- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Protest and tears

Zolal Habibi carried a book the size of a telephone directory with page after page of photographs of dissidents killed by the Iranian regime.

Her father is in this book of the dead that she showed to reporters yesterday at The Washington Times, as she discussed plans for a massive protest in Washington tomorrow.

“My father was killed when I was 7,” said the 23-year-old Iranian American. “That was hard for me. I was daddy’s little girl,” she said. “I cried for days, then I promised myself I would never cry again. … I didn’t cry for years.”

It is hard for Iranian exiles not to shed tears for their country, consumed by a theocratic terror since 1979. Miss Habibi said every exile or Iranian American she knows has a relative or a friend killed by the regime or fighting against it.

That is why she is distressed by the confusing signals sent by Washington. While President Bush called the Iranian regime part of an “axis of evil,” his administration has not lifted the terrorist label the Clinton administration imposed on the resistance, known as the People’s Mujahideen of Iran.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces in Iraq are protecting more than 3,800 members of the resistance at a base camp 60 miles northwest of Baghdad, after a 16-month investigation found no evidence that any of them were involved in terrorism. The resistance used the camp to launch attacks on the Iranian regime until U.S. forces disarmed them last year during the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Miss Habibi, who works to promote Iranian civil rights as part of the Women’s Freedom Forum, said tomorrow’s demonstration will call on the United States to lift the terrorist label and will denounce the European Union for reaching an agreement with the Iranian regime over its suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Miss Habibi was raised in Northern Virginia after her father got the family out of Iran before the shah fell in 1979. He returned to join a nascent resistance and was later reported dead. His body was never recovered.

Her mother left shortly after the death of her husband to join the resistance and is one of the Iranians now under U.S. protection.

Miss Habibi’s colleague, Mahin Shaikhi, 25, said her parents are also in the camp with the resistance.

“These people have given up everything for the cause of freedom and to label them terrorists doesn’t make sense,” Mrs. Shaikhi said, as she dabbed a tissue to wipe away her tears.

“I haven’t seen my parents in many, many years. But I want their cause to be just.”

Ali Safavi, president of Near East Policy Research, said he expects “thousands and thousands” of Iranians at the protest, which will begin at noon at Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues Northwest.

“This will be the biggest of its kind so far in the United States in the past few years,” Mr. Safavi said.

He said members of Congress, several European politicians and several Iraqi representatives will speak at the rally.

“The movement has a lot of support in Iraq,” he said.

Mr. Safavi said the deal the European Union reached with the Iranian regimes provides no firm guarantees that Iran will stop producing nuclear material, but it requires European governments to treat the Iranian resistance as terrorists.

“The speakers at the rally will denounce appeasement. They will denounce the EU deal,” he said. “A nuclear Iran would be a nightmare for the rest of the world.”

Envoy to lobbyist

Robert D. Blackwill, a former U.S. ambassador to India and special adviser to President Bush, has joined the Republican lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers.

Mr. Blackwill, who also served as a special presidential envoy to Iraq, was most recently deputy national security adviser for strategic planning.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-

7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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