As the seventh month of Iran’s nationwide uprising continues on March 16, 2023, the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) held a Senate briefing. Notable figures in policy and politics, including a group of esteemed senior senators from both sides of the aisle, convened to discuss US policy on Iran. The focus of the event centered around identifying tangible measures that can be taken to support the Iranian people in their fight against the oppressive regime.
This gathering was held on the advent of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, while Iranians all across the globe are about to celebrate the Persian New Year on March 21 marking the beginning of spring.
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
I am pleased to see you today to celebrate Nowruz, the start of the Iranian New Year.
Your presence sends an encouraging message to the people of Iran, especially the women and youth who took to the streets in recent months to protest against the regime, demanding regime change.
To discourage the people, the regime’s propaganda in Iran suggests that the people of Iran are isolated and the international community only deals with the regime.
Your presence in this event in support of the Iranian people’s demand for change, and the House Resolution 100 supported by 225 members is a blow to this propaganda.
In Iranian poems and myths, Nowruz and spring mean defeating winter.
The people of Iran view Nowruz as a symbol of freedom for which they have sacrificed much in recent months.
Tuesday night, at the traditional Festival of fire in Iran despite the regime’s brutal suppression, people burned symbols of the regime and showed their determination and anger against the mullahs and their desire to bring freedom to Iran.
The events of the last six months have shown that the people of Iran want to change the regime, but change is impossible without an organized, fighting force.
This is where the Resistance Units come in, and their role is crucial.
The regime is spreading disinformation in Iran and abroad to hinder the progress of the main Iranian force for change, which is echoed by the remnants of the former regime to promote the demonization project.
Distinguished senators and personalities, the Western governments’ policy of appeasement is another obstacle to the Iranian people’s uprising. Although they publicly support the uprising, they are actually allowing the regime to sell oil.
The people of Iran view #Nowruz as a symbol of freedom, for which they have sacrificed much in recent months.
Today, the concept of freedom is at the center of a confrontation between two opposing sides.
On one side is the Iranian people and on the other https://t.co/9CE89fa5WH… https://t.co/9NUEXGgSCv pic.twitter.com/hR0Eavr29G
— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) March 16, 2023
They speak out against oppression but do not support the terrorist designation of the IRGC, which is the main force of repression. This policy will have harmful effects on the Iranian people’s uprising.
The recent uprising is not just a passing event but deeply rooted. In the fight against the mullahs, 120,000 people lost their lives, including 30,000 political prisoners who were massacred in 1988. Ninety percent of them were MEK members and supporters.
This huge loss of life is the price that the Iranian people paid for freedom, and it is one of the significant factors that continue to encourage the protests.
Speaking on behalf of the Iranian people’s Resistance, I urge the honorable members of the United States Senate to support the Iranian people’s desires expressed through their slogans.
To achieve this, I suggest a special initiative that includes the following:
- Reactivate six UN Security Council resolutions to prevent the regime’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear negotiations are just a tactic to buy time.
- End the activities of the Iranian regime’s supporters and lobbies in the United States.
- Impose comprehensive sanctions against the regime and its affiliated organizations, and stop the regime’s use of American markets, companies, and universities.
- Recognize the legitimacy of the Iranian people’s struggle to overthrow the regime and acknowledge the right of Iranian youth to self-defense against the Revolutionary Guards.
Former National Security Advisor General James Jones
I sincerely hope that by the time we celebrate the next Nowruz, we’ll be doing so in a free and democratic Iranian republic.
I would also like to take a moment to recognize the leadership of Mrs. Mariam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which has been around since 1981. All this work and advocacy for a democratic Iran have been an inspiration to all of us, and we are really grateful for her unwavering commitment to the Iranian people.
Her ten-point plan for a democratic Iran is a testament to her vision and leadership. And it has been endorsed by some 224 members of the House of Representatives from both political parties in the new 118th Congress.
