News fromthe Foundation for Democracy in Iran
Outlawed Iranian opposition group “rents”demonstrators in New York; pro-monarchist groups call for Ahmadinejad arrest
[Photo credits: Kenneth R. Timmerman]
New York, Sept 14, 2005 – An outlawed Iranian opposition group, whichobtained a permit from the New York Police Department to hold a demonstrationin front of the United Nations today, attracted an estimated 2,500 supportersto protest the presence of Iran’s president at the annual meeting of the UNGeneral Assembly.
But many of the crowd, coming from Denmark,Germany, Canada, Eritrea and Sudan, acknowledged that they had been recruitedby the organization to attend the rally for money, and that all their expenses– including international air fare, hotels, and a daily stipend - had been paidby the organization.
“Basically,what you see is “rent-a-crowd,” said Kourosh Kalhour, spokesman for apro-monarchist group, the Constitutionalist Movement of Iran, which held arival demonstration nearby.
TheMujahedin-e Khalq, also known as the MEK, the MKO, was black-listed by theDepartment of State in 1994 as an international terrorist organization becauseits members had assassinated U.S. military officials in Iran in the 1970s.
[Photo: MEK “President” Maryam Rajavi, speakingto supporters in New York via a live satellite feed from Paris]
MEK hitsquads also murdered U.S. employees of Rockwell and other defense contractorsin the 1970s.
Condemnedas a “Marxist Islamic” cult by the former Shah, the MEK played an active rolein the 1979 revolution and supported the taking of U.S. hostages in Tehran. Theorganization today claims that those actions were not condoned by the currentleaders of the organization, but were the actions of a splinter group.
In 1986,the group moved its headquarters from Paris to Baghdad, and attempted to launchan armed invasion of Iran in April 1988, backed by Saddam Hussein. In the 1990s,Saddam used MEK troops to attack opposition militias in the Kurdish safe havenof northern Iraq that today have joined the new Iraqi government.
A frontorganization, the National Council of the Iranian Resistance, has also beenblack-listed by the State Department. Speakers at today’s event, which includeda member of the Canadian parliament, demanded that the United States lift theterrorist designation of the group.
Many U.S.members of Congress have signed letters urging the State Department to removethe group from the terrorist list because they helped to expose the Iranianregime’s secret nuclear programs.
While largenumbers of Iranians enthusiastically waved portraits of MEK leaders Massoud andMiryam Rajavi, hundreds of non-Iranians stood out in the crowd.
MartinPeterson, 26, of Ringe, Denmark, said MEK representatives contacted himrecently in his country and offered to fly him and members of his family to NewYork for the rally. “We thought it was a good cause to support,” he said.
[Photo: Martin Petersson (right), 26, of Ringe,Denmark, says and 70 other Danes were flown to New York for six days, at MEKexpense. Other groups from Germany and France were also flown in for the rallyat MEK expense.]
Peterson said he flew over from Denmark allexpenses paid with a group of 70 Danes, and that similar groups had beenrecruited in Germany and France.
The MEK flew a group of 25 Africans from Sudanand Eritrea to New York from their homes in Ottowa, Canada,
Elizabeth Val, 35, flew down from Ottowa alongwith her three children, thanks to MEK recruiters. “We want to tell the UN thatthe same violations of human rights we see in Iran are happening in Darfur”region of southern Sudan. “We have come to protest human rights violations.”
Traveling with her was Sumia Ibrahim, 40, andAbeba Suleiman, 40 both originally of Eritrea. Both women brought childrenalong, on MEK-paid tickets.
[Photo: Sumia Ibrahim, 40 (left) and ElizabethVal, 35.]
[Photo: Abeeba Suleima, 40, from Eritrea, poseswith her young son.]
Pro-monarchist Iranians demonstrating nearbysaid a group of 21 MEK-protestors had flown with them overnight from LosAngeles, and talked openly of how they had been recruited by the MEK for therally.
Rival demonstrations of U.S.-based Iranian exilegroups gathered an estimated 800 people outside the UN. Some came in buses fromWashington, DC, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Others flew in on agroup charter from Los Angeles, with each person paying their own way.
“We worked very hard to bring together peoplewho normally don’t talk to each other,” said Roozbeh Farahanipour, secretary generalof Iranians for a Secular Republic (Marzepor Gohar). Farahanipour was a keyleader in the July 1999 student uprising in Tehran and fled to the UnitedStates two years later.
[Photo: Roozbeh Farahanipour (left).
While not a monarchist, Farahanipour said hefelt it was important for Iranian opposition groups who supported non-violentregime change to work together.
“That is the important thing,” said Zia Atabay,a prominent broadcaster who founded National Iranian TV in Los Angeles. “Herewe have all these groups together, even if normally they don’t talk.”
[Photo: National Iranian TV broadcaster ZiaAtabay (with cellphone) speaks with Aryo Pirouznia, who heads the StudentMovement Coordinating Committee for a Democratic Iran (SMCCDI), one of theorganizers of the rival (non-MEK) rally.]
Several speakers called for the United States toprevent Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from holding lobbying sessionswith pro-regime groups during his stay in new York.
Others called on the U.S. to arrest him onterrorism charges, stemming from his involvement in the 1979-1981 hostagecrisis and his role in the murder of Iranian dissidents in Vienna, Austria andelsewhere.
[FDI Executive DirectorKenneth R. Timmerman called on NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to send home IslamicRepublic president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad]
Non-monarchist groups held a separate rallyearlier in the day that included leaders of Marzepor Gohar, Iran Society, SOSIran, Alliance of Iranians (Texas), National Iranian Congress, SocialDemocrats, Iranian Council, Iran of Tomorrow, the Pan-Iran party, and the Student Movement Coordinating Committee for a Democratic Iran(SMCCDI). Members of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran protestedseparately.
Copyright©2005, Kenneth R. Timmerman
All photoscredit: Kenneth R. Timmerman