This article was originally published in CampAshraf.org
Born in Iran 2 years following the Islamic Revolution, my brother Ali Reza Hassani was only three years old when my parents fled Iran for Greece and ultimately immigrated to Canada to seek a better life for their children. Upon graduating from high school with honors, a then 17 year-old Ali made a difficult and life changing decision. He could study and go on to medical school at home in Canada or he could dedicate himself to the cause of bringing democracy to a country he remembered very little about.
Highly educated on the plight of youth in Iran and uncomfortably aware of the tragic execution his uncle faced at the innocent age of 27, my brother was determined to help rid his homeland of the theocratic regime abusing its people in any way he could. That is when Ali decided to join the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) a decades-old resistance movement based in Ashraf Iraq, with the sole aim of overthrowing the regime in Tehran in favor of democracy, secular government and gender equality.
What my brother did not know then is that his life and the life of 3400 of his fellow comrades would be used as bargaining chips under the Clinton administration. As part of a goodwill gesture to Tehran, the Clinton administration added the PMOI to the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. The United States naively believed that in doing so they could appease the then President of Iran Khatami who had promised various reforms to the people of Iran and feared the existence of an organized opposition movement, namely, the PMOI.
Fast-forward to nearly 14 years later, the United States has seen their policy of appeasement fail time and time again. Today, Iran poses a perilous threat to international security with its pressing nuclear program and following the 2009 student uprisings the world audience seldom doubts their brutal ways. Moreover, this past month Secretary of Defense Panetta recognized the need to end deadly Iranian interference in Iraq.
The listing of the PMOI went so far as to be deemed unfounded by the U.S Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit in July of 2010 following their de-listing in both the United Kingdom and European Union. How, then, can U.S foreign policy reconcile the assertion that Iran is one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism meanwhile hold that PMOI-who tirelessly oppose Tehran’s radical agenda- are terrorists as well?
The answer is as clear as it seems, they cannot. What remains logically inconsistent is the United States government’s unwillingness to remove the terror-tag unlawfully placed on a group of law-abiding, freedom loving and democracy-espousing individuals like my brother.
The unsubstantiated terrorist label has already cost the lives of nearly 50 unarmed dissidents in Ashraf, Iraq since 2009 and it must not continue. Upon the list’s review this August, I urge Secretary of State Clinton to remove the PMOI granting them the lawful recognition they deserve. Amidst a wave of anti-authoritarian movements sweeping the Middle East now is the time for the U.S to side with the people of Iran and not those who silence them. The very cause to which my brother devoted his life, is in their hands.