The recent protests that erupted in September of 2022, seven months ago, is a manifestation of over 40 years of organized resistance against the regime, with women in the leadership ranks of the resistance. And their fighting back against the clerics is clearly evident on the streets of Iran.
This uprising is not simply about toppling the current oppressive regime ruling Iran. It is a struggle against all forms of dictatorship. People yearn for a democratic and secular republic.
The vision of a free Iran is enshrined in Mrs. Rajavi’s ten-point plan, which is truly Jeffersonian in its principles and aspirations.
Gen. James Jones: The recent #IranProtests that erupted in September of 2022 is a manifestation of over 40 years of organized resistance against the regime, with women in the leadership ranks of the resistance. #IranRevolution https://t.co/jrnwCN2O2Z
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) March 16, 2023
A free democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic in Iran is no longer just the aspiration of the Iranian people, but a beacon of hope for the entire Middle East. It represents a fundamental shift away from the violence, extremism, sectarianism, and terrorism that have plagued the region, particularly since the ayatollah took power in Iran.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton
I believe that the people of Iran deserve the same thing that Abraham Lincoln called for in the United States: A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And I think today, we’re closer to that point than we’ve ever been.
I think that the events of the past year have really demonstrated that we’ve crossed a line and the people of Iran are not going to go back. So, this is the time to redouble our efforts, and I want to say that the work of the MEK, Madam Rajavi, and everybody who has helped out over the years has been a fundamental part of that effort.
The belief that at any point the ayatollahs had ever given up their intention to have nuclear weapons, there’s no evidence whatsoever, none, that they’ve ever made a strategic decision to that. Quite the opposite. Even to this day, they are actively pursuing nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile technology that they need to deliver them. It is an illusion and has been from the outset, that they would ever enter into an agreement that would constrict their ability to develop nuclear weapons. The regime never should have been allowed to enrich uranium. That’s the fatal flaw. Not only have they been violating the deal, which they have been since it was entered in 2015, but the deal itself helped ensure their path toward nuclear weapons.
.@AmbJohnBolton: The people of Iran do not believe that the ayatollahs convey the word of God. They believe that individuals can make their own decisions, and that's what they've been doing for the past six months.#IranRevoIution https://t.co/tMY794tGT2
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) March 16, 2023
If we give up on sanctions if we return the money that’s been frozen, and the assets that have been seized since the withdrawal of the United States in 2018, it will be a stimulus to the Ayatollahs.
But the reason to be optimistic is what we have seen in Iran by the actions of the Iranian people themselves over the past six months. The people of Iran do not believe that the ayatollahs convey the word of God. They believe that individuals can make their own decisions, and that’s what they’ve been doing for the past six months.
Let’s give full credit to the people of Iran who are out in the streets at great risk for their own safety. Tens of thousands have been arrested. Hundreds have been killed. But they’re still out there doing it. And it’s that force of opinion that will bring the ayatollahs down. Give us the regime change we need, free the Iranian people.
Former Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Ambassador Paula Dobriansky
The US representative to UNESCO, Ambassador Lisa Cardi, said [Mahsa Amini] was killed for the crime of being simply a woman. Hence spotlighting that the regime assumed that Mahsa’s death would be just another statistic and addition to the regime’s horrible, egregious, and long record of violence against women.
But Mahsa did not die in vain. Her savage murder prompted protests. Relentless courageous women-led protests in Iran’s 31 provinces. Their bravery and defiance of the regime led to a broad bloody response by the police who, according to Amnesty International, slaughtered hundreds of peaceful protesters, including around 70 children.
The ongoing violence against Iranian mothers, sisters, and daughters must end now.
In January and February alone, amid horrific sexual violence and other torture allegations, the regime executed at least 94. And that’s based on scant information here. In recent days we also know there have been countless reports about the poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls.
Now is the time to give maximum support to those courageous men and women fighting for their freedom and the freedom of future generations in a democratic, secular, non-nuclear Iran republic.
