Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the world’s largest Iranian dissident organization, which seeks to replace Iran’s theocratic regime with a democracy, provided the following exclusive answers to questions from The Washington Times.
TWT: Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi has been chosen as Iran‘s next president. Human Rights Watch and others accuse him of a prominent role in ordering the 1988 execution of thousands of political prisoners. What is your reaction to his ascension to the presidency?
Maryam Rjavi: Ebrahim Raisi, who is berated by the Iranian people as the “Henchman of 1988” for his role in the massacre of political prisoners, is Khamenei‘s last-ditch attempt to preserve clerical rule. No other outcome could more accurately display the regime’s sheer political desperation and impending overthrow. The religious dictatorship has emerged weaker and more fragile out of its presidential elections. Raisi‘s emergence shows that as the regime’s death throes begin, Khamenei cannot trust even some of his closest apparatchiks and instead needs to put someone in place who has been completely and unconditionally immersed in the brutal massacre of dissidents. So, ultimately, Khamenei had no other option but to swallow both the scorn associated with installing such a murderer as president as well as the disgrace resulting from the nationwide boycott of the sham election. For his part, Raisi must face justice in an international tribunal for committing crimes against humanity, particularly the 1988 massacre.
TWT: How does Mr. Raisi‘s arrival to the presidency stand to impact the Biden administration’s pursuit of diplomacy with Iran and negotiations toward a new nuclear deal?
Mrs. Rajavi: We have reiterated time and again that preventing a nuclear-armed theocracy cannot be accomplished by gracing the mullahs with concessions. The experience of the past 40 years has made it clear that duplicity, denial, and deception are part of this regime’s DNA, and it simply exploits the negotiation process. The policy of appeasement has emboldened the mullahs. After the 2015 nuclear deal, the regime did not stop its secret activities to develop a nuclear weapon. To the contrary, it intensified its destructive activities in the region as well as its terrorism in Europe. The international community has no justification to negotiate with or appease a regime whose next president is one of the most notorious criminals against humanity in modern times. The world must stand firm against the ruling religious fascism and alongside the Iranian people and their struggle for overthrow and establishment of a democratic republic. It has now been proven and the world has clearly seen with its own eyes that the Iranian people’s vote is to overthrow the regime. Any negotiations or cooperation with this regime would simply serve the suppression and murder of the Iranian people and facilitate the regime’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons and set the region on fire.
TWT: Iran‘s Interior Ministry said voter turnout was the lowest since the 1979 revolution. Do you believe your organization’s boycott of the election played a role in the low turnout? Why did you advocate for a boycott?
Mrs. Rajavi: Over the past four decades, the NCRI has boycotted the regime’s sham elections while exposing the mullahs’ rigging and exaggeration of voter turnout. This time, however, the boycott of the elections had much broader proportions. During the past several years, Resistance Units inside Iran conducted thousands of activities to raise awareness and to expose the regime. This year, their activities coalesced around calling for the boycott, which had a powerful impact. The boycott dealt the greatest political and social blow to Khamenei and the religious tyranny. Based on reports compiled by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) inside Iran from thousands of polling stations, more than 90% of the people refused to participate in the regime’s elections. Despite the astronomical rigging, the scope of the nationwide boycott was so extensive that the regime itself was forced to announce only a 48% voter turnout, 13% of which was comprised of void ballots. This means that even the official voter turnout does not surpass 42%. Compare this figure to the regime’s declared turnout of 73% in 2017. These figures are even more abysmal in the capital Tehran, at 26%.
TWT: Mr. Raisi was rumored as a potential successor of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. What is your view of Khamenei‘s future influence? Do you anticipate the current regime will survive if he dies?
Mrs. Rajavi: The indisputable fact is that since the 2017 nationwide uprisings, the Iranian regime has entered a phase that will end in its inevitable overthrow. There have been four rounds of massive nationwide uprisings, along with thousands of continuing protests, strikes and acts of defiance across the country. The regime is incapable of offering political or economic solutions to curb popular unrest, as evidenced in recent protests by oil and gas workers. Khamenei is now in a desperate situation. Whatever step he takes would produce a more antagonistic society, which explains why Khamenei felt a dire need for Raisi‘s presidency to control the situation. But this change will make the entire regime more vulnerable in the face of social unrest. The Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance will have the final say. The November 2019 uprisings presented a comprehensive and impressive model for how the popular force of rebellion and uprisings can ultimately bring about the regime’s overthrow.
