WASHINGTON (Talon News) — A fundraising event taking place Saturday evening in Washington has direct ties to an Iranian terrorist group supported by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The Iranian-American Society of Northern Virginia will be holding a so-called “solidarity” fundraiser at the 5,000-seat Washington Convention Center on January 24 in an attempt to raise $140,000 for the survivors of the 30,000 victims in an earthquake that shook Iran on December 26, 2003.
The event organizers had hoped to have in attendance several members of the U.S. Congress as well as some Hollywood celebrities.
However, one Congressman who will not be attending is Rep. Robert Ney (R-OH). He is the chairman of House Administration and has asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate some of the sponsors of this fundraising event for having ties to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujaheddin, which is a known terrorist group.
Ney says this event is likely in violation of the global terrorist support ban, because a picture of an MEK official appears on the front cover of the event’s marketing piece as a speaker at the event.
“I intend to ask the attorney general to investigate this,” Ney told The Hill. “The MEK is hiding behind earthquake victims; you’ll find those [sponsors] are false groups.”
Ney said these sponsor groups supported by terrorists are illegal and wants a full-scale investigation into this event.
“They’re not supposed to operate, and I don’t know what they’re going to do with the money,” Ney added to The Hill. “I just think it smells.”
The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations have been informed of the event but have not yet commented publicly on it.
An anonymous spokesman for the host group Iranian-American Community of North Virginia contends the fundraiser is genuine, but has refused to release any information about the sponsors.
“It’s about solidarity with victims of the earthquake in Iran and to support the [MEK] and call for referendum in Iran,” the spokesman told The Hill.
The American Red Cross was supposed to be the beneficiary of the money raised by the event, but has since declined the funds.
Jacki Flowers, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, expressed her own concerns about the fundraiser because of the alleged ties to terrorist groups.
“The American Red Cross will not be accepting donations from this fundraiser,” Flowers said in a statement. “Given the political undertones of the event, we just could no longer field donations because of the potential to compromise our neutrality.”
The MEK is an anti-Iranian group with supporters throughout the world, including the United States. The group was identified as a terrorist group by U.S. intelligence in 1999.
In the mid-1970s, the MEK was allegedly responsible for killing six Americans in Iran and played a major role in the U.S. Embassy raid in Tehran in 1979.
When Ayatollah Khomeini grew tired of the MEK in 1986, the group moved to Baghdad, Iraq with the blessing of Saddam Hussein. The group aided Saddam Hussein in the torturing and killing of many Kurdish and Shiite minorities in exchange for being given access to military bases in Iraq. As a result of this mutual agreement, Saddam Hussein strongly supported the MEK.
However, the Iraqi Governing Council recently ordered the MEK out of their country with Saddam Hussein no longer in power. Even still, a group of 3,800 MEK members remain in Iraq at Camp Ashraf surrounded by American soldiers. The group allegedly remains a viable terrorist group within Iraq.
Interestingly, one of the reasons President George W. Bush gave for going to war with Iraq was because of Saddam Hussein’s link to the MEK. Coalition forces have been instructed to treat members of the MEK as an enemy during the Iraqi war.
In just the past year, the FBI has broken up many MEK groups within the United States, including around Washington and Los Angeles.
There are a total of 23 sponsors for Saturday’s fundraising event. However, 17 of these so-called sponsors are tied directly to the MEK and do not have legal status to operate as a business or charity, according to Internal Revenue Service and state agency records.
The State Department says the MEK has a long history of making up organizations under false pretenses to appear to be legal.
“[The MEK] has formed associated groups with benign names, such as the ‘Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals’ and the ‘Association of Iranian Women’,” according to a 1994 State Department memo.
One of the sponsors of the fundraiser is the Association of Iranian Women USA. This organization has also been called the Association of Iranian Women, which is led by Behjat Dehghan. Dehghan has been labeled by intelligence officials as a major MEK supporter in the U.S.
Other probable MEK-supporting group sponsors for the fundraiser include the Iranian Society of South Florida and the Iranian-American Society of Texas. Ramesh Sepehrrad leads the National Committee of Women for a Democratic Iran and is also a known MEK activist.
Many other sponsors with MEK ties will be in attendance at this event from states such as Missouri, Colorado, Texas and California.
Moreover, one of the alleged non-MEK sponsors of this event, Loyola University of Chicago, says the event organizers have listed them as one of the sponsors without their permission.
Bud Jones, a spokesman for Loyola, was asked if the college was supposed to be one of the sponsors of this predominantly MEK-led event.
“Absolutely not,” he stated to The Hill. “In no way does Loyola University of Chicago support this group or the event. That would be totally inaccurate.”
In fact, several other proposed sponsors decided to rescind their sponsorships once they discovered the event was supported by terrorists.
Although Bush temporarily allowed donations to be sent to Iran to assist the earthquake victims in late December, Iran is still considered a state sponsor of terrorism.
Iran Brief newsletter publisher Ken Timmerman said the MEK is using a humanitarian event to press forward with their radical terrorist agenda.
“This sounds to me like the MEK is trying to feed on and exploit that legitimate concern of Iranian Americans for their own political purposes,” Timmerman concluded to The Hill.