LONDON: Hundreds of Iranian Americans whose relatives were executed more than three decades ago following sham trials involving new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took part in a rally in Washington on Monday. They were calling on the US and its allies to hold him accountable for his crimes against humanity.
A number of current and former officials involved in US foreign policy spoke during the rally, at which Arab News was present. They expressed their support for the demonstrators, adding their voices to the calls for justice and for the Iranian regime to be held accountable for its actions.
The rally, hosted in the grounds of the Capitol Building by the Organization of Iranian American Communities, took place the day before Raisi was due to be officially inaugurated as the president of Iran.
The participants had a clear message for the Biden administration and the wider international community: Raisi is not a leader but an international war criminal, and should be treated as such.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the crowd: “For too long the Iranian people have suffered at the hands of (Supreme Leader) Ali Khamenei and Ebrahim Raisi. Their cries for freedom and justice ring across the world and have the support of freedom-loving Americans.
“We will stand with the families of those massacred, and strenuously encourage the Biden administration to hold Raisi and Khamenei accountable through sanctions and pressing for Raisi’s prosecution for crimes against humanity.”
Many people Arab News talked to during the event said their loved ones were killed in the late 1980s while Raisi, at the time a prosecutor for Tehran, presided over what Amnesty International dubbed “death commissions” — sham trials of political prisoners following the Iran-Iraq war. Thousands were executed for their affiliation with or support for Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian revolutionary opposition group that fell out of favor with the regime and was violently crushed. Everyone Arab News spoke to during the rally said they continue to support the MEK.
Eshrat Dehghan said that she lost three of her sons to the death commissions. For these crimes and thousands of others, she said Raisi “should not be allowed into the UN.”
“The Biden administration should support the people of Iran and the MEK in their struggle against the regime,” said Dehghan, who was herself tortured by the regime, as a result of which she has to use a stick to help her walk.
Listed for many years as a terrorist organization, the MEK was removed from the US and European terror lists in 2012. This was a victory for Lincoln Bloomfield, who had served as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs in the Bush Administration and exhaustively investigated the claims of terrorism leveled against the MEK.
He told Arab News that his investigation found no evidence that the group had targeted the US or its allies with terrorism.
“If there had been any indication of targeting civilians, children or innocent people that would be different — but this is legitimate resistance to tyranny,” he said.
Marc Ginsberg, a former adviser on the Middle East to the White House, and a long-time US diplomat, told Arab News that a lethal drone attack on an Israeli-owned cargo tanker on Saturday was “just one more reason” to hold Raisi and the Iranian regime to account.
“I’m in favor of doing everything possible to undermine this regime and its ability to continue to repress, to instigate violence and incite terrorism in the Middle East,” he said. “Even if (the regime) agrees to roll back their violations of the Iran nuclear agreement, that’s still never going to accomplish the objective of preventing them from developing a nuclear weapon.”
The former ambassador also said that aside from its nuclear activity, Tehran continues to refuse to halt its other destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East, and would use the “lifeline” of sanctions relief to further those activities.
“They will not agree to constraints on their ballistic-missile program and they certainly are not going to give up their support for Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Hamas (in Palestine), the Houthi rebels (in Yemen) or Syria’s Assad regime,” said Ginsberg.
“All they want is sanctions relief. Their question is: how little can we give up in exchange for sanctions relief? For them, sanctions relief is the only game in town.”