British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom
Lord Russell-Johnston, former chairman of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, addressed a group of Norwegian lawmakers at a meeting at the Norwegian parliament in Oslo on November 8, 2006. The following is the text of his speech:
Mr. Chairman, Madame President, Norwegian parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen,
To begin, I would like to say three particular things:
During the years between 1999 and 2002, when I was fortunate enough to be President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and visited each of its then-45 member states, talking about democracy, human rights, the rule of law, people often said to me, ok, this is fine in theory; but, where does it work?
Now, I had no trouble with that question. I used to say, go to Scandinavia, go to Norway, go even to the old imperialist Sweden, go to Finland and Denmark and Iceland, and there you will see democracy in practice.
Democracy is difficult. It is a sort of unending dynamic looking for better things, revising, changing, and searching, but in an atmosphere of openness and tolerance, lawful tolerance, and a willingness to listen. You do not need to agree with what a democracy determines. At any particular point, they can be wrong. I mean, for example, as a fervent British pro-European, I believe in the potential of the European Union, which by the way I still prefer to call the European community. So, I was very sad when Norway decided not to join, but, I have a great belief that one day they will, and there is nothing to stop it. Because of that, one can be content that a democracy is not just a structure but an attitude which allows people freely to change their minds.
So, that second thing I would like to say is to extend my very heartfelt and sincere congratulations to you here in Oslo and in particular to the parliamentarians and the individuals responsible for organizing today’s conference.
Extending an invitation to the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, is an indication, I believe, of a commitment and a resolve in the cause of freedom and democracy for the people of Iran. For let there be no doubt, as your chairman has already said, that the Iranian Resistance holds the key to releasing Iran from the clutches of a repressive, rigid, and exceptionally-harsh theocratic regime. Remember the hope and joy there was when the Shah was overthrown and how quickly that was dissipated.
Thirdly, I would also wish to extend to you the best wishes of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, which is led by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, a colleague in the House of Lords and by the way the leader of the Labour Peers in the House of Lords – and I am very proud to be a member of it.
Mrs. Rajavi and her colleagues in the NCRI have widespread support in the British Parliament. Over the past few years, a majority in the House of Commons and over 160 in the House of Lords – remember Lords are a bit old so they are a bit slower – have signed statements expressing support for Mrs. Rajavi and her struggle for the rights of the Iranians people.
Her visit here follows very successful visits to Belgium, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. As your chairman said, the Iranian regime’s threatening reaction to these visits is the greatest indicator of their significance. For many years now, the mullahs have tried, regrettably with the assistance of certain governments in Europe, including my own, including for a time France although Mrs. Rajavi has refuge there – she suffered for a time. And the mullahs fear what she represents. She is the face of a tolerant and progressive Islam which respects the rights of all Iranians and is therefore the absolute antithesis to the Iranian regime’s fundamentalism and intolerance.
In a moment, you will hear Maryam Rajavi and you will be able to make your own judgements. I have heard her many times on formal occasions, standing before 40,000 people outside Paris, and I have also talked with her quietly. I think she is a quite exceptional person. She is brave – remember she is always under threat of her life. She has a belief in the redemptive capacity of mankind, which still takes my breath away. When she speaks, compare what she says with the reality in Iran today.
The Iranian regime is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights. It executes minors and the mentally retarded. Women are stoned to death; I think 30 or 40 in the last 10 years. You know what happens of course; they are buried up to the neck and then they are stoned. It can take a little while. Men hanged from cranes in city centres. In the past 25 year, more than 120,000 political prisoners, mainly from the opposition People’s Mojahedin, have been executed without trials. Why bother with trials – they spoil things and slow things down. The regime is also recognised as the most active state sponsor of terrorism. It has perpetrated more than 400 terrorist operations around the world.
Only in the past few weeks, the regime has been found guilty in Argentina of carrying out a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that left 85 people dead and 200 wounded. It continues to fund and arm terrorist groups in the Middle East and contributes actively to the turmoil in Iraq. The thought of such a regime possessing nuclear weapons is terrifying and yet that is exactly what they seek.
If one is indeed serious about securing freedom and democracy for the Iranian people, it is vital that we speak with the Iranian Resistance. I think it is a huge compliment to Norway that the demands of the regime to stop this meeting were completely and rightly ignored.
I thank you. I give you my congratulations again. I only hope this to be the first of many trips to Oslo and other European and international capitals by Madame Rajavi. She has much to tell us, not only about Iran but also about the human condition.