On July 17, tens of thousands of Iranian join and international conference held by the Iranian Resistance movement, the MEK and NCRI. The Free Iran Global Summit will be a socially distanced alternative to the annual rally organized near Paris by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Many expatriate communities will hold gatherings within their own countries, and these will be connected into one overarching event by a live stream that will be viewed by additional participants, policymakers, and journalists.
There will be much to discuss at the summit, in light of the various remarkable developments that have taken place in Iran over the past couple of years. Some of these have been hopeful, as in the outbreak of two nationwide uprisings against aimed at securing freedom and democracy for the Iranian people. More have been tragic, as in the outbreak of coronavirus, which remains entirely uncontrolled roughly six months after the first Iranian cases were recognized. But virtually all of the latest developments point to the potential for dramatic change in the near future.
The Iranian society awaits a trigger to explode. This risen people of Iran, and their Resistance movement should be supported by the international community. The NCRI’s annual gatherings represent opportunities to inspire action in support of the democratic Resistance movement. But even though numerous individual politicians and experts on Middle Eastern affairs have made their endorsements known, the governments they represent have consistently remained reluctant about the prospect of alienating Tehran’s current government.
For a long time, this reluctance has been influenced by false assumptions, narrated by the regime regime’s apologists regarding the prospect for an alternative. This bogus narrative suggests that the organized opposition is either non-existent or lacking in meaningful popular support. The regime’s apologists portrayed the mullahs’ grip on power as firm, legitimate, and practically unshakeable. Yet both of these premises have been seriously called into question over the years. Now they appear to be hanging on by a thread, and there is little reason why they should survive the policy discussions that will grow out of the Free Iran Global Summit.
This is because representatives of the NCRI can be expected to highlight for an international audience the recent successes of the Iranian Resistance. These include uprisings in January 2018 and November 2019, during both the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) played pivotal and leading role. Statements to that effect came from no less an authority than the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In fact, similar statements continue to emanate from his office even now, warning his supporters about the prospect for an even stronger outpouring of dissent in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a speech to his Basij militias, disguised as students in April, Khamenei identified the MEK as a group that “rejects the foundations of the revolution,” namely the system of velayat-e faqih, or absolute rule by clerical authorities. He went on to note that the MEK’s effort to overturn that system is likely to become a guiding principle of forthcoming student protests unless the Basij and other hardline authorities effectively suppress it.
This is the conclusion that anyone would be forced to draw after observing the previous two uprisings and seeing how they shattered the regime’s ridiculous portrayal of the MEK as a cult or a “grouplet” that posed little to no threat to the mullahs’ hold on power. The organization’s popularity and strength were demonstrated not only by Khamenei’s acknowledgment that it had “planned for months” to facilitate the demonstrations, but also by the scale and diversity of the nation’s embrace of MEK platforms and slogans.
Across the entire country, participants in both the 2018 and the 2019 uprisings were heard to chant “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani” in reference to the supreme leader and the regime’s president. The public demonstrations also explicitly repudiated both of the regime’s factions, making it clear that the public’s preference was for an alternative outside the mainstream of this medieval regime. It is a sentiment much like that which has been expressed by the Iranian Resistance in calls for the boycott of national elections, whereby the organization’s leadership urged Iranians to “vote for regime change.”
Nearly entire of Iran’s population took part in such a boycott last February, despite Tehran covering up the start of the coronavirus outbreak and urgently commanding voters to go to the polls. The parliamentary election was marked by the lowest rate of voter participation, even based on the regime’s engineered statistics, in the 41-year history of the regime, making it perhaps the latest of many indicators that the country is primed for a change of government.
All of those signs will be recalled for the international community at the global summit. By all rights, this should prompt leading policymakers to finally let go of their false assumption that regime change in Iran is unlikely. With each electoral boycott and anti-government uprising, it appears increasingly clear that such change is not only attainable but may be inevitable.
This still leaves the question of what that change can be expected to entail. But this too will be outlined in detail by speakers at the Free Iran event. It has already been outlined for supporters of the MEK and NCRI, in the form of a 10-point plan for Iran’s future, written by the NCRI President-elect, Maryam Rajavi. Suffice it to say that a transitional government under Mrs. Rajavi’s leadership would lead the country to free and fair elections, equal protection under the law, abandonment of nuclear ambitions, peaceful relations with neighbors, and separation of religion from the state.
The pending change is something that every democratic nation of the world should be not only eager but willing to help realize. And there are ways of doing so without putting any of those nations’ citizens or economies at risk. With two nationwide uprisings, countless other activist demonstrations, and several previous Free Iran events beyond Iran’s borders, the Resistance has emphasized that it will be the domestic population that drives regime change. All that is needed from the international community is the assurance that it will stand behind those people when the time comes.