrs are and what happened.
16.20: Maryam Rajavi takes time to lay flowers before the pictures of some of the MEK martyrs, but, of course, due to the sheer number, she cannot possibly do that for all of them. Not to mention that many MEK members’ murders were covered up by the regime, so that not even their parents know where their loved ones are.
16.25: Maryam Rajavi speaks to international dignitaries as they approach the part of the exhibition dedicated to the MEK’s Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq, where MEK members were supposed to be safe thanks to their Protected Persons status under the Geneva Convention, but were still attacked by the Iranian regime and its proxies in Iraq.
Today, we have gathered in the exhibition depicting 120 years of struggle for freedom in #Iran. A struggle with many defeats & triumphs of an enchained nation oppressed by two monarchic & religious dictatorships. But we are forging ahead on the path towards certain victory. pic.twitter.com/cipQ731HtH— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 12, 2019
16.30: The group reach a part in the exhibition, entitled The Price of Freedom, which has the names of all the known MEK members murdered by the Iranian regime. Many photos of martyred MEK members are on display.
16.35: The exhibition then moves onto the 1988 Massacre, where 30,000 MEK members were murdered in one summer by the Iranian regime in an organized extermination, often called the largest massacre of political prisoners since World War II. Again, we see photos and names of the fallen MEK members, as well as some background to the massacre. Maryam Rajavi appears visibly upset during this portion of the exhibition as she lights a candle for the fallen, in front of a wall covered in poppies, with the quote “they tried to bury us; they did not know we were seeds”. At this point, there is an orchestra playing in the background and the group are making their way through a 12 ft high hallway, covered top to bottom in the photos of those lost in the fight for freedom. At the end of the hallway, Maryam Rajavi places a yellow ribbon on a bunch of red roses.
16.40: The exhibition then takes a dramatic move, by showing models of prisoners behind barbed wire at Evin Prison, leading to a ceiling full of nooses to demonstrate just how widespread the massacre was.
I would like to thank you great friends of the Iranian Resistance for your efforts in support of Ashrafis. Efforts which finally led to the collective and safe relocation of the Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK). This was a great accomplishment in which you all played a part. #Iran #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/8SccKcs36o— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 12, 2019
16.45: The conference applauds as Maryam Rajavi walks in and shakes the hands of those attending. Her standing ovation lasts for over two minutes.
16.50: NCRI President Maryam Rajavi was the first speaker of the conference. She began her remarks by welcoming the honorable guest to Ashraf 3, and thanking the supporters and dignitaries for their “efforts in support of Ashrafis and the Iranian Resistance” resulting in the “collective and safe relocation” of the PMOI members to Albania.
With the rallying cry of freedom and under the leadership of Massoud Rajavi, the People’s Mojahedin Organization hoisted the banner of struggle against religious dictatorship of Velayat-e Faqih since the beginning. #Iran. #FreeIranhttps://t.co/da6MpONXcT pic.twitter.com/Js69THHQtn— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 12, 2019
"Today in Ashraf 3, we have gathered in an Exhibition depicting 120 years of the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom. A struggle with countless ups and downs, with many defeats and triumphs, animated by tears and smiles of an enchained nation oppressed by two dictatorships, the previous monarchy and then a religious tyrannical regime. But we are forging ahead on the path towards certain victory," Maryam Rajavi said.
Suda, an MEK member at Ashraf-3
17.05: Suda, an MEK member at Ashraf-3 addresses the conference: I grew up in Sweden and was about to travel to France to study, but a video that I’d seen couldn’t leave my mind; a video of someone being stoned to death in Iran. I saw myself at a crossroads. I could live my own life and fulfil my dreams or I could put everything aside and fulfil my people’s dreams. That’s why I joined the MEK, to live for others. I thank all of you for being with us. -- Suda invited former Colombian Senator Ingrid Betancourt on the stage.
17.10: Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian Senator and Presidential candidate, tells the conference: “I’m proud of what you have done so far and what you have achieved here in Ashraf 3, for the price you’ve paid and the sacrifice you have made, and today it is bearing fruit… Now we are together in a moment in history that everything has changed.”
“I have been with your movement for many years, and I am amazed by your support and your political savviness. As a woman, I feel very proud of standing with you, since in the world there is no organization like the MEK that gives women this power.”