TWT: Your organization advocates “regime change” in Iran. If the government in Tehran were to fall or be overthrown, would your movement support free and fair elections? What type of successor government would you support?
Mrs. Rajavi: We have consistently declared that we seek free elections based on people’s sovereignty and not on absolute clerical rule. We say “no” to the clerical regime and “yes” to a democratic, pluralist, and representative republic based on free elections, separation of religion and state, gender equality, abolition of the death penalty, elimination of all forms of discrimination against followers of different religions, and autonomy for ethnic minorities. According to the first article of the NCRI’s platform, following the overthrow of the clerical regime, the provisional government is “essentially tasked with transferring power to the Iranian people.” This mandate is to be fulfilled by the end of a maximum six-month period after the clerical regime’s overthrow and accomplished by the establishment of the “National Constituent and Legislative Assembly” through free elections, with direct, equal, and secret ballots cast by the people of Iran. State power and sovereignty belongs to the Iranian people’s republic.
TWT: In its propaganda, the Iranian regime accuses your movement as being a “cult,” whose followers are brainwashed. What is your response to this allegation?
Mrs. Rajavi: For a regime as riddled with crises as the ruling theocracy in Iran, eliminating the only viable democratic alternative to guarantee its own survival is of paramount importance. Having failed to achieve that goal through murder, massacres, and terrorism, it has resorted to an extensive and well-funded demonization campaign to convince international interlocutors that there is no alternative to the current medieval theocracy. Security services in various European countries have repeatedly exposed the regime’s tactics through the years. For example, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) reported, “AIVD has discovered that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence runs a European network. … They are tasked with negatively influencing public opinion about the MEK.” Independent European courts have rejected the regime’s propaganda as baseless and absurd. Since the 1990s, the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV) has noted that the MEK and NCRI “continue to top the list of espionage targets for Iranian intelligence services,” and that “Iranian intelligence services publish hostile content against the MEK, some of which are distributed by former MEK members. The objective of these publications is to discourage readers from sympathizing with this organization.”
TWT: In 2013, you wrote the book “Women Against Fundamentalism.” Your movement is unique among resistance movements around the world in that women are leading it. Do you believe that is significant? Why?
Mrs. Rajavi: The most distinctive attribute of the clerical regime is its misogyny. To date, the mullahs have tortured or executed tens of thousands of Iranian women for their struggle against the regime. Some of these women were executed during the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Our movement is unique because women occupy the highest positions of leadership. The Resistance has also educated a generation of men who are devoted and committed to the ideal of equality. More than 50% of the membership of the parliament-in-exile NCRI is comprised of women. In our view, respect for gender equality is an essential and critical part of the struggle to overthrow the religious tyranny and a guarantee for democracy in tomorrow’s Iran. The NCRI’s official platform declares that women must enjoy equal legal rights and fundamental freedoms, including an equal right to participate in the country’s political leadership. Women must enjoy the right to freely choose their form of clothing and the regime’s compulsory veiling laws must be repealed. In the Iran of tomorrow all forms of violence against women and the mullahs’ Sharia laws will be annulled and discarded.
TWT: In what way is your organization’s gathering this year different from previous gatherings? What do you hope this year’s rally will achieve and what message does it have for the international community and the United States?
Mrs. Rajavi: Iranian society is a powder keg on the verge of explosion. More ferocious and extensive uprisings are waiting to erupt at a moment’s notice. A desperate Khamenei has found his only option for the regime’s survival to be closing ranks and abandoning the spent theatrics of fraudulent reform or moderation. At the same time, the organized resistance movement is gaining ground and momentum is building through a rapid expansion and rise in the activities of Resistance Units inside Iran. Internationally, the Resistance is making advances after winning growing solidarity and support from the people’s elected representatives in Europe and in the United States. The conviction and imprisonment of the regime’s diplomat-terrorist in Europe last February for the foiled terrorist plot against the gathering in Paris in 2018, and revelations about the regime’s sleeper cells and infiltrators, have frustrated the mullahs’ demonization campaigns against the Iranian Resistance. Now, Iran is on the brink of a seismic change. So, when it comes to the historic confrontation between the Iranian people and the most serious threat to global peace and security, the July summit will invite all governments and international institutions to stand with the people of Iran. The bipartisan House Resolution 118, which is sponsored by a majority of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, offers a credible policy orientation for governments and the international community vis-a-vis Iran. The House majority has declared that it “recognizes the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular, and nonnuclear Republic of Iran.”