June 21, 2009

The Danger of Hijacked Rallies

State-run TV in Iran is showing demonstrations in other countries such as the US, however with some serious editing. They are not broadcasting the majority of people standing and shouting in solidarity with people in Iran. Rather, they show images of demonstrators who shout, “Death to the Islamic Republic,” while they hold pre-1979 flags of Iran which have come to symbolize the monarchy. Even worse, they show rallies organized by the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran now known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI,MKO, MEK, or PMOI), who are on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations as they have killed Americans and Iranians alike.
State run TV goes on to make statements along the lines of, “These are the organizations which are supporting the ‘rioters’ and ‘terrorists’ that fill the streets of Tehran.” As a contact in Iran said,

The only concern that we have now is the bloody Rajavis (MEK), who now want to benefit from the situation. They are definitely helping the dictators. They are only giving more reasons for cracking down the people. May God protect us all.

There are many reasons for the Iranians and non-Iranians outside Iran to demonstrate. We are tired of refreshing our computer screens for the latest bits of news that come out of Iran and it gives us a sense of release to be with hundreds of others who care about the plight of Iranian demonstrators. Most importantly of all, the protesters in Iran need to know that the world is watching and hasn’t forgotten them. Just as one contact told me, “People risk their lives by taking videos for you [foreign media]. So it helps and motivates us to know that you are out there thinking about us.”
In Paris on June 20, the National Council of Resistance of Iran helped bus in several thousands from all across Europe to hold a rally where the leader of NCRI, Maryam Rajavi spoke. Busing in people from out of town. sound familiar? Just today, June 21, in Washington DC, a rally organized by monarchists – though attended by many non-monarchists – featured Reza Pahlavi, the son of deposed Shah. Many sat down when he arrived, while others moved to the periphery obviously uncomfortable with his presence. Like a celebrity, he spoke for five minutes about democracy in Iran interrupted by cries of “We love you” and was ushered away. “I sensed he was being very opportunistic,” remarked an onlooker.
If one truly aims to help the people in Iran, then one should follow the people lead and not try to hijack their movement by imposing one’s own agenda. Demonstrations outside of Iran should be filled with unity, peace, and reflection for the brave Iranian people fighting for basic freedoms, and void of flags and slogans that undermine their cause with the burden of past political divisions.

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