Iran General NewsRally in France for exiled foe of Iran's rulers

Rally in France for exiled foe of Iran’s rulers

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New York Times: Thousands of Iranians from across Europe gathered here today in support of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its leader, Maryam Rajavi, who was recently freed from French judicial restrictions that limited her movement. The New York Times

By CRAIG S. SMITH

LE BOURGET, France, July 1 — Thousands of Iranians from across Europe gathered here today in support of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its leader, Maryam Rajavi, who was recently freed from French judicial restrictions that limited her movement.

Ms. Rajavi’s message to the assembled crowd of 10,000 or more was that Iran needed neither nuclear weapons nor nuclear power but secular democracy, presumably led by Ms. Rajavi herself — or her husband, Massoud Rajavi, who is now presumed to be in hiding in Iraq.

But the meeting’s deeper message was that the Rajavi organization is still alive and biding its time.

The National Council, which Ms. Rajavi heads, has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States because of the violent tactics of its military arm. Washington and and the European Union have made the same declaration about the council’s dominant military arm, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Holy Warriors.

Its militia in Iraq has been disarmed and confined to a camp north of Baghdad since May 2003. Ms. Rajavi’s freedom to travel was restricted after a raid that July on the group’s headquarters near Paris.

The organization has been lobbying to have the terrorist label removed and to be taken seriously as a viable opposition movement to topple the theocracy in Iran.

Despite those problems, Ms. Rajavi has built a loyal following among middle-class Iranians immigrants across Europe, primarily through an online network of Iranian women.

More women than men support Ms. Rajavi “because of the misogynist character of the Iranian regime,” one woman said.

Most of the women were dressed in typical European summer fashions, in contrast to Ms. Rajavi’s signature headscarf and matching suit, bright green on this occasion.

They arrived for the weekend-long event by bus from as far north as Norway and as far south as Italy. Many people came free or for nominal sums, their travel subsidized by local donations. “They are the only organization that can bring freedom to Iran,” said Sofie Soroori, 38, who came to the rally from Sweden.

She dismissed talk of the organization’s dark side, blaming the mullahs in Iran for misinformation.

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