Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Mujahideen struggle against the Iranian regime gains ground

AFP , CAMP ASHRAF, IRAQ

Disarmed by the Americans in the wake of the Iraq war, and with their offices in France raided by authorities, Iran's armed opposition People's Mujahideen defiantly say they are stronger now than before the war.

"Demonstrations in Iran show the mullah's regime is weakening and international pressure is growing, while we gained international recognition from the affair involving Maryam Rajavi and from our attitude during the war," Mohsen Nadi, a leader of the Mujahideen's political wing, told reporters.

Last month, French authorities raided a dozen or so locations of the Mujahideen in the northwest of Paris and initially detained some 165 people, among them the symbolic leader of the group Maryam Rajavi, Massoud's wife.

On Wednesday, a French court ordered Maryam to be released on bail, while eight other detained members were also due to be freed.

"Maryam is the symbol of the struggle against the misogynous regime in Tehran and a hope for all Iranian women," said Nadi, speaking at Camp Ashraf, the group's largest camp in Iraq, some 100km north of Baghdad.

The Mujahideen lent its backing to 10 days of demonstrations by students and reformers that kicked off in Tehran on June 10.The protests spread to other cities in Iran and saw many slogans shouted against Iran's clerical regime.

Iranian authorities cracked down on the demonstrations, arresting some 4,000 people, 2,000 of whom are still being held for trial, according to state prosecutor Abdul Nabi Namazi.

Nadi said the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) also played a key part in bringing international pressure to bear on Tehran, notably over its nuclear program, which Washington says is being used to develop weapons.

"We gave the Americans information on the plans of the Iranian government," he said.

At Camp Ashraf, more than 5,000 Mujahideen fighters could be seen training, as they have been doing for years, but without their weapons.

In 1986, the Mujahideen under the leadership of Massoud Rajavi took refuge in Iraq, from where they organized attacks inside Iran as part of their goal to overthrow the Islamic regime.

In May, the group, considered terrorists by the US State Department and the EU, struck a deal with US occupation authorities in Iraq to disarm and relocate its fighters to one camp.

The organization is still receiving new young recruits from Iran. Two musicians, Anushirvan Riahi, 18, and Mohammed Macek, 19, arrived here five months ago from the central city of Shiraz to join the struggle.

"To join the Mujahideen, we traveled for awhile on foot and went through Turkey," one of them said.

Nadi said the accord with US forces was the result of the neutral position taken by the group during the war. "We did not fire a single shot, even when we were attacked. We left 17 of our bases and fell back to this camp to avoid any incidents, and our attitude has been rewarded."

For him, allegations that the group is involved in "terrorist" activities and was planning attacks on Iranian targets in Europe are "ridiculous."

"Do you think we will overthrow the Iranian regime by staging attacks against Iranian embassies in Europe?" he asked.

The crackdown on the group, which has operated in France for the past two decades, was launched over allegations it was to make France its new international headquarters.

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