As heavily armed Revolutionary Guards from Iran’s terrorist-listed military force descended from a helicopter onto the deck of a British flagged oil tanker sailing in international waters, readers of the Guardian newspaper may have been slightly confused. This blatant act of piracy in the Strait of Hormuz was being carried out by a regime which the Guardian has repeatedly sought to defend and appease, decrying the Trump administration’s renewal of sanctions against Iran following its withdrawal from Obama’s deeply flawed nuclear deal.
Only days before the illegal seizure of the Stena Impero tanker, the Guardian had published a lengthy article repeating tired and offensive allegations targeting the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, Mojahedin e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK), the main democratic opposition to the mullahs’ fundamentalist fascist regime. Penned by their reporter Shaun Walker in Tirana, the article went out of its way to condemn the huge rally the MEK had successfully staged at their new compound in Albania, attended by hundreds of international dignitaries and political leaders, including President Trump’s legal adviser Rudy Giuliani, former Democratic senator and vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, the British Conservative MP Matthew Offord and Labour politician Sir Alan Meale.
Contrary to the Guardian’s claims, the 5-day conference In Ashraf III was bi-partisan with many MPs from left and right of the Italian, French and British parliaments. They shared one common goal: condemnation of the mullahs’ regime and support for the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The author prefers to distort the truth and deceive the Guardian’s readers
The article claimed the MEK’s compound, named Ashraf III, is located in a “fenced-off, secretive site, where more than 2,000 MEK members live.” Repeating Iranian Military of Intelligence (MOIS) propaganda aimed at demonising the MEK, Shaun Walker called the opposition movement “a shadowy outfit with little support inside Iran and many cult-like attributes, condemned to die out at the obscure base in Albania because of its enforced celibacy rules.”
Where is the fault of the MEK, which, following the example of many resistance movements during the Second World War in Norway, Finland, France, Poland etc, is standing up to the fascist dictatorship that is a threat to the free world? As a European politician and as a Scot, I strongly believe that the MEK should be praised for the sacrifices they have made for a free Iran.
Shaun Walker further labelled the MEK as “originally a Marxist-Islamist group” claiming that they “ended up exiled and fighting against the Iranian regime from a base in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq”, an exact replication of Iran’s terrorist propaganda against the group.
Walker’s piece is one of many articles published by the Guardian displaying naked animosity towards the MEK. A 6,500 words article by Arron Reza Merat, a well-known pro-Iranian regime stooge, was printed in a 3-page feature In November 2018. I Immediately wrote a letter of objection to the editor, but the Guardian neither published my response nor responses by the NCRI and many other British lawmakers.
Although the Iranian regime is well known for buying influence in some so called leftist Western publications, why a newspaper like the Guardian should pay lip-service to such absurd and disgraceful fabrications, propagated by a pariah regime that is widely recognised as a sponsor of international terror, is beyond comprehension. Indeed, the recent arrest of Iranian agents in Europe and America, including an Iranian diplomat, who were planning assassinations and terror attacks on members of the Iranian opposition, are evidence of this regime’s malign intentions. The scandalous and libellous allegations against the MEK could equally be applied, by association, to the many thousands of supporters from all political parties and from differing religious and ethnic backgrounds, who believe the MEK and their charismatic leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi, offer a viable democratic alternative to the current murderous and misogynist regime in Iran.
Iran, despite its rich, civilised and open culture, has now become an international pariah, its clerical fascist regime condemned for human rights abuse and the export of terror, while its 80 million beleaguered citizens, over half of whom are under thirty, struggle to feed their families.
This is a regime that tortures, rapes, sodomizes and executes political prisoners. A regime that flogs, immolates, amputates limbs, gouges out eyes and hangs people in public. A regime that has executed more than 3,500 people, including women and children, since the so-called ‘moderate’ Hassan Rouhani became president. A dictatorship that governs through corruption, bribery, blackmail, extortion and fear, that has arrested and imprisoned over ten thousand peaceful protesters during the on-going uprising that has raged across Iran for the past 18 months, where many of those arrested have been tortured to death or have simply ‘disappeared’.
The UN now has irrefutable evidence of the summary execution of more than 30,000 supporters of the MEK by the Iranian regime in the summer of 1988. It was an atrocity that must rank as a crime against humanity and one of the most horrific mass murders of the late twentieth century. The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A ‘Death Committee’ of four senior officials approved all the executions.
Unbelievably, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a member of that ‘Death Committee’, was until mid-2017 President Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister! When his part in the murders became known publicly, he was replaced by Alireza Avaie, who himself was a prominent executioner during the 1988 massacre, in his role as Chief Prosecutor in the city of Dezful. Avaie has been on the EU’s terrorist blacklist for years. Other members of the 1988 Death Committee also still hold prominent positions in Iran. I am puzzled that the Guardian refuses to report any of these facts.
Monstrous acts of butchery like this have become grisly milestones in the history of oppression and tyranny in contemporary Iran. This is a regime that believes in taking hostages, like the young British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed on trumped up espionage charges. There is no justice in Iran. That is why its citizens have risen in anger and frustration at the cruelty and criminal corruption of the mullahs and their distorted fundamentalist, medieval version of Islam. It is perplexing that the Guardian should involve itself in working hand-in-hand with the Iranian regime and their Intelligence Service by repeating the lies and smears levelled against the MEK by the mullahs.
Prior to last weekend’s seizure of the Stena Impero, the mullahs had sabotaged 6 oil tankers in the Gulf, shot down an American drone and supplied missiles for their Houthi rebel proxies in Yemen to fire into Saudi Arabia. They supply weapons and personnel to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq and Hamas in Palestine. Now this criminal regime has added international piracy to its long list of transgressions. This is not a regime that should be appeased or mollified, it is an evil regime that should be toppled. That is why newspapers like the Guardian would be well advised to show some support and sympathy for legitimate democratic opposition groups like the MEK, rather than indulging in their vilification.
*Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).