Iranian-Americans hold opposition rally in Washington as Iran’s Raisi is inaugurated

Speakers urge support for Iranian diaspora and condemn human rights abuses

John Bowden
Tuesday 03 August 2021 16:55
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Iranian-Americans including members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a rally on Capitol Hill, where speakers including members of Congress condemned Iran’s incoming president, Ebrahim Raisi.

At a gathering in Union Square on Monday, Iranian-Americans who had seen family members killed by Iran’s government for various alleged crimes erected a memorial showing the faces of hundreds of those killed.

In fiery statements to the crowd, speakers including both Iranian-Americans and prominent figures from Congress and the US political sphere condemned Mr Raisi and called for him to face international human rights charges.

Of the current and former members of Congress and other US dignitaries who attended, most hailed from the establishment wing of US foreign policy – speakers included former Sen Joe Lieberman as well as former Rep Eliot Engel, who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee until his ouster in a Justice Democrats-backed primary challenge.

“The UN Security Council should take immediate action to arrange for the international trial of the leaders of the regime, especially [Ayatollah] Khamenei, Raisi, and its Judiciary Chief [Gholamhossein] Ejeii, for committing genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI, addressing the crowd via video message.

“I urge the U.S. Congress to continue its bipartisan firm policy against the Iranian regime and underscore human rights and democracy as a central element of policy regarding Iran,” she added.

Mr Lieberman called for Iran’s incoming president to go before the Hague and face charges of crimes against humanity, and rejected the legitimacy of his election, which other attendees stressed to The Independent was the target of widespread boycotts.

“We cannot remain silent on these crimes against humanity,” Mr Lieberman said of killings of dissidents linked to Mr Raisi and other figures in Iran’s government.

Mr Raisi’s election, he added, was a “sham” and should not be viewed as a legitimate expression of the Iranian people’s will.

Others, such as former Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield, urged a UN human rights investigation backed by the US into Mr Raisi and allegations that dissidents were massacred in the country as recently as 2019.

Many at the rally urged President Joe Biden, who during his campaign pledged to steer the US towards rejoining the Iran nuclear accord that the US exited during the Trump administration, to keep up the pressure on top officials and Iran’s economy resulting from US sanctions.

Some, such as Texas Sen Ted Cruz, even called for those sanctions to be increased, the opposite of what Iran’s government has said would be necessary for it to return to compliance.

“We will stand with the families of those massacred and strenuously urge the Biden administration to hold Raisi and [Ayatollah] Khamenei accountable through sanctions and pressing for Raisi’s prosecution for crimes against humanity,” said Mr Cruz in a prepared statement.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Engel echoed calls for the pressure on Iran’s government to be maintained, noting that he was “not a fan” of the 2015 agreement signed under the Obama administration, and urged his “friend” Mr Biden to pursue “a new deal, a better deal, one that brings Iran closer to democracy”.

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