Demonstrators Back Exiled Opposition Leader
Jul. 22, 1994
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hundreds of opponents of Iran's fundamentalist government rallied here Friday in support of Maryam Rajavi, the country's opposition leader in exile.
''Iran is enslaved and the Iranian people must be set free,'' Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said in a speech to the gathering across the street from the White House. ''A great people are living in poverty and depression, denied all freedom.''
''The president-elect has brought a new sense of hope and rejuvenation among Iranians inside and outside of Iran,'' said Shahin Gobadi, one of the organizers of the ''Week of Solidarity'' with Mrs. Rajavi. It aimed to rally Iranians in 12 major cities in Europe and North America.
Mrs. Rajavi, 41, who did not attend Friday's event, was elected last year as interim president by the 235-member National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella body uniting the country's diverse opposition groups.
She is the wife of Masood Rajavi, leader of the Iraq-based Mujahedeen Khalq, Iran's largest and most active opposition group.
The Mujahedeen were allied with the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalists during the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah. But the militants soon banned them and other groups that wanted a more secular regime.
Mrs. Rajavi narrowly escaped death in several gun battles with Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards and eventually fled abroad. On Thursday, in her first public appearance in Paris, where she now lives, she addressed a crowd of several thousand Iranian exiles who had gathered to mark the 42nd anniversary of an uprising in Iran.
''For the first time Iranians of all walks of life are joining in to overthrow the regime of the mullahs,'' Gobadi said. He predicted that factional struggles, high inflation and popular discontent would bring down the current government despite lack of evidence pointing to its imminent collapse.
The crowd, estimated by the organizers at 3,000 people, chanted in English and Farsi: ''Maryam our shining sun, we will bring you to Tehran,'' and ''Maryam Rajavi - freedom, liberty, victory.''
They carried portraits of Mrs. Rajavi and her husband, along with hundreds of Iranian flags emblazoned with the pre-revolutionary sun-and-lion symbol that Khomeini replaced with verses from the Koran.