Yesterday, the EU foreign ministers voted to remove the Peoples Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) from the EU terrorist list. The Foreign minister of the Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg, who evidently presided at the meeting, and his compatriots lived under totalitarianism for decades until 1989 and most of them appear to believe strongly in the rule of law, human dignity and multiparty democracy. Many counted on him and a number of other ministers to do the correct thing for the correct reasons. Congratulations to all those ministers, including Schwarzenberg for his call for direct and early talks between the Obama administration and Tehran.
Human costs of the long-delayed decision
Rule of law advocates in Europe and beyond are no doubt pleased with the ministers decision this week in Brussels. Consider, however, only some of the human consequences of what was in reality a decision forced on them by seven judicial rulings in the EU and UK:
1- PMOI members and supporters across Europe have suffered severely in many ways during their seven year legal battle for legalization.
2-The regime in Tehran used the now-declared illegal terrorist label in Europe and elsewhere as yet another excuse to persecute PMOI supporters of all ages without mercy across Iran.
3-The PMOI simply had to win the legal battle, which required diverting virtually all of its human resources, finances and energy from its main goal of achieving the rule of law, human dignity and multiparty democracy in Iran.
4-During these lost years, the EU was in effect a partner of the mullahs, together inflicting enormous harm on many PMOI supporters across Europe.
The Iranian media have been claiming these past few days that "a number of people" have been protesting outside some European embassies in Tehran. In other words, the mullahs have so little support among about 70 million Iranians that they cannot even find a significant number of people to demonstrate.
Canada and PMOI
We Canadians have no lessons to offer on confused thinking in this sorry matter. The government of Paul Martin added the PMOI to its list of proscribed entities in May 2005. The only explanation by government officials at the time was that it "met the threshold of being a listed entity". The timing was bizarre in that the regime had brutally murdered Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison two years earlier after she attempted to photograph a student protest in Tehran.
Only last fall, a Canadian-led campaign won a major victory at the United Nations. A General Assembly committee defeated Iran's call not to consider a long list of human rights indignities alleged against it. The vote on censure, which highlighted regime abuses, including flogging and amputations, passed. Despite this, the Harper government recently decided to continue listing the PMOI as a terrorist organization in Canada. It is not at all clear whether the department responsible for reviewing the listing even considered the various well-reasoned European court judgments.
The time for democratic change in Iran by the Iranian people is long overdue. Canada's long-term political and economic relations are best served by standing with its people, not the totalitarian regime. The time for appeasing the ayatollahs and suppressing the Iranian opposition must end. The next step is for the Harper government should be to delist the PMOI for Canada with all deliberate haste, especially now that the EU ministers have done so.
PMOI refugees in Camp Ashraf
The 3500 residents of Camp Ashraf, some of whom have been refugees from the terror in Tehran since 1981, and others since the mid-1980s when they were as refugees expelled from France, could become victims of a humanitarian disaster unless the new Obama administration, in which the world has such high hopes, continues to deploy its soldiers for the protection of the camp.
In June 2006, I understand that more than five million Iraqis, including 14,000 lawyers, presented a petition in favour of Camp Asfraf's continued presence in Iraq. On June 17, 2008, more than three million Iraqis Shiites presented a petition, which evidently favours both Ashraf's continued presence and the PMOI. Both of these petitions are today available for inspection at Camp Ashraf.
In conclusion, the Council of EU ministers has yesterday finally respected the findings of its courts and removed the ban on the PMOI. This demonstrated both respect for the rule of law in Europe and will possibly assist in preventing a humanitarian catastrophe otherwise in the making for Ashraf residents. They seem now appear to be barred from taking refuge in other countries because they are members of a proscribed organization.
Finally, two reasons why personnel from outside Iraq must continue to protect Camp Ashraf with Iraqi soldiers for as long as coalition forces are in Iraq:
1-Informed sources indicate that, as long as at least some American or
other coalition personnel are involved in the daily patrols around Ashraf, agents of the Iranian regime are less likely to attack residents of the camp or the camp itself.
2- A major part of the Ashraf residents' problem lies in the fact that a number of governments in Europe and North America, including the US and Canada, continued to list the PMOI as a foreign terrorist organization. In all probability, as noted by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi yesterday, the ripple effects of what happened yesterday will play a major role in bringing multiparty democracy, human dignity and the rule of law to the long-suffering people of Iran.