- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Now free in the West, recently escaped political dissidents say Iran’s regime has grown more oppressive since its nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers that had hoped the agreement would moderate the Islamic-ruled nation.

The protesters also say the billions of dollars in cash the U.S. shipped to Iran, plus the West’s release of frozen Iranian bank assets, already have been diverted to Iran’s expansionist armies in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

“Every deal, every negotiation with the regime, it means additional gallows in Iran,” says Shabnam Madadzadeh, 29, who gained fame as a student organizer at Tehran’s Tarbiat Moalem University. She spent five harsh years in confinement, including in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, but she did not break.

Just a few weeks ago, Ms. Madadzadeh escaped her home country via a clandestine network operated by the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, or MEK. She surfaced in Paris and appeared Saturday at a conference with other Iranians opposed to the hard-line mullahs who run the country.

“Iranian people do not want negotiations with this regime, and they hate appeasement policy with this regime,” Ms. Madadzadeh told The Washington Times. “They want the world, European governments and United Nations and the U.S. to stay firmly against the regime’s policy of violence against human rights — the regime’s crimes in Iran and Syria and exporting terrorism in the world. Iranian people want a change in regime by themselves and resistance.”

A 2010 State Department report on human rights violations in Iran singled out the vindictive prosecutor who imprisons dissidents. One of his victims: Ms. Madadzadeh.

The report said: “Tehran public prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, the most notorious persecutor of political dissidents and critics. According to international press reports, Mortazavi was put in charge of interrogations at Evin prison, where most of the [2009] post-election protesters were detained.

“On February 19, authorities arrested Shabnam Madadzadeh, a member of the Islamic Association and deputy general secretary of the student organization Tahkim Vahdat, along with her brother Farzad Madadzadeh. Authorities accused her of disseminating propaganda against the state and ‘enmity with God.’ Despite her lawyer’s protests against her detention, the judge refused to assign a bond for her release, arguing that she was a flight risk. As of mid-October, she was reportedly being held in the women’s general section of Evin prison,” the report stated.

A year later the State Department reported that Ms. Madadzadeh was sentenced to five years in prison for spreading anti-state propaganda. Her lawyer was not present in the courtroom; authorities had detained him for protesting the death sentence of a teenager on a charge of murder.

Another recent escapee is Arash Mohammadi, 25. He took part in street demonstrations in Tehran over the results of the 2009 election, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected amid charges of ballot fraud. Current President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013.

“I was on the streets,” Mr. Mohammadi said in his native Farsi, through an MEK interpreter. “The chants, ‘Obama, Obama, are you with them or with us?’”

President Obama did not speak out in support of protesters. He was in the process of reaching out to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Like Ms. Madadzadeh, Mr. Mohammadi sneaked out of Iran a few weeks ago. Both are seeking asylum in Europe.

As a college student, Mr. Mohammadi was arrested three times for publicly protesting against the regime. He was imprisoned for two years, during which intelligence interrogators beat and threatened him. Eventually they offered him money to denounce the MEK and become an accepted reformist. He says he refused and now plans to be “a voice for the voiceless.”

His message to President-elect Donald Trump: “The responsibility for change is with me and my generation. We are the force for change. If the West wants to have a good reputation in Iran, my point is, side with us. Side with the resistance. History will remember you in a good way. That’s for your betterment and for Iranian people’s betterment.”

The two dissidents’ contention that human rights abuses are getting worse, not better, since the April 2015 nuclear deal appears to be supported by the U.N.

In October, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon issued a report that condemned Iran’s treatment of its people.

“Human rights violations have continued at an alarming rate,” Mr. Ban said. “In particular, a significant number of executions took place, including of individuals who were juveniles at the time of the alleged offense; corporal punishment, including flogging, persisted; the treatment of journalists and human rights defenders remained of concern, as raised by several United Nations human rights mechanisms; and religious and ethnic minorities continued to face persecution and prosecution.

“At least 966 people were reportedly executed in 2015, the highest such number in over two decades, in continuation of an upward trend that began in 2008. During the first half of 2016, at least 200 people were executed. Executions are often carried out following trials that fall short of the international fair trial standards guaranteed.”

Tehran said most prisoners were executed for drug trafficking.

Ms. Madadzadeh said the new money flowing in from the West is not going to alleviate poverty, create jobs or stop rampant child labor, but is being funneled to the Revolutionary Guard Corps and its overseas operations.

“Nothing changed in Iran’s people’s life” she said. “The deal was just with the regime. The guards of the regime, the one that was spending money to export terrorism and was spent in Syria and [for] the suppression of the Iranian people. Not for the freedom. Not for people. “

She spent five horrible years in various prisons, including Evin’s notorious Section 209 run by the Ministry of Intelligence. She says she was beaten, threatened with rape and subjected to fake executions.

“They pushed me and beat me and asked me to say what they wanted,” she says. “Speak out against the Mujahedin.”

MEK is the largest member of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, directed by Maryam Rajavi.

It operates an extensive clandestine network inside Iran and pointed out to the West secret facilities for Tehran’s nuclear weapons research.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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