A global Iranian dissident movement will hold its annual “world summit” from Saturday to Monday, where supporters come together virtually at rallies in 105 countries to call for the overthrow of the oppressive theocracy of Iran and its replacement with a democracy.
Organizers say they hope the online support staged by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its associated group, the Exiled People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK) will shake and inspire the regime of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will riots in Iran.
“Iranian society is a powder keg on the brink of explosion,” incumbent NCRI President Maryam Rajavi told the Washington Times in an email interview ahead of the weekend’s summit. “Even more violent and extensive riots are waiting to break out at any time.”
Ms. Rajavi, whose husband Massoud Rajavi was one of the original leaders of the MEK and has not been seen in public since 2003, claims that the dissident movement has played a crucial role in the protests against the regime in Iran in recent years.
She told the Times that she is certain the regime’s opposition is growing after violent government crackdowns on dissenting opinions that followed large-scale riots in dozens of Iranian cities in late 2017 and early 2018.
“The organized resistance movement is gaining ground and dynamism is increasing with rapid expansion and increase in the activity of resistance units in Iran,” said Ms. Rajavi.
“Iran is on the verge of seismic change,” said the 67-year-old dissident leader, adding that the Free Iran World Summit 2021 this weekend will âinvite all governments and international institutions to join the Iranian peopleâ.
A spokesman for the NCRI said organizers estimate supporters from around 50,000 locations around the world will attend the rally this weekend.
Some will enroll individually in many countries due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions, while others will gather in living rooms, hotel conference centers, or lecture halls to virtually connect with attendees from Sydney to Hawaii.
âThey are supported by resistance activists in Iran. They will demand accountability for the spiritual regime of Iran and especially for its new president Ebrahim Raisi. They will call for a total boycott of the clerical regime with Raisi as president, âsaid the NCRI spokesman.
âThousands of Iranians will hold rallies at the same time in Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and in 16 other cities, including Paris; Washington, DC; London; Amsterdam; Stockholm; Oslo; Vienna; Rome; and Geneva on July 10, “the spokesman said, adding that large LED screens will combine these rallies with an event hosted by thousands of MEK, which is based in a facility called Camp Ashraf in Albania Has.
The organizers said that Ms. Rajavi will chair the summit from Albania.
The annual event has made international headlines in the past with fiery speeches on regime change in Tehran. It took place in a large aircraft hangar on the outskirts of Paris for many years, and has not taken place there since 2018, when the Iranian government tried to bomb the event.
In February 2021, a Belgian court sentenced a senior Iranian diplomat to 20 years in prison on charges of planning a terrorist attack on the 2018 summit. Assadolah Assadi, who was accused of operating on orders from Iranian intelligence, was found guilty of planning a bomb attack, which was ultimately foiled in the days leading up to the summit.
Until last year, the NCRI had postponed the event online due to COVID-19 restrictions around the world. The organizers opted for the virtual format this year, claiming that more than 1,000 political dignitaries from around the world will attend.
Organizers say the event will include a collective appeal against the drive by the Biden government and several European powers to renew Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which has failed since the United States withdrew from the United States in 2018.
Some analysts view the exiled NCRI movement with suspicion, saying it has a clear political agenda to slander the government in Tehran and try to disrupt any nuclear diplomacy between the West and Iran.
The group has a tumultuous past in Washington, where the State Department has classified the MEK branch as a terrorist organization for years. The entry was removed in 2012.
That story aside, many say the MEK has a record of exposing important secret nuclear operations in Iran. The group has long been credited with providing the Western powers with an indication of the existence of the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and its heavy-water plutonium facility at Arak in 2002 – two facilities that Western officials view as violating UN nuclear regulations to have .
The Iranian government sharply rejects the criticism of the NCRI, claiming that Tehran is trying to secretly develop nuclear weapons is unfounded. Iranian officials have long claimed that their nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, such as medical research and power generation, although Tehran regularly threatens to enrich nuclear materials well beyond what is necessary for these purposes.
The NCRI frequently issues statements reminding the world’s media that Iran is listed by the US State Department as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The dissident movement has made great efforts even after the recent election of Mr Raisi as the new President of Iran. The Shiite Muslim hardliner is rumored to be a potential successor to Ayatollah Khamenei should the supreme leader die or resign.
Human Rights Watch has accused Raisi of playing a prominent role in ordering the execution of thousands of political prisoners in Iran in 1988.
The NCRI claims that more than 30,000 people were killed in the massacre and claims that the “overwhelming majority” are members of the MEK in Iran.
A “desperate situation”
In her remarks to the Times, Ms. Rajavi claimed that the recent elections in Iran were “a sham” and claimed that the election of Mr. Raisi underscores “the regime’s sheer political desperation and impending overthrow.”
“The indisputable fact is that since the nationwide uprisings in 2017, the Iranian regime has entered a phase that will end with its inevitable overthrow,” she said. âThere have been four rounds of massive nationwide uprisings, along with thousands of ongoing protests, strikes and acts of defiance across the country. The regime is unable to offer political or economic solutions to contain the unrest of the population … Khamenei is now in a desperate position. “
An email circulated by an NCRI spokesman said that the participants at the summit this weekend will âunderscore that it is unacceptable for Western powers to pursue normal diplomatic or economic relations with a regime whose president is involved in crimes against humanity is involved â.
“They will also call for an end to the impunity that Tehran’s leaders have long enjoyed despite their terrible record at home and abroad,” the email read.
The organizers sent the Times a list of international dignitaries to attend. Among them are US House Democrats Brad Sherman from California and Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas.
Republicans Tom McClintock of California and Lance Gooden of Texas, as well as a number of former US lawmakers and political leaders, will also attend, including former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and Obama-era National Security Advisor James L. Jones, organizers said.
In recent years, the rally has seen rousing anti-Iranian regime speeches from dignitaries from the Middle East such as Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the former secret service chief of Saudi Arabia, the predominantly Sunni-Muslim Arab monarchy and a major geopolitical rival of the Iranian ones Shiite theocracy.
Organizers said Prince Turki would not attend this year, despite a number of other Arab dignitaries as well as prominent former European officials, including former French and Italian Foreign Ministers Bernard Kushner and Giulio Terzi, respectively, and former Romanian Prime Minister Peter Roman.