The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held their annual conference in Villepinte, North of Paris.
The participants, friends and supporters of the NCRI and exiled Iranians, mainly belonging to the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), traveled to Paris from all over Europe, the United States and Canada to the gathering, held annually since 2004, which this year had special significance after the April attack by the Iraqi army against Camp Ashraf.
While the meeting, where Iranians seemed vastly outnumbered by non-Iranian nationals, was attended by an impressive number of people, the criticisms, aimed at previous such events, remain. It appeared that a lot of effort had gone into attracting people to the carefully orchestrated, family, race and gender-friendly event, in order to validate the coveted "Largest gathering of Iranians" claim. Strategically positioned cheerleaders, careful video editing, proliferation of flags, placards and vests all seemed choreographed for a spectacle.
As expected, Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, made all the right noises in her speech. It was the NCRI, the Iranian Resistance’s parliament-in-exile, largely constituting of PMOI, that elected her as Iran’s future president for the transitional period following the Iranian Regime’s overthrow. Massoud Rajavi, heavily present in the branding of the event, although clearly second to his wife, was conspicuous by his absence from both the event and any new or informative mention in the speech.
Mrs. Rajavi talked with enthusiasm about the Arab Spring and with passion about the Iranian uprising two years ago. [..] The appropriation of the concept of "Resistance of Iran", to the exclusion of all the other numerous and varied Iranian dissident organisations and campaigns, both within and outside of Iran, further reaffirmed their critics’ accusations of sectarianism.
It is true that the Mojahedin were once a powerful popular movement inside Iran, but it is now hard to imagine people in Iran accepting the leadership of PMOI and Mrs Rajavi as their president, while their collusion with Saddam during the Iran/Iraq war is still fresh in the nation’s memory.[…]Reports of cruel treatments of PMOI apostates, coupled with the story of the Rajavis’ union, further fuel the accusations of the sect-like nature of PMOI.
Most of the criticisms of the PMOI today converge on what is perceived to be their pursuit of power. The event in Paris did nothing to dispel such criticisms. It was undoubtedly led and orchestrated by genuine PMOI activists, but it is less certain how convinced the others present were about the gathering – people who had been offered an inclusive free trip to Paris.