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New Propaganda Reflects Iran’s Old Obsession With Democratic Opposition – OpEd


Recently, the German magazine Der Spiegel published an article on the leading Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The article repeated a laundry list of lies and baseless accusations against the group’s “war footing” and its treatment of the more than 2,000 members now living in Albania. These accusations have followed the PMOI members from their previous residence of Camp Ashraf, from which they were forced to flee under pressure from Iraqi militant groups affiliated with Iran’s theocratic regime.

Among persons with less than expert knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs relatively few have followed media narratives about the PMOI over the long term. So, many of those who encounter stories like Der Spiegel’s are hearing the slanderous allegations for the first time. They do not realize that every item on the list can be traced back to the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and other purveyors of Iranian propaganda. Many casual observers do not realize that Tehran has been obsessed with destroying or delegitimizing the PMOI virtually since the inception of the clerical regime.

This is because the PMOI has always been the most prominent advocate of a democratic alternative to the theocratic system that was established by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The organization’s members were chief among those who were targeted by the new regime’s purges in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. And in 1988, the PMOI was also the primary target of a campaign of mass executions.

In a matter of just a few months, political prisoners were systematically brought before tribunals to face the briefest interrogations over their political affiliations. Those who failed to demonstrate loyalty to the fledgling regime were scheduled to be hanged in groups and buried in secret mass graves. In the end, an estimated 30,000 people were killed, although the exact figures may never be known because the regime has enforced internal secrecy while the international community has never properly followed up on reports with a formal inquiry.

Even the most dramatic accounts of the 1988 massacre only scratch the surface of the Iranian regime’s violence against political dissenters in general and the PMOI in particular. All told, more than 100,000 members and supporters of that organization have been killed by way of execution, torture, targeted assassination and foreign terrorism over the past 40 years. Yet this context is conspicuously absent from the Spiegel article and various other that repeat the lies of a regime that has been thwarted at every turn in its bid to destroy its political enemies.

Despite the 1988 massacre and other killings, the PMOI has only grown in both popularity and organizational strength over the years. It is part of a coalition known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which holds a rally for Iran Freedom each summer near Paris. The event tends to attract approximately 100,000 attendees including Iranian expatriates and political supporters drawn from the fields of politics, national defense, intelligence, and academia in the US, Europe and much of the world. I have been to most of these annual meetings in Paris in the past decade.

Last June, the NCRI rally also attracted two terrorists in the Iranian regime’s employ, though they were stopped at the Belgian border while in possession of 500 grams of explosive than had been provided to them by a high-ranking Iranian diplomat. That individual, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested by European authorities alongside the two would-be bombers and another co-conspirator. The incident shined a particularly bright light on Tehran’s persistent desire to stamp out the democratic Resistance movement by any means necessary. Also in 2018, Iranian operatives were arrested in Albania for plotting attacks on the PMOI compound and two spies were indicted in US Federal Court for gathering intelligence that appeared to set the stage for attacks on Resistance activists in that country as well.

Recent discussions of Iranian affairs, as in last week’s Warsaw conference on Middle East policy and the Munich Security Conference, have expressed little to no doubt about Tehran’s willingness to continue using terrorism in an effort to strengthen its hold on power. In the wake of those discussions, it should be understood that such a regime must be all the more willing to use lies and propaganda as part of that same effort. Such tactics carry much less risk and they have the benefit of potentially convincing Western policymakers to accept a global role for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, on the assumption that there is simply no alternative.

But the reality is that there is an alternative, and one that has been widely embraced by the Iranian people, who participated in nationwide demonstrations against the clerical regime all throughout 2018. Even Iranian officials acknowledged these protests as the embrace of PMOI and NCRI slogans and leadership, and it is no secret why.

In contrast to the picture that Tehran has tried to paint of the Iranian democratic opposition, the NCRI President Maryam Rajavi has outlined a 10-point plan for the country’s future which clearly enshrines free elections, respect for human rights, equality between men and women, separation of religion and State and all the core principle of democratic governance that the clerical regime has been opposing for 40 years. Mrs Rajavi’s political platform has received the support of hundreds of members of the European Parliament and other parliaments throughout the world. It is time for our governments to recognize NCRI as the democratic alternative to the ruling religious dictatorship in Iran.

*Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice-president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is currently president of the Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ)

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3 thoughts on “New Propaganda Reflects Iran’s Old Obsession With Democratic Opposition – OpEd

  • February 28, 2019 at 7:10 am

    Kudos, Prof. Quadras. Very good to see there are politicians that have such a deep understanding of the Iranian principal opposition movement, the MEK and the parliament in exile of the Iranian opposition, the NCRI.
    Indeed the article in Der Spiegel lacks the minimum integrity and ethics. It has raised outrage among the Iranian community and though we have tried to reach out to the board of directors to express our concerns, it seems that its not just another journalist stepping in Claas Relotius’s shoes, but Der Spiegel has become a mouthpiece for the criminal mullahs ruling Iran, perhaps because of certain economic interest. It is shameful and naive to think by demonizing Iran’s main democratic opposition and picture a devil out of them, they can rescue the regime. It will only embolden the religious dictatorship in Iran to do more terror in Europe and more executions at home. Nevertheless, it is astonishing how low can Der Spiegel go in compiling more than 60 lies in one article to give lip service to the notorious Ministry of Intelligence in Iran.

  • March 1, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for this informative article and the reality is the worst situation of mullahs regime which forced them to do terror plots and demonizing plans against its main alternative and opposition abroad MEK

  • March 2, 2019 at 12:56 am

    Thanks very much indeed Prof Vidal Quadras for your wonderful, comprehensive, informative and unbiased article. I strongly believe that Der Spiegel by publishing such absurdity has clearly shot its own leg! The notorious demonizing campaign against the sole legitimate democratic alternative of NCRI by the dictatorial fundamentalist regime and it’s paid agents has been one of the bloody-minded tactics that propaganda machinery of the regime has been using since its inception to eliminate it’s democratic opposition. But it has rather had a counter productive effect against the tyrants ruling Tehran.The scope of highly unprofessionalism and hostility, lies , baseless accusations and shameful defamations of Spigell’s disgraceful article against PMOl are indeed so incredible that has been even rejected by many within the entourage the ruling system! Any conscientious journalist must vividly condemn this barbaric, highly violent and uncivilised savage method used by the inexperienced writer of that notorious article which only serves the interests of the mullahs to justify their heinous crimes against its own opposition.
    I fully support what Dr Quadras has mentioned about the highly democratic nature of the alternative of NCR and MeK which is congealed in 10 Point Plan of Ms Maryam Rajavi for the future of Iran.
    Obviously Iranians will never forget those who supported their enemies during their darkest and hardest time of their history.
    This article has seriously damaged the reputation of Der Spiegel that can only be compensated by offering sincere apologies to memebers of opposition who were gravely insulted by a degraded and fake article which derailed the Spigel from the main stream into “FAKE” stream?!
    No doubt that lran will be free by the people of lran and it’s democratic alternative sooner than all such FAKE journals can ever expect!


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