CHICAGO: Former US Vice President Mike Pence visited the headquarters of Iran’s main opposition movement, in Tirana, Albania, on Thursday, where he paid tribute those who have been murdered by the Iranian regime and the continuing efforts of the resistance.
He also condemned President Joe Biden and his policies for “unraveling” the progress that had been made in undermining Tehran’s support for terrorism and its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
Pence was addressing an audience of more than 2,000 people in a packed hall at the Ashraf-3 camp. It is home to about 3,000 members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as the MEK. Iranian dissidents gather there annually in support of the struggle to “free” Iran from the “tyranny and brutality” of its ruling ayatollahs.
“I have traveled more than 5,000 miles, from my home in Indiana, to be here today because we share one common cause: The liberation of the Iranian people from decades of tyranny, and the rebirth of a free, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Iran,” Pence told the audience.
“This is the first opportunity I have had to visit Albania since completing my term as vice president of the United States. While I no longer speak on behalf of the American government, I do speak with confidence regarding the views of millions of Americans. And I can say to all of those gathered here, including to many of my fellow Americans, that the American people are with you as you stand and labor for freedom in Iran.”
Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a partner organization of the MEK, welcomed Pence to the camp.
“Three days ago marked the beginning of the 42nd year of our nationwide resistance against the mullahs’ regime,” she said. “On June 20, 1981, (Ayatollah) Khomeini ordered his Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the MEK’s half-a-million-strong, and peaceful, demonstration in Tehran and turned it into a mass killing.
“The same night, mass executions began, without even identifying the victims. Moments ago, in the Museum of Resistance, you saw a glimpse of the Iranian people’s suffering under the mullahs’ rule and also their resistance against the regime. One thousand political prisoners tortured by the Shah’s regime or the ruling religious dictatorship are present in this hall today. Some have lost 10 or 12 family members.”
Rajavi thanked Pence for his support, not only while vice president but also when he was a member of Congress and the governor of Indiana. She said he has “consistently supported” calls for the end of the regime in Tehran and “clearly fraudulent elections and decades of oppression.”
Pence said the cause that the Iranian resistance devotes itself to “is freedom” and that the world “must never be silent.” He criticized former President Barack Obama and Biden for only reluctantly supporting the call for justice “against Iran’s tyrannical leaders” following the massacre of Iranian civilians during a popular uprising in the country in 2009.
“As we witnessed that horror, I said at that time we were witnessing a ‘Tiananmen in Tehran,'” Pence said, referencing the June 1989 civilian protests in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, against China’s Communist rulers.
When President Donald Trump was in office, he added, US authorities stood with the people of Iran and “took action” to confront the regime’s violence.
He criticized the inaction of Obama and Biden and said: “Under the Trump-Pence administration, I am proud that Americans did not turn a deaf ear to the pleas of the Iranian people. We did not remain silent in the face of the Iranian regime’s countless atrocities. We stood with freedom-loving people in Iran.”
Pence said that both he and Trump were determined to “never allow Iran a nuclear weapon.”
He added: “I came here today simply to say we stand unequivocally on the side of the Iranian people. One of the biggest lies the ruling regime has sold the world is that there’s no alternative to the status quo. But there is an alternative — a well-organized, fully prepared, perfectly qualified and popularly supported alternative.
“And let me thank Maryam Rajavi and all of those gathered here at Ashraf-3 for offering hope to your people in Iran. Your resistance units, commitment to democracy, human rights and freedom for every citizen is a vision for a free Iran and an inspiration to the world.
“The regime in Tehran wants to trick the world into believing that the Iranian protesters want to return to the dictatorship of the Shah as well. (But) Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan for the future of Iran will ensure the freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly, freedom for every Iranian to choose their elected leaders. It’s a foundation on which to build the future of a free Iran.”
The MEK has worked to establish an underground network of resistance inside Iran that engages in efforts to challenge the regime and its oppression.
Its sources inside Iran have helped to expose Tehran’s continuing efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, despite regime claims that it wishes to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Also known as the Iran nuclear deal, the agreement was designed to prevent the regime from pursuing a nuclear weapon in return for sanctions relief. Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. Talks in Vienna on a US return to the JCPOA remain deadlocked.
The Iranian resistance relocated to Albania in 2016 after leaving Iraq, where they had built Ashraf-1 and Ashraf-2 camps. They are called “Ashraf” in honor of Ashraf Rajavi, a renowned MEK official who was a political prisoner under the Shah’s regime and killed by the Iranian regime in 1982.
Ashraf-3 features massive white buildings, along with memorials to the thousands of dissidents killed over the years, including the Eternal Flame of Freedom for Iran Rights, and the Museum of Resistance. The streets are lined with reminders of the fight for Iran’s freedom, including many green, red and white flags and other decorations.