On July 13, 2019, dignitaries from dozens of countries across the world attended the main event of the Free Iran 2019 international conference. The conference was part of the five-day Free Iran 2019 series of conferences at the main headquarters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Ashraf 3, Albania. Several dignitaries, political and human rights activists delivered speeches, issuing remarks about the struggles of the Iranian people and their resistance movement for freedom in their country.
The following are key remarks by former Secretary of Homeland Security Governor Tom Ridge at the Ashraf 3 conference.
Governor Tom Ridge:
You’re very kind. Madame Maryam Rajavi and guests.
In the course of human history, recent history, the world has recognized and recorded the extraordinary leadership of women in trying, difficult and challenging times confronting their country, their region and their value system.
Of course, there have been many laudatory and richly deserved comments and expressions of gratitude and sincerity, affection for you, Madame [Maryam] Rajavi.
Another woman I met was Benazir Bhutto. I recalled one time she wrote, and it occurred to me, I was thinking about this as I went through that powerful exhibit yesterday, she wrote, “Well, you can imprison a man,” and when you refer to the MEK and the NCRI you can say, “You can imprison a man or a woman,” and yes they’ve done that. And I met several yesterday who had been imprisoned and tortured, tortured to the point where they were denied sleep, tortured to the point where they didn’t have any skin on the soles of their feet, tortured to the point where they put in cages 60 centimeters wide. So you can imprison a man or a woman but you can’t kill an idea. \
She also said, “You can exile a man or a woman, but you can’t kill an idea.” And I say to each and every one of you with whom I’m privileged to have had many conversations over the years. We’ve listened today and will continue to listen to tributes to your courage, to your sacrifice, to your relentless pursuit of justice, liberty and freedom in your home. A home, a country, with a culture, a history, rich in tradition and rich in contributions to the rest of the world. And as you engage in this fight today you will not be denied, you will at the end prevail, you now fight for all those who cherish freedom, liberty and justice globally.
And in fact there are so many men and women here form the diaspora of nations around the world who will look to you. And many men and women whom you’ve never met, probably millions around the world who look to you and your pursuit of freedom and justice. Their prayers are now with you as your prayers were with me and with so many others. That you succeed because at the end of the day, as my friend and so many people have referred to our friend Senator McCain, sometimes in your life you have the opportunity to pursue and embrace causes bigger than yourself.
120,000 men and women have died seeking and promoting and embracing a cause bigger than themselves. You, today, embrace a cause bigger than yourself. And at the end, you will prevail. There will be an open, pluralistic, non-nuclear, democratic Iran, and you, you, your courage, your sacrifice, will be responsible for future generations to enjoy the liberty and freedoms that those of us blessed to live in countries that embrace those freedoms sometimes we take them for granted every day. We need to look to you and remind ourselves how precious those freedoms and liberties and opportunities are. God speed on your journey. We will be with you all the way to the streets of Tehran.