Iranian Opposition Group’s Supporters convened in Huntington Beach to say the People’s Mujahedin, is Iran’s best hope.
By David Haldane, Times Staff Writer – May 23, 2005
A crowd of about 500 people gathered in Huntington Beach on Sunday to demand that the United States support the Iranian opposition and remove its most powerful armed group, the People’s Mujahedin, from the government’s list of terrorist organizations "We have gathered here in support of the third option," Hamid Azimi, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd of Iranian immigrants, who were chanting slogans and waving flags.
Organizers said U.S. support for the People’s Mujahedin, also known as the Mujahedin Khalq — which wants to overthrow Iran’s theocratic regime — would foster change within Iran. It would also be preferable, they said, to Washington’s two other options in deterring Tehran from what it believes is a nuclear arms program.
Azimi and others said the options were military action or appeasing Iran’s ruling clerics — something they contend the U.S. has already done by branding the People’s Mujahedin a terrorist group. The organization has claimed responsibility for bombings and armed attacks in Iran against the regime and has been blamed for attacks on Iranian targets abroad.
In an interview, Azimi said he was worried that "ayatollahs with nuclear weapons in their hands are going to be a whole lot more difficult to deal with."
"The U.S. should remove the obstacles that the Iranian resistance has to finishing the job in Iran and replacing the theocracy with a republic that is democratic and secular," said Azimi, a member of the Iranian American Community of Northern California, which sponsored the event along with the Southern California Society for Democracy. "The main obstacle right now is that [terrorist] listing."
The gathering at the Hilton Hotel in Huntington Beach came just weeks after a similar one in Washington and amid Iranian threats to break off negotiations with European governments set for this week in Geneva on its nuclear program.
Iran says its nuclear program is intended solely to generate electricity, but U.S. officials contend that it is a cover for a weapons program.
Participants in Sunday’s gathering said the highlight was an address via satellite from Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a Paris-based group that the State Department says is a front for the People’s Mujahedin and also designates a terrorist organization. She predicted the opposition’s efforts would bear fruit.
"Your gathering is being held at a time when the clerical regime is submerged in an acute crisis," she said in Farsi. "The presidential election masquerade … has turned into a funeral for the … policy of appeasement.
"There is an end to the long-lasting suffering and calamities our nation has endured," she said to cheers. "We hear God’s blessing that dawn is near…. Injustice and oppression will be defeated."
Amir Aram, an entertainer from Tarzana who has been in the United States for 28 years, said that hope brought him to the rally.
"I think we’re getting close to freedom," said Aram, 53.
"I believe the hell we see in Iran will be changed to a heaven."