Big names turn up for 'Free Iran 2018' mega-event to raise international support

As Tehran and other Iranian cities have become scenes of major anti-regime protests, the opposition gathering known as "Free Iran 2018 – The Alternative" will take off on June 30, near Paris.

Participants in the gathering will include Iranian expats and their international supporters, along with hundreds of political, social, and cultural dignitaries from North America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Australia.  Some 100,000 people from five continents took part in last year's event, including hundreds of dignitaries.  This one will be even bigger, because the mullah regime is looking increasingly weak and unpopular.

This year, tens of thousands of Iranians and their international supporters will also participate.  They will call for a democratic and peaceful Iran and express solidarity for Iran's brave freedom campaigners inside the country.  They will be joined by dozens of political dignitaries and several hundred parliamentarians from all over the world, such as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former FBI director Louis Freeh (1993-2001), New Mexico's former governor Bill Richardson, former attorney general Michael Mukasey (2007-2009), and many others.

The Iranian regime: Isolated at home, isolated internationally, and facing an explosive situation.

The international gathering titled "Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative" coincides with dissident activity simmering all over Iran.  Nationwide protests took place in more than 140 cities and towns earlier this year and shook the regime to its core.  People in small and large cities in all 31 provinces of the country chanted slogans such as "Death to Khamenei," "Death to Rouhani," and "Hardliners, Reformers, the game is now over," making clear their desire to overthrow this dictatorial regime.  The intensity and speed of developments in recent months has forced regime officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, to acknowledge the widespread and growing role of the Iranian Resistance in organizing protests and its increasing popularity amongst the youth and women.

Despite the mullahs' brutal suppression of the protests, various cities, including Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Kazerun, have witnessed large anti-government protests that continued for several days at a time over the past few months.

To this, one must add the strike by truck-drivers that spread to more than 280 cities in all 31 provinces and continued despite officials' attempts to crack down on the drivers.

In the international arena, Iran policy is being hotly debated, and the U.S. has opted for a much tougher strategy, holding the regime accountable for its nefarious and malign conduct across the region, its ballistic missile program, and its suppression at home.

As such, the Iranian regime is increasingly isolated at home and abroad, which has brought the internal situation to the point of explosion.

The fundraising event to be put on by freedom-loving Iranians is significant for a number of reasons:

  • It will provide a different perspective on the situation in Iran and offer Western nations a policy alternative that emphasizes the voice of Iranians.
  • It will present a rare example of cross-Atlantic bipartisanship on the issue of Iran.  The make-up of the U.S. delegation in particular will represent a rare example of bipartisanship.
  • It will serve as a starting point for regional cooperation, in light of the presence of senior politicians and activists from Arab and Muslim countries, as well as a delegation from the moderate Syrian opposition, including those who took part in the Geneva talks.

Watch for these developments that come in the aftermath.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Mideast.

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