On September 15th, a significant event unfolded as thousands of Iranians convened in Brussels for a major rally, leaders and legislators from various nations congregated in a conference in the Belgian capital. This gathering commemorates the one-year anniversary of the nationwide uprising that profoundly shook the ruling establishment in Iran. Titled “Iran Uprising, Role of Women and Youths, and Prospects of A Democratic Republic,” the international meeting aimed to draw the attention of the global community towards the imperative need for a shift in policy concerning the oppressive regime in Iran. Moreover, it sought to underscore the Iranian people’s right to dismantle their oppressors and pave the way for a democratic republic.
Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI): As the conference’s keynote speaker Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), saluted women and youths who have kept the candle of the freedom-loving and justice-seeking movement alight, leading the Iranians’ long-time struggle towards a democratic republic of Iran. “Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the start of the great uprising of the Iranian people. An uprising that highlighted the potential for the downfall of the regime and has put the Iranian people on the cusp of a new era in their history, backed by four decades of organized resistance,” Mrs. Rajavi stated.
Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister of Canada:
Today, the regime and its appeasers in the West will proclaim that the protests have subsided, never to return. But we know the opposite is true. The protests will return as they have returned before. And each time they return, they are more widespread, more aggressive, and more enduring than they were before.
Michèle Alliot-Marie, former Minister of Defense, Interior, and Foreign Affairs of France: We share the values of democracy, which is why we stand with Maryam Rajavi. Today is the tragic anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. Our hearts bleed when we think about her. But it is also a day where hope is reborn. The vision we have in Europe and other countries changed on what is happening in Iran after the wave of protests took place.
Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium: The protests were a sudden explosion of the anger of the Iranian people from 40 years of the mullahs’ rule. While the demonstrations first targeted the oppression of women, they quickly expanded to fundamental political and social change. The protesters began by chanting “Women-life-freedom” but then went on to “No to the oppressor, be it the shah of the mullah.”
Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian Senator and Presidential Candidate: We are here because it is proof of this resistance. We see this with President Maryam Rajavi. The regime has increased pressure before the anniversary of the protests. The regime is arresting students and protesters. It is installing cameras everywhere. It is firing people. But there is unity in Iran that is unprecedented. There is a change in culture that is striking. It’s also a bridge between generations that are going to protest together.
Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo (2011-2016): I admire the women of Iran who are continuously struggling against the regime’s repression. All repressive regimes try to shape people’s way of thinking, and all of them have failed. So will this regime. The resilience of Iranian women deserves the world’s attention. But it does not receive the attention it deserves. Iranian women’s fight against the regime is also shaping the political landscape of their country. The women are fighting a regime that is limiting the freedom of its own citizens. Iran’s history is replete with instances of women being at the forefront of political movements, and fighting for democratic values. In Iran, brave Iranians fight repression. They are advocating progress. In both Iran and Kosovo, women stood tall. They are a testament to the human quest for freedom and equality and women’s role as catalysts for change against internal tyranny and external subjugation.
Els Ampe, Member of the Belgian Senate:
Because of the uprising, the regime has attacked women. The regime poisons schoolgirls. The regime arrested women and sexually assaulted them. Khamenei is a coward. Down with Khamenei. But Iranian women hold their heads high and are more heroic than any shah can be. They don’t fight for thrones. They fight for freedom. That’s why the Iranian women have already won because they conquered our hearts.
Latifa Ait-Baala, Member of Brussels Parliament: We are here because one year ago, Mahsa Amini lost her life because her dress did not conform to the regime’s rules. She was murdered, but her memory will never die. It will mark our struggle for freedom. The fight for a free Iran is fought inside Iran and also at the international level. We know the violence that the regime has committed for so long has not prevented the women from fighting for their rights.
Kathleen Depoorter, Member of the Belgian Parliament: Islamic fundamentalism primarily targets women. The merciless suppression of women is enshrined in the Iranian misogynistic doctrine. This is why women are at the forefront of the battle. It is also why they have a leader like Mrs. Rajavi, who is an inspiration for all of us. According to the regime’s official, the leaders of the protests were young women. Young women of the Resistance Units advocate for change. I’m proud of them and of every girl who goes into the streets and screams for her rights. It is evident that the Iranian regime is trapped in a conflict. The conflict between the people and the state has escalated. The organized resistance has gained strength.
Mark Demesmaeker, Member of the Belgian Senate: I support your movement for regime change and freedom in Iran. I believe this movement represents the best chance for a secular and democratic Iran. You are also the only movement that is feared by the regime of the mullahs. You are also the target of the regime’s demonization campaign. You are facing the fundamentalist regime head-on. Your determination shows that victory is within our grasp. I look forward to the day when we walk in the streets of a liberated Tehran.
Franz-Josef Jung, former German Minister of Defense (2005-2009): The Iranian regime terrorizes the Iranian people and creates instability in the region. It supports Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and it undermines peace across the world. It must be overthrown and replaced by a democratic government. The Iranian people desire change. They go to the streets to demand the end of this dictatorship. They shouted, “Down with the oppressor be it the shah or the mullahs!”
Natalia Gavrilita, Prime Minister of Moldova (2021-2023): It is such an honor and a privilege to stand here, first and foremost with the people of Iran and with so many prominent leaders from around the world, in defense of women’s leadership and, more broadly, in defense of the fundamental values of freedom. These protests continue to simmer and are widespread. They transcend geographical, generation, and social lines. This is the first big revolution led by women. Half measures do not work. Short-term appeasement doesn’t work. It is no longer effective to make deals with totalitarian regimes that want to keep their people in the Middle Ages, that want to keep their people in the past.
Emanuele Pozzolo, Member of the Italian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission: This an important day in the heart of Europe, we are sending a strong message to Tehran. We are unafraid of condemning the attempts to discredit the voices opposing Khamenei. Iran’s regime is a threat to international peace. We are not afraid to recognize the PMOI and Mrs. Rajavi as the credible alternative to the Iranian regime.
Amine Qaraee, Iranian Youths’ Representative: I am the child of one of the victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran’s prisons. On the first anniversary of the uprising of the people of Iran, I send my greetings to all of the people. We suffer as you did when you lost your loved ones. But we are a thousand times more determined than before. We will not allow any of that blood to be in vain.
Hanif Mahoutchian, Iranian Youths’ Representative: The Shah and the mullahs’ regime are two sides of the same coin. Down with the oppressor, be it the shah or the mullahs. Our generation despises the shah and the mullahs. This is our slogan, and it is being shouted all over Iran.
Dorien Rookmaker, MEP from Netherlands: We are still confronted with a murderous regime in Iran. There is no excuse for oppression. There is no excuse for oppressors. There’s no excuse for a regime murdering its own people, and there’s no excuse for the European Union to talk with criminals like the regime in Iran.
Alejo Vidal Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament (1999-2014), Chair of ISJ: I have been working with the PMOI and the NCRI for 21 years. I visited Ashraf 1 in Iraq, Ashraf 3 in Albania, and the NCRI headquarters in France countless times. I have suffered with them. I have rejoiced with them. I have lived with them through joys and sorrow, hope and disappointment, frustration and achievements. I can say proudly that I belong to the great family of the Iranian resistance.