With the help of so many dignitaries, Sen. Betancourt said, “We are making history today.”
“Your victory is our victory and we will be very soon with you in Tehran,” she concluded.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
17.15: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses today's Iran conference in Ashraf-3, Albania:
“I am very honored to be here and very moved by going through the really remarkable and shocking photographs,” Mayor Giuliani said of the heroes and victims of the Iranian Resistance’s decades-long struggle for freedom and democracy.
Referring to the atrocities of the Iranian regime, Mayor Giuliani said that some of those people were murdered less than a year ago.
“We have not been able to get the world, including the U.S., to show them how heroic and good this organization is… In the Arab Spring, we did not have a viable alternative for those countries,” he added. “But here that isn’t the case. How many Americans would not be moved by walking through that museum?”
“There is an alternative to the theocracy and dictatorship in Iran. It is a government-in-exile, and it gives us the confidence that if we help overthrow the Iranian regime, there will be prosperity and democracy in Iran.”
"We could have prevented the Holocaust. We can't now. We can just learn from it. But we can prevent the murder and slaughter going on in Iran. An alternative exists to the theocracy in Iran. It's our responsibility to support it" - @RudyGiuliani #FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi pic.twitter.com/MNvv2h5xQP— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 12, 2019
“The Iranian regime threatens to murder people to the U.S. Last year they tried to bomb us here in Tirana. How do we get the message out that there is an organization that is a viable alternative to the Iranian regime?”
“I thank Madam Maryam Rajavi for letting me be part of this, and this is something that I am proud of and probably my children will be proud of… I wish to have this meeting in Tehran before I die.”
“You keep trying and you fail, you keep trying and you fail, and then the Berlin Wall comes down. It will happen eventually, but let’s make it happen now before another 100,000 deaths,” Mayor Giuliani concluded.
Senator Joe Lieberman
17.25: Senator Joe Lieberman, former United States Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate, addresses the conference on the Iranian struggle for freedom in Ashraf-3, Albania:
“Thank you very much, Mrs. Rajavi, residents of Ashraf and distinguished guests. My wife Hadassah is a child of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust in Germany and when she saw that museum in Ashraf 3, she said that is an echo of the Holocaust,” Sen. Lieberman said.
“The MEK is about not letting that happen again what happened to the Jews in the Nazi Germany… You in the NCRI have given us the opportunity to be true to our national principles. When I’m here I feel that I’m representing the spirit of my great friend, the late Senator John McCain, who was warned by the establishment to stay away from this organization, but he spent time learning about it. He came to Ashraf 3, believing in this organization and its cause.”
.@JoeLieberman: "With the leadership that @Maryam_Rajavi & the MEK have given & will give in a liberated independent Iran, with the strength of your movement & with the support of the ppl in Iran today who're ready to rise up, soon we'll see a #FreeIran". #IStandWithMaryamRajavi pic.twitter.com/7E5RYBx9k0— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 12, 2019
“Ashraf 3 has become something magnificent. Coming here and seeing this magnificent community that you’ve built is miraculous. It teaches us lessons.”
“The citizens of Ashraf never gave up despite the atrocities they faced imposed by the Iranian regime.”
“This exhibition, despite the mourning, is inspiring. And the whole story of the Ashrafis is inspiring.”
“With the kind of leadership that the MEK and Maryam Rajavi are giving and will give in Iran; with the support of people from around the world who are represented here and with the resistance of the Iranian people inside of Iran, we will have a meeting some day in Iran and come together and have a great party,” Sen. Lieberman concluded.
17.35: Michèle Alliot-Marie, MEP and former Foreign, Defense, Justice and Interior Minister of France, tells today's Iran conference in Ashraf-3:
“I have to say that I’m very moved. What a contrast between the dramatic, horrifying images that we saw a few minutes ago. To be in contact with men and women who have given their lives for such a cause. To see what you have been able to achieve. You wish to give so much to the Iranian people,” Ms. Alliot-Marie said.
