EXCLUSIVE: Iranian Exile Official: Media ‘Downplaying’ Iran Protests

Ali Safavi, a member of Iran’s Parliament in Exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), tells Breitbart News that Americans are not getting a true picture of what is happening on the ground in Iran, where mostly young, secular, and working-class Iranians are taking a stand against the radical Islamic regime.

Asked whether the media in the West have properly conveyed the magnitude of the protests, Safavi said, “not enough.”

“Because of the restrictions the regime has placed on the internet and journalists, it is difficult to get the actual scale of the widespread protests nationwide and the degree of the populations’ opposition to the regime,” Safavi told Breitbart News. “In addition, most mainstream media, which had heavily invested in the old policy of appeasement of the Iranian regime, downplayed what was happening in Iran.”

“The information we get on the ground in Iran is far more serious than the picture the West is getting now, and we need to overcome that quickly,” said Safavi, who now lives in the United States.

That reporting runs counter to what supporters of the protestors, including Safavi and members of the NCRI, say is going on in Iran, which he says is much more than discord over the poor economy and high unemployment in the country.

“There’s no question that the disastrous state of the Iranian economy, rampant government corruption, the impoverishment of a vast majority of Iranians – including 70 percent who live below the poverty line – gave impetus to the uprising,” Safavi said. “Empowering the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the regime’s allies by allowing them to plunder the nation’s wealth is now coming back to haunt Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

“The people view the system as master thieves and find no connection with the system,” Safavi said. “That is why the situation has gone much deeper than that.”

“The outcry of the protesters is reflected in their slogans nationwide as they chant ‘bread, work, freedom, an Iranian Republic,’” Safavi said.

Safavi also said the call by some former Obama administration officials for the Trump administration to remain neutral is not the right stance.

“If anything, what has transpired in 115 cities nationwide in the past [6] days, and the slogans of ‘death to Khamenei, death to Rouhani,’ and ‘reformer, hardliner, the game is now over,’ make it abundantly clear that the Obama’s policy of conciliation and engagement with the ruling regime was an abject failure and empowered the regime to brutally suppress the opposition in 2009 and in the years since,” Safavi said. “After all, in 2009, the people were chanting ‘Obama, Obama, are you with them or with us,’ clearly showing their disappointment with his silence about the large-scale protests then.”

Safavi said the Trump administration’s response to the protests encourages Iranians who want to see a democratic government in power.

The NCRI describes itself as “a broad coalition of democratic Iranian organizations, groups, and personalities … founded in 1981 in Tehran, Iran on the initiative of Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance.”

The NCRI website states that the council “is an inclusive and pluralistic parliament-in-exile that has more than 500 members, including representatives of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Kurds, Baluchis, Armenians, Jews and Zoroastrians, representing a broad spectrum of political tendencies in Iran.”

Five organizations are represented on the council, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), which was founded in 1965 to oppose Iran’s last Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and participated in the 1979 Revolution that overthrew him.

The group later broke with Iranian Islamic leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini over ideology and direction and went underground in 1981.

The U.S. State Department designated MEK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization from 1997 to 2012, but the group ultimately proved a valuable asset to the U.S. and its allies after it helped uncover Iran’s nuclear program.

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