On June 30, a large delegation from the Iranian American Community of Maryland attended the annual gathering of the Iranian opposition near Paris. The Organization of Iranian American Communities(OIAC) was among the organizers of the Free Iran rally, an opportunity for not only exiled Iranians but also political dignitaries from throughout the world to voice their support for the cause of democracy and secular governance in Iran.
This year, the event also provided a clear window into the progress that the Resistance has made in Iran in the wake of a mass uprising against the clerical regime, especially since National Council of Resistance (NCRI) President-elect Maryam Rajavi called for “a year full of uprisings.”
The sense of exhilaration that I and my fellow activists experience at such rallies is often tempered by our sober awareness of the privilege that we enjoy while attending them. Our fellow activists still subject to the rule of the religious dictatorship must put their lives on the line to protest. Indeed, by the time Iran’s nationwide uprising was largely repressed in January, approximately 50 protesters had been shot dead and more than 8,000 arrested. Intelligence gathered by theResistance’s social network determined that more than a dozen detainees were tortured to death, and many are on death row.
We are grateful for the support our senator, Ben Cardin, delivered in his message to the event: “The well-being of the Iranian people is a critical issue to me, and that is why I am pleased that this event exists to spread awareness and build support for change in Iran…It is tragic that the people of your homeland have had to endure numerous abuses of fundamental human rights and freedoms in recent decades… I will always remain a friend of the Iranian people and be their champion in the U.S. Senate.”
But this year, before returning home to the United States, I learned that European authorities had arrested four individuals in connection with a plot to bomb the rally using 500 grams of TATP explosive. Had the plot not been foiled, there is no telling how many of the roughly 100,000 participants it might have killed, or whether the death toll would have included any of the prominent European and American dignitaries attending.
There is no doubt that the Iranian regime was behind the plot, since one of the detainees is a high-level diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. In addition, the intelligence network of the People’s Mojahedin (MEK) found that the decision to launch an attack had been taken months earlier at the highest levels of the Iranian regime, including its Supreme Leader and President.
The regime is alarmed over the escalation of Resistance activities both at home and abroad. Whereas Iranian officials had long maintained a policy of denying the MEK’s domestic popularity and downplaying the threat that it poses, today Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has acknowledged that the leading Resistance group is playing a major role in the proliferation of protests and civil disobedience all across the country.
Tehran has denied any involvement in the terror plot, portraying the incident as a false flag operation to discredit the pro-democracy movement. But the regime’snefarious agenda has been undeniably exposed, while the Resistance remains on course.
The Iranian Resistance has never been in favor of foreign intervention into Iranian affairs, but does recognize that the Western world has a role to play in supporting the Iranian people as they struggle for democracy. One way of doing so is to further isolate the regime, shut down its embassies and expel its diplomats. Clearly, the interests of the Iranian Resistance overlap with the interests of European security. The continued presence of Iranian diplomats in Europe represents a veritable terrorist pipeline directly into the heart of Western democracy.
I and other supporters of the NCRI are more than willing to put our lives on the line for the sake of Iranian democracy. Our families and friends inside Iran do so every day. But we also emphasize that the benefit of operating in the West is, or should be, that we can advocate for freedom and democracy without threat of terrorism.It behooves the nations of Europe to consider what they are going to do to prevent future terror plots from harming both us, and their own citizens.