Thomas Paine once said, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph”. Those words still resonate today and nowhere more so than in the struggle of Iran’s main democratic opposition movement against the religious tyranny of the Iranian regime.
This month the nature of that tyranny has been graphically underlined by the case of an Iranian teenager who faces deportation from Britain, where his asylum case was rejected last year. Mehdi Kazemi, is aged 19 and is homosexual. His boyfriend was executed two years ago – hanged because he was gay: one of 4000 gays executed in Iran since 1979. Mehdi, who came to Britain as a student, will almost certainly face the same capital punishment if he is forced to return.
For more than a quarter century, the Iranian regime has terrorised its people – and for a variety of reasons: notably singling out those who have resisted or dissented.
Currently, Iran’s rulers are carrying out their most ferocious crack down on young people – especially women – in recent years. In January alone, the regime executed at least 32 prisoners, murdered a dissident student in the north-western city of Sanandaj, executed another wounded prisoner laying on a stretcher in the northern city of Khoy, amputated the limbs of five prisoners in the south-eastern city of Zahedan, and sentenced two teenagers to be thrown off a cliff in a sack in the southern city of Shiraz famous for its poets, jasmine, and rose gardens.
Most Iranians who have been executed have died because of their political convictions – their passionate belief in democracy – and because of their refusal to comply with the dictates of this theocratic tyranny.
Since coming to power, the regime has executed more than 120,000 members and sympathisers of the resistance movement (the People’s Mujahedin of Iran: the PMOI), while imprisoning and torturing more than 500,000 others. The regime’s reign of terror has worsened since the instigation as President of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former torturer and executioner at Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Among other things, Ahmadinejad is developing a nuclear programme, has famously called for the annihilation of the State of Israel, and denied that the Holocaust took place.
In the first two months of this year, his regime’s official news agencies reported 55 public executions. This says nothing about those dissidents executed in secret torture centres run by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.
In a 2007 report entitled, “Iran: The Last Executioner of Children”, a human rights organisation reported that the Iranian regime had executed 24 children and a further 71 child offenders were on death row. At the same time, widespread summary arrests, torture, public flogging, amputation of limbs, gouging out of eyes, public hanging and stoning to death are used by the regime to suppress the Iranian people’s demands for their basic rights. Iranian youth, women and labour groups have borne the brunt of this brutality, for it is they, who with the support of the PMOI, are taking on the tyrants in Tehran. University students, women and labour groups have organised dozens of anti-regime protests each month in which they have clashed with Revolutionary Guards while chanting “Death to the Dictator!” and “We would rather die than accept tyranny!” Only a few weeks ago Revolutionary Guards who were beating some women in the streets of Tehran for so-called “mal-veiling” came under attack from hundreds of ordinary Iranians who rescued the women and forced the Revolutionary Guards to retreat. The Revolutionary Guards are now so despised by the Iranian populace that they are forced to wear balaclavas in public.
Outside of Iran’s borders, the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force trains, arms and funds terrorists responsible for atrocities across the Middle East. Responsible for more than 450 terrorist attacks worldwide, the regime has earned the mantle of “most active state sponsor of terrorism”. The Revolutionary Guards produce Improvised Explosive Devices and export them to Iraq and Afghanistan for use against Coalition troops. The regime also actively opposes peace between Palestine and Israel, while attempting to topple the democratically elected government of Lebanon. By fanning the flames of conflict, the regime is able to pursue its expansionist agenda in the region.
Of equal concern is the aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons by the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Despite a third round of UN Security Council resolutions, the regime has made clear it has no intention of abandoning its nuclear programmes. It is the very appeasement of this vile regime, by politicians like Jack Straw and Javier Solana, that has resulted in the present threat. Following the August 2002 revelation of the regime’s nuclear programmes by the PMOI, Britain and the EU pandered to the regime and gave them six more years to further advance their nuclear ambitions.
Apart from their numerous revelations about the Iranian regime’s nuclear programmes and missile delivery systems, the PMOI has been the primary source of information on the regime’s terrorism. It has revealed the sites of factories in Iran mass producing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as the identities of more than 32,000 agents of the Iranian regime operating inside Iraq.
You would therefore have thought that the PMOI enjoys the support of Britain and the EU. Not so. In a shameful and unlawful act of appeasement, at the behest of the regime we blacklisted the PMOI, putting them on a proscribed list with terrorist organisations, thereby restricting the PMOI’s ability to struggle against unspeakable tyranny. Once again, this was motivated by a desire to pander to the Iranian regime.
Despite the preparedness of the British Government to disregard the rule of law, the Courts have stepped in to correct this huge injustice. The Courts have ruled that the Home Secretary’s decision to refuse an application made by 35 MPs and Peers, of whom I was one, calling for deproscription of the PMOI was “flawed”, “perverse” and “must be set aside”. It ordered the Home Secretary to place an order before Parliament removing the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations. The British Government is still trying to defy the Courts.
The regime’s weak point is its lack of popular support.
According to Iran’s parliament-in-exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, students and women were responsible for a major portion of the more than 5000 anti-government protests that were held in Iran last year alone. If the international community lends support to the Iranian people and their Resistance movement, this would undoubtedly force the regime to think twice before unilaterally pressing on with its clandestine nuclear projects and meddling in the affairs of regional states. It would also encourage the population to come out in greater numbers against the regime which is becoming increasingly isolated on the international scene.
Whitehall should now do the right thing – and take a stand against tyranny – by lifting the ban on the PMOI and allowing the Iranian people and their Resistance to bring about democratic change in Iran. Such action, coupled with comprehensive sanctions against the regime at the UN, would be an appropriate response and pave the way for fundamental change in Iran. It might even enable someone like Mehdi Kazemi to return to his homeland in safety.