Ingrid Betancourt, former senator and presidential candidate from Columbia
Speech to the International Conference at Ashraf 3 marking the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Iranian Resistance, June 20, 2020
It is an honor to join you all, this afternoon!
We are commemorating a lifetime -40 years – of Resistance for freedom…
I was 18 years old, and I remember the sheer sense of frustration …
Because, since the beginning, the mullahs’ regime betrayed the dreams of the Iranian people after overthrowing the Shah’s dictatorship.
By June 1981, all freedoms gained from the Iranian people’s revolution, had disappeared, and thousands of supporters of the MEK were killed, injured, and imprisoned.
Forty years ago, on June 20, 1981, the MEK called for a peaceful demonstration protesting the emergence of a new dictatorship, this time a religious one.
Just in Teheran half a million people turned out in the streets, an hour after the MEK’s call.
Let’s just picture the moment: as the demonstrators were marching towards the Parliament, more and more people began joining in, gaining momentum. Young people (my age, 18 years old at the time) women, men, children, … Khomeini, the regime’s first Supreme Leader, publicly ordered the Islamic Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the crowd.
They killed, arrested, and started mass executions of thousands of prisoners without any trial. It was a bloodshed. It was the beginning of the Iranian nightmare.
June 20, 1981 marks this turning point in Iran’s history, and the beginning of an all-out resistance against the clerical regime.
Thanks to the evidence gathered by the MEK, we now know that the regime has executed 120,000 people since 1979, mostly of the MEK, imprisoned and tortured for years.
We also know that the disastrous war with Iraq was a cover for its domestic suppression and to establish its dictatorship under the pretext of war.
This explains why, in the past 40 years, the Iranian regime has resorted to all possible means to destroy the Resistance and its most organized popular expression, namely the MEK.
In 1988, in a matter of months, the regime executed more than 30,000 political prisoners.
At the same time, the regime’s disinformation campaign against the MEK was launched. Its diplomacy has been used to obtain appeasement policies from Western countries, and to ban, deport, expel, and extradite members of the MEK.
But contrary to the regime’s claims, lobbies and apologists, the Iranian people have never never accepted the clerical rule. They have, indeed, waged the most heroic resistance for 40 years. And we are proud to have been part of it, even in a very small scale, but with all the power of our hearts.
We cannot continue to be blind today to the fact that the Iranian people’s uprisings in 2017, in 2018 and in 2019 have been voicing the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime.
Slogans included things like: “Reformer, Hardliners, the game is over”, “death to Khamenei”, “our enemy is right here, not in America”. These calls are aligned with the MEK’s persistent demands.
In 2019, from the first day, the regime shut down internet access to disrupt communication about the scale of the uprising, and about the atrocities of the regime forces.
The regime resorted to brutal violence killing at least 1,500 people and arresting more than 10,000 and sentencing some to death.
But the uprising showed that the overthrow of the regime is possible and that the role of an organized opposition like the MEK is not only instrumental but essential to its success.
This year 2020, while the whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic, in Iran, the regime has exploited the coronavirus crisis as a shield against public protests and uprisings.
At least 51,000 people have died from the coronavirus but the Iranian regime officially claims less than 10,000.
Unlike other countries, the regime did not provide any financial help to the people who lost their jobs, but the regime paid its terrorist mercenaries five times more than nurses fighting the coronavirus and saving lives in Iran.
So, as we commemorate the 40th year of heroic resistance of the people of Iran, we are also acknowledging that:
- The MEK is the only organized opposition in Iran that has survived in the land and outside its borders, attracting the best and the brightest of its peoples, from all generations and from all its ethnical diversity.
- The MEK is the only organization in the world that has fully embraced gender equality. Imagine, facing the most misogynistic country in the world, there is a woman leading the way! And we’re very proud of it.
- And it is also the only organization in the world that has full knowledge on the threat of Islamic extremism and that fully challenges those who exploit Islam as a weapon against peace, freedom, and modern societies.
So, today, the Iranian regime faces its most severe political crisis of its 40 years of existence. So, yes, the regime is at an impasse with no solutions.
Its leaders, including Khamenei, know that “the game is over” …
And we, all of us, united today virtually and but also physically in Iran, we know that for Iran to unlock the door to its democracy and to peace, Maryam Rajavi and the MEK are the key.
We are ready for the last call from the MEK, when not half a million, but tens of millions of Iranians will gather with the might and power of justice, to overthrow the criminal rulers of Iran.
In Colombia, we won our independence under the rallying call: “armas a discreción, paso de vencedores”
Today I say to you: There is no way back, we are marching at victory pace!