How to pack a Mujahadeen-e-Khalq rally: spend thousands on Western politicians, less on (non-Iranian) students - Macleans.ca

How to pack a Mujahadeen-e-Khalq rally: spend thousands on Western politicians, less on (non-Iranian) students

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The number of Canadian parliamentarians accepting sponsored junkets from the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which Canada until recently considered a terrorist organization, has fallen off of late.

Last year, according to the list of sponsored travel presented to the House of Commons in March, only Liberal MP Judy Sgro took a paid-for trip to France to “attend a global human rights event” hosted by the “Iran Democratic Association,” which appears to be the latest name the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq’s political wing has given itself in Canada. Globally it is known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

These events happen every year and centre around a big rally involving thousands of supporters and robust praise for the NCRI’s “president-elect” Maryam Rajavi.

Sgro valued the travel, accommodation, and gifts provided by the NCRI at more than $2,000.

This year’s rally just  concluded in Paris. We won’t know for a while yet whether any Canadian MPs attended. We do, however, have a glimpse into who some of the supposed NCRI supporters are.

Alina Alymkulova is a Kyrgyz — not Iranian — student studying in Prague. As she tells Radio Free Europe, she saw an online ad promising a weekend to Paris, complete with accommodation in a four-star hotel, for only 35 euros.

“I wrote to the trip organizer and discovered there was a catch, but it didn’t bother me,” she says. “The organizer explained that I would have to take part in a rally in Paris for a few hours, chant a few slogans in Persian, and wave flags. Although I don’t speak any Persian and don’t know much about Iranian affairs, I decided to go to Paris.”

Alymkulova wasn’t the only one. The buses that left Prague were full of Russians, Ukrainians, Czechs, and Asians. Some drank alcohol and chanted for beer. A Russian woman said she was going to meet handsome Frenchmen. A German she met in Paris thought the rally was for changes in Iraq, not Iran.

Eventually, after staying in a dump of a hotel 60 kilometres from Paris, Alymkulova was bused to the rally near Charles de Gaulle Airport.

“We were given papers explaining where to go and what to do. Cameras were not allowed. As we exited the bus, I resigned myself to the idea that running away was not an option — people were guarding the area.”

Inside the venue, Alymkulova was given coupons for a drink and sandwich. There were headphones on her seat translating the speeches, but she wasn’t interested in listening and left to look for the exit door.

“We arrived back in Prague. I was feeling down, and even the souvenirs I bought in Paris could not cheer me up. In thinking about the whole experience, a saying comes to mind: ‘Only a mousetrap has free cheese.’”

Here’s hoping Sgro’s trip was more enjoyable.