Amb. Dobriansky: @Maryam_Rajavi's ten-point plan importantly calls on the people of Iran to have freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, & freedom to choose their own leaders. Iranians clearly want that.#No2ShahNo2Mullahs https://t.co/7jEzZBaXQA
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) March 16, 2023
Maryam Rajavi has put forward a ten-point plan and this is something that she has been very consistent on. From the very beginning, her ten-point plan importantly calls on the people of Iran to have freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom to choose their own leaders. The people of Iran clearly want that, and they want the protection of their fundamental rights. So those protesting in Iran have launched a movement that deserves strong support from the international community.
Senator Joseph Lieberman
It strikes me that there was a role model for this uprising in Iran today led by women. It was a unique model over the years and that was the leadership of Mrs. Mariam Rajavi, a woman of principle and effectiveness.
The predictably brutal reaction of the Iranian regime to this uprising has finally made it impossible for other countries of the world to close their eyes to the tyrannical, terrorist nature of the regime.
What can we do to make sure that the uprising of the brave people of Iran ends with the overthrow of this regime?
I would say first, as we think about what we should do today and tomorrow, we have to look back at yesterday. The immediate cause of this broadest-ever uprising against the government was, as we have said, the murder of Mahsa Amini. But really the fight for freedom in Iran goes much further back than that decades in the courageous effort of so many people inside Iran with the support of the Iranian Diaspora, both in the time of the Shah, protesting that authoritarian and brutally repressive regime, and of course, in the time of the mullahs. And there is no organization, no movement, that has done so more courageously and with principle over that period of time than the MEK and NCRI led by Mrs. Mariam Rajavi.
This is a movement that has had the courage to take on absolute power and not be afraid of it. And it’s more than that. It’s a movement that is based on a vision for the future: a secular, democratic, and non-nuclear republic of Iran.
If you read Mrs. Rajavi’s ten-point plan, you think in part you’re reading the Bill of Rights from the American Constitution. And I think it’s important as we look back and say, thank you to the MEK and the NCRI. Thank you for all your heroism, persistence, stamina, and resolve, and for the work that you have done. We’re here to stand with you today as we have for years and to support the NCRI.
.@JoeLieberman: Raisi, from Tehran, and his foreign minister attacked members of Congress for supporting H.Res. 100. Why do they do that? Because they fear the NCRI and MEK more than any other opposition group.#IranRevolutionhttps://t.co/cG7U3GxoEu
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) March 16, 2023
Raisi, from Tehran, and his foreign minister attacked members of Congress for supporting House Resolution 100. Why do they do that? Because they fear the NCRI and MEK more than any other opposition group. And what was the response of members of Congress approached by members of the Iranian American communities and others who support your cause? Well, in less than two months, that resolution now has bipartisan support from a majority of the members of the House of Representatives.
I want to mention five quick points that I think we can act on with bipartisan support and the help of the administration. It’s about time that the US government declares that the JCPOA is dead. It’s over.
We must finally walk away from those negotiations and invoke the so-called snapback sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and that will restore the conventional arms embargo on Iran, as well as ensure restrictions on their missile program.
Second, the US should work with our allies in Europe to ensure that the Supreme Leader and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran are personally sanctioned for human rights abuses and for supporting terrorism.
Third, the US should work with all of our allies to sanction the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Fourth, we should strictly enforce U.S. sanctions, including sanctions against all vessels involved in transporting Iranian petroleum and petroleum products. And fifth, we should sanction all Chinese importers of Iranian oil.
I hope and pray that when we return here next Nowruz, we really can say that we have ended the darkness of the regime that has punished the people of Iran so much, and brought about a new spring of human rights.
During the Senate briefing, Senator John Boozman (R-AR) also took the floor and explained concisely that even while he was in the midst of a vote, he still wanted to meet with the organizers and express gratitude for their great work. Welcoming the prominent guests, he highlighted the importance of this meeting and that there would be no substitute for what is taking place at this gathering.
