By Struan Stevenson
They have signed a joint resolution “expressing support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Republic of Iran and condemning violations of human rights and state-sponsored terrorism by the Iranian government.”
The ground-breaking resolution draws the president’s attention to a long list of crimes and transgressions by the theocratic regime, beginning with a reminder that in 2017, following months of protests across more than 100 cities in Iran, the mullahs’ regime used excessive force against the unarmed protesters, killing at least 25 and arresting more than 4,000, some of whom have subsequently been executed, like Navid Afkari, the champion wrestler.
The resolution also refers to the even greater nationwide protests, which erupted in November 2019. Once again, the mullahs deployed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, their Gestapo, to crush the uprising, killing an estimated 1,500 and detaining around 20,000, many of whom have been tortured and executed.
The ongoing abuse of human rights and women’s rights is highlighted by the members of Congress, citing Amnesty International‘s report dated Sept. 2, 2020, which describes cases of protesters being subjected to “‘widespread torture, including beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances and deprivation of medical care.”
The mass protests are continuing, even during the pandemic. Last week, serious demonstrations erupted in the city of Saravan, in one of the most deprived provinces in Iran, Sistan and Baluchestan, on the border with Pakistan. Using truck-mounted machine guns, the IRGC and border guards shot dead more than 40 unarmed protesters and critically injured over 100. The city is ablaze.
Despite the best intentions of the members of Congress, the only thing that is likely to achieve their objectives would be regime change. Eighty million Iranians have suffered violent oppression and abuse for more than 42 years, since the mullahs seized power in 1979. The vicious crackdowns on repeated uprisings have served to harden the resolve of the people to overthrow this corrupt, clerical regime. Resistance units, inspired by the main democratic opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have sprung up in every town and city in Iran. Graffiti and posters supporting the MEK appear regularly on walls and bridges, stuck up by resistance fighters who know they face execution if they are caught. But the people have lost their fear.
Even pensioners and retirees have taken to the streets in nationwide protests. Thousands are chanting: “We won’t rest until we get our rights,” “Unity is the only way to get our rights,” “Enough of hollow promises, enough oppression and injustice, our tables are empty,” “Pension funds are plundered,” “We are paid in rials [Persian currency equal to 0.000024 USD], while our expenses are in dollars,” “The nation has never seen so much injustice,” “We are outraged by so much injustice,” “Shame on the Social Security,” “Neither the parliament nor the government care about the nation,” “The judiciary has wrecked the Pension Fund.”
The seething unrest across every strata of Iranian society is a sure sign that the clerical regime’s days are numbered. They have even presided over a disastrous campaign to control the pandemic, telling the world that the total death toll is only 59,000, while in reality, MEK resistance units have reported the true figure is over 220,000.
That is why the resolution from the members of Congress is so important. As Biden and his Secretary of State Tony Blinken move cautiously toward reopening diplomatic negotiations with the mullahs over the stalled nuclear deal, they risk breathing life into the decaying corpse of the fascist regime. They must not fall into the trap of seeking to appease the mullahs by lifting sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump in his “maximum pressure” campaign.
They should instead pay attention to the text of the resolution and hold the Islamic Republic accountable for its crimes at home and abroad. They should take careful note where the 120 members of Congress focus on the clerical regime’s brutal suppression of ethnic minorities, including Iranian Kurds, Baluchis and Arabs, as well as religious minorities such as Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Zoroastrians and even Sunni Muslims, who are regularly deprived of their basic human rights and often face arrest, torture and execution.
The Biden administration should also hold the mullahs accountable for the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political dissidents in one of the worst crimes against humanity of the late 20th century. The resolution cites details of how “death commissions” supervised the arbitrary trial and execution of supporters of the MEK. Their bodies were then thrown into unmarked graves and any family members or loved ones who attempted to investigate their disappearance face arrest and lengthy prison sentences. The massacre has now become the subject of a report by seven U.N. human rights experts demanding an independent inquiry, in what Amnesty International has described as a “momentous breakthrough” in the case.
Following the recent trial and sentencing of the Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, and his three Iranian co-conspirators, who attempted to bomb a mass rally of MEK supporters and their allies at Villepinte, near Paris, in June 2018, there can be no question of reopening diplomatic negotiations with this criminal regime.
Any nation that openly abuses the diplomatic code by ordering one of its diplomats to carry a bomb in his diplomatic bag to Europe on a commercial flight and to kill and maim hundreds of people, has renounced the right to be treated with anything other than contempt. Assadi’s bomb plot was clearly instructed from the top leadership of the Iranian regime and Biden would be well advised to sever all relations with Iran and support the worldwide closure of its embassies.
The resolution from the members of Congress ends by asking the U.S. government to stand “with the people of Iran, who are continuing to hold legitimate and peaceful protests against an oppressive and corrupt regime.” It can only be hoped that Biden will listen to these 120 members of the House of Representatives who signed this groundbreaking resolution. The time for diplomacy is over. The time for action against this evil regime has come.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. 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 president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.