A multi-partisan group of Italian senators and members of parliament held a conference on Wednesday to express support for Iranian protesters and pro-democracy activists, and to call for changes in Italian and European Union policies toward the Islamic Republic. The conference coincided with the release of a statement, signed by a majority of Italian senators, “supporting the Iranian people in their struggle for a secular and democratic republic.”
Both the statement and conference made explicit reference to the National Council of Resistance of Iran as the prospective guarantor of that future system of government. The lawmakers also pointed to a “ten-point plan” for transition to this system, authored by Maryam Rajavi, the individual designated by the NCRI to serve as transitional president when the current regime is overthrown.
In advance of the conference, former Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, now head of the Senate European Union Affairs Committee, led an Italian delegation in meeting with Mrs. Rajavi at Ashraf-3, in Albania where thousands of members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK), NCRI’s main constituent group are located. Approximately 3,000 members of the PMOI currently reside at the self-built community, having relocated from Iraq after the US withdrawal left them at risk of recurring attacks from Iranian regime proxy groups there.
A number of speakers addressed the visit during Wednesday’s conference, generally describing it as an eye-opening experience and a reminder both of Iran’s bleak modern history and of its prospect for a much brighter future.
MP Stafania Ascaria declared that “all lawmakers should visit the Ashraf-3 museum and see what the people of Iran have endured.” She went on to praise the decades-long resilience of Iranian protesters who have been targets of violent attacks, torture, and even execution, before predicting that Iran’s activist community will “continue to resist to achieve a free and democratic country.” Ascaria concluded by telling her fellow lawmakers, “we must do everything we can to stand in solidarity with them.”
Another member of the delegation to Ashraf-3, Emanuele Pozzolo, echoed the sentiment while highlighting the fact that Iran’s organized opposition movement has also be the target of a tireless propaganda campaign by the regime. “The foreign policy of Western countries must be based on reality, not the regime’s lies,” he said.
The reality, according to several participants in the conference on “the road map toward a democratic Iran,” is that the NCRI and the residents of Ashraf-3 represent the true political will of the Iranian people. Addressing them directly in his speech, Mr. Terzi said, “You are the true voice of the Iranian people that the regime wants to suppress. The European Union should see what we saw in Ashraf and correct its policy regarding Iran.”
The prior statement of solidarity by the Senate majority provided additional detail as to what a “corrected” policy might consist of. It urged the international community to “stand with the Iranian people in their quest for change and to take decisive steps against the current regime. This includes blacklisting the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and holding regime officials accountable for their crimes against humanity.”
The IRGC is widely recognized as the main instrument of repression in Iran, as well as being the primary backer of Iran’s militant proxies and malign activities in the region, including attacks on Iranian dissidents. The hardline paramilitary and its volunteer militia, the Basij, are credited with opening fire on peaceful protesters and carrying out often fatal beatings during the seven months since a nationwide uprising broke out following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, at the hands of “morality police” who took issue with the arrangement of her mandatory head covering.
According to intelligence gathered from across Iran by the MEK, more than 750 people have been killed in IRGC-led crackdowns since September, including approximately 70 children. The MEK also estimates that over 30,000 activists have been arrested during the same time – a figure that is coincidentally similar to the estimated number of victims of Iran’s mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, which primarily targeted the MEK. During another uprising in November 2019, mass shootings by the IRGC killed approximately 1,500 people.
In a remote address to the Italian conference, Mrs. Rajavi referred to the uprisings of 2019 and 2022 as part of an overall “tide of uprisings” that suggest “the clerical regime is unable to maintain its rule.” She attributed the continuation of this trend, in large part, to the actions of a network of “Resistance Units” that have been operating throughout the Islamic Republic since 2014.
“It is time for Western governments to fundamentally reassess their Iran policies and stand in solidarity with the Iranian people,” Rajavi said. “The Iranian people’s determination to achieve freedom and democracy cannot be suppressed.”
She welcomed the Italian Senators’ statement as a meaningful step in the direction of the appropriate policy change, but expressed concern over the persistence of dealings between European governments and the Iranian regime. “The world community, including Italy, cannot deal with the religious dictatorship ruling Iran with their previous assessments and approach,” she said. “This is not only against the interests of the Iranian people, who seek to overthrow this regime but against global peace and security that are threatened by this regime
In the interest of changing this approach, Mr. Terzi recommended that his colleagues’ statement become “the basis of our foreign policy toward the regime in Iran.” He went on: “As emphasized in [Maryam Rajavi’s] ten-point plan, the regime must be replaced by an interim government enabling the people to choose the state they want to live in.” The Italian senators stressed
In endorsing that ten-point plan, the Senators’ statement noted that it “stands for free elections, freedom of assembly and expression, abolition of the death penalty, gender equality, the separation of religion and state, autonomy for Iran’s ethnicities, and a non-nuclear Iran. These are the same values that we defend in democratic countries.”
The statement also stressed that “The IRGC should be included in the terrorist list.”