Senator Tom Tillis
We have to make sure that we have a very clear vision that the only way Iran changes is when their leadership is gone and that the Iranian people’s voice is heard.
This has never been just about the Iranian people—a very smart population throughout—desiring freedom and being denied at every step of the way. What we must do here is recognize that we have a malign influence that is metastasizing across the globe.
And it’s one that we can’t allow to spread. We do that through consistent pressure on Iran, and policies coming out of Washington and with our partners globally to really keep them in the spotlight for what they’ve done and how they’ve destroyed the hopes and dreams of the Iranian people.
Assistant Secretary of US State for Political-Military Affairs Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield Jr.
I have the task today of awarding the distinction of who has been the most truthful about what happened with the regime and with the resistance for the last four decades.
The nominees are:
- Governments, including our own, and Western governments
- The media, starting with the most established media here in Britain and Europe and elsewhere
- Others who criticized the regime, academics, some feminists, and people who talk about the ability to move the hijab a little bit further back and why this is not allowed, and perhaps restore the monarchy in Iran
- Or the NCRI, the MEK, OIAC, and all the supporters in this room, including the legislators who support the legislation that Senator Lieberman just mentioned
And the award goes to you, the NCRI, the MEK, the OIAC, and their supporters in Congress and in the United States.
The goal of the organized resistance since the MEK was founded by student intellectuals in the 1960s has never wavered to establish popular sovereignty and the consent of the governed under a legitimate constitutional process with checks and balances just like ours.
So for Nowruz, when we welcome this new year, we need to mark not just a new beginning. We need to mark an end to four decades of allowing the Tehran dictatorship to make us forget the truth, repeat falsehoods and propaganda, and live in fear of offending the world’s most lawless state actor.
Iranian people, led by women and girls of Iran, are putting their lives on the line, facing beatings, poison gas, long prison sentences, and hangings. Our job requires much less courage to demand the truth, insisting that the media stop amplifying false history, and stop giving these brutal criminals a pass.
.@LBJunior: Since its founding by student intellectuals in the 1960s, the MEK's goal has been to establish popular sovereignty and consent of the governed through a legitimate constitutional process with checks and balances.#IranRevolution https://t.co/OURTf7JGLj
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) March 16, 2023
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
I have Mrs. Rajavi’s ten-point plan for future Iran and what she says about women is complete gender equality in the realms of political, social, cultural, and economic rights, and equal participation of women in political leadership. Abolishing any form of discrimination and the right to choose one’s own clothing freely. The right to freely marry and divorce, and to obtain education and employment. Prohibition of all forms of exploitation against women under any pretext. That sounds pretty democratic to me.
This certainly has been a dark time in Iran. It could not be more appropriate to talk about the brave people of Iran who have taken to the streets for months in the face of horrific violence to demand a new beginning. Today marks nearly 180 days of street protests across Iran demanding a brighter and better future.
Led by women, protesters have defied state-sanctioned violence and decades of injustices to make their voices heard. And recent events have underscored what’s at stake. At least 1,200 Iranian school girls across 60 different schools have fallen ill since November and what Iranian officials have admitted are likely chemical or biological attacks. And the cause of these illnesses is not yet known. But what is clear is who is suffering from the attacks: girls and young women, the future of Iran.
Last fall I was in Albania, and in my meetings with the Prime Minister there it was very clear who was responsible for the cyber-attacks against the Albanian government. It was Iran and based on Albania’s willingness to host the folks from Camp Ashraf who have been given security and safety in Albania. We’ve got to make sure that we thank those who are providing that kind of safety for what they’re doing and being willing to take on the suffering of the people of Iran and say this is my fight, too.
Now: The honorable SenatorBooker stopped by early to address @OrgIAC Senate Briefing in support of the Iranian people’s desire to establish a secular, democratic and non nuclear republic. #IranRevolution #MahsaAmini @SFRCdems pic.twitter.com/Uk05WCRY0L
— OIAC: Organization of Iranian American Communities (@OrgIAC) March 16, 2023