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Ex-political prisoner says West should support the Iranian Resistance


In 2009, despite a harsh crackdown by the regime, millions of Iranians participated in the nationwide uprising, showing the world that a pro-democracy resistance still exists in Iran, the U.S.-based website Opportunity Lives wrote on Monday.

Two years before the Arab Spring, the uprising against a corrupt regime captured the world’s attention.

“But the roots of the resistance had been silently spreading in the country for years — and continue to grow to this day,” the article said.

The year 2009 marked an important moment in the life of Farzad Madadzadeh, too. “I supported PMOI [the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran] in Iran and me and my friend, were arrested in 2009, before the uprising.”

Madadzadeh was not a leader, merely a supporter of the PMOI, which is one of the main Iranian resistance movements and a member of the democratic opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the article said.

“I was in prison for five years in Iran,” Madadzadeh told Opportunity Lives in English. “I was a prisoner in the notorious Evin Prison and Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison in Karaj, northwest of Tehran. I was tortured in prison. The only reason I was being tortured was because I was a PMOI supporter.”

A translator helped Madadzadeh describe his treatment in jail. “I was arrested and they took me to Ward 209 which is run by the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. I was in solitary confinement for [a total of] six months. When I was arrested, I spent three months in solitary, the first time, after interrogation.”

The interrogation technique quickly blurred into torture, according to Madadzadeh. “It went on for weeks. It started at 8 a.m. and went on until 9 or 10 p.m. at night… They tortured me in the interrogation room. For example, they asked me questions then battered me like a football. And then they passed me to another person and it would happen all over again. Every interrogation was repeated.”

During his time in prison, Madadzadeh got word that his brother and sister were killed by allies of the regime in Iraq. His translator said, “He and his friend held a small memorial for those killed and because of that they transferred him back to Ward 209 and the torture began once again.”

Despite his horrific treatment, Madadzadeh survived. Others, like the friend arrested with him, were not so lucky. “When I was in prison,” he said, “the regime in Iran executed my friend in prison, and other political prisoners in Iran.” He told Opportunity Lives some of their names: Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad-Ali Haj-Aghai.

“When [Hassan] Rouhani became the president [in 2013] I was still in prison,” Madadzadeh said. “Outside of Iran, a lot of politicians thought there would be some kind of change, but it was the opposite. Things got worse.”

He mentioned the uptick in political prisoners, and executions, both supported by data from the U.N. and human rights organizations. “When I was in prison, we witnessed more arrests of students and journalists,” Madadzadeh said. “The teachers were also arrested; many who tried to hold protests. They were cracked down upon and arrested and brought to where we were held.”

“We felt from the moment that Rouhani came to office executions suddenly increased.” Madadzadeh noted. “It’s about three years since he has been in office, and [there have been] 2,600 executions since then.”

Madadzadeh also accused Rouhani of failing to follow through on economic promises. “Rouhani made a promise that within 100 days of taking office he would turn the economy around, but it did not improve, everything got worse,” he said.

When improvements did not occur, Madadzadeh says Rouhani passed the blame. “He said everything was tied to the nuclear deal and issues with sanctions… that the nuclear deal would benefit us, our dinner tables,” Madadzadeh explained. “But what I witnessed inside Iran is that within the last two years, the price of everything went up, despite the official government figures. The only benefit of lifting sanctions is for [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and Hezbollah. They have been on the receiving end.”

The Iranian nuclear deal is now one year old, but Madadzadeh said the past year shows that it hasn’t made Iran’s government more moderate, or brought the economic stability Rouhani promised. He said the Iranian people know this, too.

“It is a mirage to look for a moderate in this regime because it is based on the pillars of terrorism and human rights violations,” Madadzadeh said.

That’s why Madadzadeh escaped to Europe as soon as he completed his prison sentence.

“I have never been any sort of leader and I never claimed to be. I’m just a small member of the resistance trying to do my bit. I saw many of my friends executed, so I could not just say silent,” he said.

But in order to make his story known, Madadzadeh said he needed to be connected with the resistance. It wasn’t easy. From the moment he was released, Iranian authorities had him under constant surveillance.

“The only option for me that was left was to go abroad and bring their voice to the international community,” he said. “In particular, the voice of the young Iranians, that would like to inform Western politicians that they want change.”

In his message to the West, Madadzadeh wants Americans to know that “The people of Iran are not asking for any agreement, even a nuclear agreement… the people of Iran are looking for a change in the regime… and to learn of their plight and feel their pain and stand on the side of the people. Iranians showed it in 2009 that they want regime change. The Iranian people do not want a military invasion of Iran or for Americans to overthrow the regime for us, but we want them stop assisting the regime and cut ties.”

Madadzadeh along with other former political prisoners, members of the PMOI and international leaders from around the world met in Paris on July 9 for a “Free Iran” conference. Personally, Madadzadeh hopes the meeting shed more light on the Iranian resistance movement, especially for Western leaders and U.S. officials.

One of those leaders in attendance was former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who told the crowd, “I want you to know that the message I will take home to America is that there are thousands and thousands of Iranians: who are prepared, who are ready, who are committed, and who believe that we can truly bring democracy to Iran.”

Gingrich stood on stage with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who echoed his statement. “There is only one answer here, to support legitimate opposition groups that favor overthrowing the dictatorship in Iran,” Bolton said. “It should be a declared policy of the U.S. and all our friends to do just that at the earliest opportunity.”

Many other Americans, including high-ranking retired military leaders voiced their support.

“I hope in these few days… the West heard the real voice of Iran,” Madadzadeh said. “This is the true voice of the people. If Western governments want to fall on the right side of history, they should hear the voice of the Iranian people and their resistance movement… people who for many, many years forewent everything, even their livelihood, for their people and their nation.”