Remarks by John Bercow at the Free Iran World Summit 2021 on 10 July 2021


John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons of the UK

Hello, friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I want to underline and reinforce what others have already said. It is an honor and a privilege for me today at your invitation to join you at the Free Iran World Summit under the auspices, and thanks to the organization of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. And I want to underline why I regarded it as a privilege to be amongst your number following Stephen Harper and the others.

I am here in order to express solidarity and support for the people of Iran in the continuing quest and struggle for freedom, democracy, and human rights– human rights, I may say which so many of us in our own legislatures take for granted, but which the people of Iran have shamefully been too long denied. And I am here relatedly, in order to highlight the fact of the suffering of which there is a global awareness and to try based upon my own political experience to be a voice for freedom. So many points have been so powerfully made so frequently in the course of the last couple of hours that I paid the very closest attention to what President Rajavi had to say. And I am absolutely crystal clear, in my mind, that the Iranian people continue to reject all oppression. And indeed, throughout the protests, of which there have been so many over the decades, I have still ringing in my ears, there’s compelling and forceful slogans down with the oppressor, be it the Shah dictatorship, all that of the [inaudible]. I am here from the United Kingdom in order to back the people of Iran in calling eloquently, calling with principle, and calling persistently for a secular and democratic republic. It doesn’t matter in the end very much what the form of the dictatorship is, it is the fact of it that counts. And the fact of dictatorship has its consequence in appalling disadvantage, deprivation, and very often destitution for the people who suffer.

So, I am here today to say that I support the call for free and fair and democratic elections which there have not been in Iran of which more and on, and explicitly, with all the force and passion of my command to support the NCRI president’s 10-point plan for the country’s future. And let’s be clear, in a crystallized and succinct form of what those 10 points are– people’s sovereignty. And what does people sovereignty mean? It means universal suffrage. It means political pluralism. It means the right to choose your leaders. And it means crucially, in a democracy, the right to change your choice of who should be your leader. Secondly, it means freedom of speech, freedom of political parties, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of the internet. Thirdly, it means individual and social freedoms, which are consistent and in accord with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. That declaration is honored at the moment in Iran exclusively in the breach, not in the observance. They don’t respect it in the Arabian government. They have contempt for it. We who believe in individual and social rights are very clear that there should be no death penalty, whereas in Iran, it is applied on a horrendous scale. Fourthly, we believe as has already been articulated in the separation of religion and state, that’s the nature and essence of a secular democracy. And we believe in freedom of religion, freedom of worship, and indeed freedom to subscribe to no particular religion at all. Fifthly, the 10-point plan is about complete gender equality, sex, an independent judiciary and a legal system, which is separate from independent of not bossed around by or subjects to edicts from the central government is of the essence of a free society. Stephen knows that in Canada, I know that in the United Kingdom, colleagues from elsewhere around the world who have spoken or will speak to you are very clear about what an independent judiciary is and what it is not. They don’t have it in Iran and the people want it, thirst for it, clamor for it, demand for it, and deserve it. Next, autonomy for Iranian nationalities, equal opportunities in employment, in entrepreneurship, and the protection of the environment. I want to underscore one further point and that is the importance of a non-nuclear Iran. My sense of it from outside is the expenditure of huge sums of money, of millions upon millions, upon millions, upon millions of pounds to make Iran a nuclear weapons state when people are suffering. The most appalling living standards are a moral outrage. What we want surely, what the Iranians want, what the world wants is peace coexistence, regional and international cooperation. References have already been made to the 1988 massacre, and that cannot be forgotten or forgiven or shoved under the carpet. What is required is the amnesties call be honored that there should be an investigation of Ebrahim Raisi for crimes against humanity. That man has much for which to answer and he is the very embodiment of the bloodthirsty tyrant. I am clear and I want you to know that I think Democrats around the world are clear that this distinction between hardliners and reformists is a total and unmitigated sham. It is a public relations contract. It is a devious device to convey the impression that there is hope for a prospect of moderate leadership, which within the context of this fundamentalist regime is not possible, will not happen and can never be there for all the same reformers and hardliners, the game is over. People are not stupid. They know what’s going on. Iran’s government is a state sponsor of terrorism. It is an egregious abuse of human rights. And we in Britain know from the appalling depredations suffered by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe just what contempt the regime has for the rights of individuals and their opportunity to be with their own families. Trumped up charges, long prison sentences compiled in and exacerbated by further punishments down the line are not the stuff of free and civilized societies. They come from the playbook of the practitioners of state terrorism and dictatorship. And while all of that is happening, my sense is that the people of Iran, they want sanctions to be lifted, because that will help the regime that will do nothing to mitigate or reduce the burdens faced by the people. One bit has been said about the elections, and therefore, let me say that my understanding from where I am in the United Kingdom is that right across the political spectrum, we are clear that that recent election was totally corrupt, it was meaningless, as an expression of the public will. Above anything else, you had to be a heartfelt subscriber to and demonstrate a practical allegiance in favor of the supreme leader and no woman could be considered for the presidency. So, the 18th of June mass boycott of the presidential election spoke volumes. It was powerful, it has been noticed, it will make a difference. The regime has been shamed by it, a turnout of below 10%. And deep down, the regime knows that they are– as we would say in my country– on the skids, they are under pressure, they have been sussed, found out, exposed for the lies that they persist in telling.

So, the boycott showed that people reject this, as I say again, sham moderate versus hardliner distinction. And on the subject of Mr. Raisi, about whom Stephen Harper spoke so patiently, that former Chief Justice of Iran hasn’t got the scintilla of a claim to a belief in democracy, in fairness, in pluralism, in the right of the people to choose what so ever. He was a key player in the death commissions, which massacred 10s of 1000s of people.

So in conclusion, in expressing solidarity and support for the person I call President Rajavi, let me be absolutely explicit. Your message has been heard. It is understood, you have enormous support across the democratic world, for the clarity, the moral principle and the unswerving conviction of your position, which is to say no to dictatorship, no to the Shah, no to theocracy, but yes to democracy.

And as someone who is very privileged to live in a country not perfect and whose government is not perfect, and whose political system is not perfect, but which is free, can I please in concluding empathize with and reach out to you one at all. Please remember, however miserable you are, however poisonous the government is around, however appalling and grievous the abuse of the rights of the people that you witness and you know that take place, remember, you are not alone, you have friends. And not least thanks to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, you have growing numbers of friends in touch and communicating with each other across the globe. You have friends, you have allies, you have cheerleaders all over the planet, irrespective of race, irrespective of color, irrespective of creed, irrespective of gender, irrespective of disability, irrespective of friends of orientation. Believe me, the flame of freedom burns brightly. Sometimes you might fear that it is becoming a dim flicker. But for the most part, it burns brightly. And the desire, the insatiable appetite for freedom beats in the breast of decent people across the world, because it is a natural aspiration, for there to be human autonomy, and the right to choose one’s leaders. That flame of freedom will never be extinguished. Freedom, democracy and equality– those are your values, those are my values. Let’s stick together and make common cause.

Congratulations on the courage, the fortitude, the bravery, and the persistence that you have displayed. People around the world will continue to support you and in due course, hopefully sooner rather than later, I assure you, you will prevail, you will succeed, you will win. And the fascist bigots who oppress you will be hissed out of office. Thank you very much indeed.