International & Antiwar News


Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 61, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2020 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

By Phil Wilayto

On Feb. 7, I had the privilege of attending a reception at the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington, D.C. an event held to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the 1979 revolution. The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, so the Interests Section serves some of the functions of an embassy for Iran in this country.

At the Iranian Interests Section, from left: Virginia Defender Editor Phil Wilayto, Interests Section Director Mehdi Atefat and Section staff member Manouchehr Jafarzadeh.

I have attended several such events in the past, but this was the first time there was a hostile protest outside, creating a gauntlet that guests had to walk through to get into the building.

Although the placards spoke of “freedom” and “democracy,” the protest was organized by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK). This is a reactionary paramilitary organization that allied with Iraq during that country’s eight-year war against Iran and still carries out armed attacks within Iran.

It was only recently removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, due in part to the MEK’s practice of giving hefty “honorariums” for speaking at its events to influential U.S. figures including Rudolph Giuliani, John Bolton, Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean.

The highlight of the evening was an address by the section’s director, Mehdi Atefat. While he spoke, you could hear the protesters yelling outside.

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