On the first anniversary of the selection of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s regime president, Ali Khamenei, the regime’s supreme leader, has failed to consolidate power and crush dissent. On the contrary, the selection had “backfired,” leading to increased unrest and expanded awareness about the regime’s history of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.
In the summer of 1988, Raisi served as one of the four officials on a “death commission” in Tehran, which was tasked with interrogating political detainees at Evin and Gohardahst Prisons, then ordering the execution of any who were deemed to maintain sympathy with the leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Nationwide, the resulting massacre of political prisoners claimed over 30,000 victims, mostly members and supporters of the MEK.
Khamenei’s selection of Raisi as president was the threat he felt from the MEK and its nationwide network of “Resistance Units” and their role in the uprisings and protests.
That role has been especially apparent since the first weeks of 2018 when the regime found itself amid a nationwide uprising that featured slogans like “death to the dictator.” In a faltering effort to explain the movement’s clear endorsement of regime change and its rapid spread to more than 100 cities and towns, Khamenei acknowledged in a January 2018 speech that the MEK had “planned for months” to lead the demonstrations.
In so doing, Khamenei not only failed to discourage further unrest but debunked his own regime’s propaganda, which portrayed the MEK as a cult and an ill-organized group with no meaningful support among the Iranian people and no means of mounting a serious challenge to the theocratic dictatorship. That narrative became further fractured in November 2019 with the spontaneous eruption of an even larger nationwide uprising. The MEK and its “Resistance Units” again played a leading role.
Throughout the ensuing three years, the Resistance Units have continued their direct participation in popular protests while also accelerating and expanding upon their preexisting tactics for encouraging popular unrest and promoting a vision for Iran’s future which involves its first truly democratic elections being overseen by a transitional government led by Mrs. Rajavi.
Several Western policymakers and foreign affairs experts recently sent messages of support to the National Council of Resistance of Iran as part of a campaign that Mrs. Rajavi launched last month based on the slogan, “We can and we must.”
One of those lawmakers, Franc Bogovič, a member of the European Parliament from Slovenia, said of ongoing popular appeals for regime change: “This year’s fast developments in Iran leave a lot of hope for a quick march towards democracy.”
Bogovič added that he was “amazed by the progress achieved by the Resistance Units,” especially in light of the severe risks highlighted by past repressive actions, such as the mass shootings which quickly followed the start of the November 2019 uprising and killed at least 1,500 peaceful protesters.
10. MEP @Franc_Bogovic: “I was amazed by #ResistanceUnits' progress in #Iran. They don’t know limits in breaking the atmosphere of terror and frustration spread by the regime amongst the population.”#Westand4FreeIran
Excerpts of speech:pic.twitter.com/n6dV7gvouw
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 6, 2022
“The brave people who are engaged in these, risking their lives, merit all our support. Those actions point to where to look for the real alternative to the clerical regime in power in Iran,” the Slovenian lawmaker concluded.
John Bercow, a former speaker of the British parliament, highlighted the Iranian people’s resilience in the face of such repression. “The dictators thought that putting the genocidal thug Ebrahim Raisi in would stabilize matters, would keep the population under control,” he said, adding that, in fact, “Raisi has spawned mass protests – protests every week, [with] new Resistance Units [forming] as we speak.”
Fmr. UK parliament speaker John Bercow: "You are the most formidable campaigners for #democratic change that I have encountered in 35 years engagement in public life and your supporters elsewhere in the world."#Westand4FreeIran
Excerpts of speech:https://t.co/Q0IKhhi6KO
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 5, 2022
In her speech last month, Mrs. Rajavi described those Resistance Units as leading “the Iranian people’s great army of freedom.” She suggested that further uprisings would soon overpower the main instrument of Tehran’s domestic repression and international terrorism, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Since then, the sheer scale of that “army of freedom” has become more apparent, with the Iranian Resistance soliciting video messages from Resistance Units all across Iran and receiving more than 5,000 over the course of several weeks. The NCRI recently featured a compilation of those videos alongside the messages from European and American supporters, many of whom affirmed that those featured were only a fraction of those who would ultimately push for fulfillment of the MEK’s vision.
“We’re not talking about 1,000 Resistance Units,” said John Bercow in his speech. “We’re talking about tens of thousands. As people in growing numbers express their virulent, heartfelt, and unrelenting opposition to the regime and their desire for proper democracy, the flame of freedom continues to burn formidably in Iran. And that won’t change.”