“Maryam Rajavi's 10-point plan for a future #FreeIran is what we want for all Iranians” - former French Foreign Minister @MAlliotMarie at today's Iran conference in Ashraf-3 in Albania with members of Iran’s democratic opposition, the MEK. #IStandWithMaryamRajavi pic.twitter.com/fSuXflnhyE— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 12, 2019
“You have people who have been tortured yet you still pave the path for freedom. This visit to Ashraf 3 is very moving for us.
“I have the privilege of being able to speak and think freely. Yet I also know that today this liberty is not available everywhere across the globe... We are also obliged to all people who are being subjugated to dictators around the world, and in Iran. We are here today, Mrs. Rajavi, to tell you that you are not alone,” she added.
“We have to give the Iranian people courage and the help they need so they can get their future back,” Ms. Alliot-Marie concluded.
17.45: Matthew Offord, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, addressing the MEK members in Ashraf-3:
“Salam Ashraf. Salam Madam Rajavi!”
“It’s a great pleasure to stand here before you today and contribute to the discussion on Iran. This is the second time I have the pleasure to visit you and this time I hope to learn more about you,” Dr. Offord said.
“You are the proof of a proud brave nation that will never succumb to the atrocities of the regime… We have always argued that decoupling the regime’s human rights violations from the nuclear deal was a mistake,” he added.
“We have been proven right that there is no moderate faction inside the Iranian regime... There are two issues that we continue to raise in our debates:
1- We need to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its atrocities in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners”
“2- The U.K. government needs to blacklist the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and all its subsidiary as a terrorist organization.”
"We in @UKParliament reiterate it was a great mistake for the previous US admin & EU to decouple Iran regime's human rights abuses & support for terror from the nuclear deal. @GOVUK should proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist org" - @Offord4Hendon. #FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi pic.twitter.com/bihIAYua5U— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 12, 2019
“This measure will signal to the Iranian people that they are not forgotten and we stand with them… I call upon my government and the EU countries to stop the appeasement policy,” Dr. Offord continued.
“We want to recognize the right of the Iranian people and the resistance led by Madame Maryam Rajavi to establish a democratic and free republic in Iran… We see a popular movement led by Madame Rajavi with support inside Iran. That message has not been put to the public in the West good enough,” he emphasized.
“Iran’s current regime is not just a threat to the Iranian people but to the peace around the world.”
“That’s why we support you in your struggle until Iran is free,” Mr. Offord concluded.
General James Conway
17.50: General James Conway, former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, addressing the MEK members in Ashraf-3, Albania:
“I participated in a policy panel in Ashraf 3 and we were invited to dinner with the ladies of Ashraf 3. And some of them shared with me their stories of sacrifice and suffering. What I saw last night in terms of the ability to endure loss and yet move on was the sense of unit cohesion and dedication to each other that was the same as you see in the military. The sense of mission and dedication to accomplish it,” General Conway said.
“After meeting the MEK in Ashraf 3, I was completely blown away by their sense of purpose & patriotism. They are warriors. I am absolutely convinced the day will come when the MEK makes Iran free" - Gen. James Conway, ex Commandant of US Marines. #FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi pic.twitter.com/mW6Qj9J5bO— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 12, 2019
“I’m absolutely confident that with those ladies, you will make your country free someday,” he added.
Ms. Mojgan Parsaie, former PMOI/MEK Secretary General
17.55: Ms. Mojgan Parsaie, former PMOI/MEK Secretary General, addresses today’s Iran conference in Ashraf-3, Albania:
“Welcome dear friends and distinguished guests. This exhibition that you see here is a small part of a larger picture of the sacrifice made throughout decades of struggle for freedom and democracy,” Ms. Parsaie said.
“The story of the supporters of Ashraf who helped rescue the MEK members is the story of honorable people… Time has shown that you stand on the right side of history. The future will show more appreciation,” she added.
“Mayor Giuliani was correct that the solution to Iran is not appeasement but regime change. Throughout history there are always tyrants and for a period they seem invincible. However, they all fall at the end. Always,” Ms. Parsaie concluded.
“@RudyGiuliani was correct that the solution to Iran is not appeasement but regime change. Throughout history there are always tyrants & for a while they seem invincible. But they all fall at the end. Always” Mojgan Parsaie, ex PMOI (MEK) Sec Gen #FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi pic.twitter.com/WfUdmjosdO— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 12, 2019