By Farzin Hashemi- Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI
Over the past week, once again policy on Iran was widely discussed in the media. Simultaneously, in recent weeks there has been more growing call for a new approach toward Iranian opposition, the MEK. The announcement by the US National Security Advisor that “Iran is officially on notice” drew much attention. This position was followed by more Tweets from President Trump and a new round of sanctions, raising the prospect of a change of policy in the US approach towards Iran.
It’s worth noting that the US position was in reaction to a number of provocative actions taken by Iran, including among others a new test launch of a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Simultaneously, the mullahs have also bragged about testing their new powerful centrifuges, almost eight times more productive than their old ones.
As far as the Iranian Resistance, and its components including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), is concerned imposing sanctions against a number of individuals and companies affiliated to the clerical regime for their role in missile proliferation is a positive step in confronting the illegitimate and terrorist dictatorship whose record includes 120,000 political executions.
However, in order to deal with the threats emanating from the Godfather of state-sponsored terrorism and the biggest source of war and instability in the region that has played the most significant role in ISIS’s ascension to power and survival, it is imperative to impose comprehensive sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), its affiliated entities, the Ministry of Intelligence, and other entities involved in suppression of the Iranian people and export of terrorism. The IRGC and its affiliated militias and their commanders must be expelled from the countries of the region, in particular from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Otherwise, the region would not witness peace and tranquillity.
The prospect of a shift of US policy, has already shaken not only the Iranian regime and its lobbies but also apologists and advocates of the old and failed policy of appeasement. In order to maintain the “golden era,” a term used by the mullahs’ officials internally and sometimes publicly to describe the last few years of US policy on Iran, they have resorted to a two-pronged strategy.
Through their propaganda in the media, under various covers, they are trying to create an “echo chamber” with which any suggestion of the need for a firm policy on Iran and its rogue behavior, both at home and abroad, is described as “war mongering.” They are desperately trying to intimidate those calling for a change of policy to side with the people of Iran, through such false labels.
Tens of thousands attend Iranian opposition rally in Paris. July 2016
Simultaneously, they are engaged in a massive disinformation campaign to discredit the democratic opposition, the MEK and the coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), led by its President-elect Maryam Rajavi. By spreading fake news about the MEK/PMOI, originated from the Ministry of Intelligence of the mullahs’ regime and the intelligence section of the IRGC, their objective is to convey this false message that there is no viable opposition and the world must accept and deal with the religious dictatorship ruling Iran. Thus, the core of the issue is not their debunked allegations but their hidden agenda to maintain the policy of appeasement.
So, the choice is simply to opt between supporting the central banker of international terrorism with the record of having executed 120,000 dissidents for political reasons –ironically, the majority of them members and sympathizers of the PMOI/MEK – or to side with the Iranian people in their quest for a free and democratic Iran in which there would be no more executions, no more gender discrimination, no more supporting terrorist groups and destabilizing the entire region and no more nuclear weapons program.
On January 9, 2017, some 23 US prominent dignitaries, many of them with years of public service, urged the new Administration “to adopt and pursue an Iran policy that recognizes the interests and inalienable rights of the Iranian people, and not just the clerical regime ruling over them.” Highlighting the failure of the past policy and hope that the nuclear deal might lead to a change of behavior from Tehran, the signatories stressed that the regime’s aggressive policy is part of their efforts on “preserving the vulnerable system of dictatorship.” They also called for listening to the voice of the Iranian people through the NCRI and the MEK.
Having been fully aware of all the allegations against the MEK, including the debunked politically-motivated terrorism label on the MEK in the past and that some “media and policy community [who] continue to recycle defamatory allegations from decades past,” they wrote “We now know that these designations of the resistance as a terrorist group by Western governments were not made in response to confirmed terrorism; all were diplomatic gestures taken at the request of Tehran. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security has for many years impaired the exiled opposition by covertly spreading false and distorted claims through third parties in the West. Other governments like Germany and the Netherlands closely monitor Iran’s influence operations on their soil; a thorough counter‐intelligence investigation by the US is clearly needed and long overdue.”
Finally, they concluded by recommending to the new Administration: “With a more enlightened grasp of the Iranian regime’s priorities and vulnerabilities, your Administration will be equipped to exert leverage enabling the US to oppose Tehran’s repression and adventurism while standing for the fundamental values both our peoples share.”
In short, the mullahs are much more vulnerable than at any other time at home. The year 2016 saw sharp progress by the resistance at home. The MEK network in Iran expanded the call for bringing to justice those responsible for mass executions in Iran, particularly the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, following Khomeini’s decree to execute all affiliates of the MEK who refused to renounce the organization. Today, the various positions taken on this massacre by people in Iran have shaken the entire establishment.
While, Tehran’s lobby and advocates of appeasement will desperately continue to allocate all their resource to discredit the resistance, and in particular the MEK (PMOI) and to preserve the failed old policy, their time is over.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Also known as MEK, or Mujahedin-e-Khalq / Mujahedeen-e-Khalq), was founded on September 6, 1965, by Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, and Ali-Asghar Badizadgan. All engineers, they had earlier been members of the Freedom Movement (also known as the Liberation Movement), created by Medhi Bazargan in May 1961.1
The MEK’s quest culminated in a true interpretation of Islam, which is inherently tolerant and democratic, and fully compatible with the values of modern-day civilization. It took six years for the MEK to formulate its view of Islam and develop a strategy to replace Iran’s dictatorial monarchy with a democratic government.
MEK’s interpretation of Islam
The theocratic mullah regime in Iran believe interpreting Islam is their exclusive domain. The MEK reject this view and the cleric’s reactionary vision of Islam. The MEK’s comprehensive interpretation of Islam proved to be more persuasive and appealing to the Iranian youth.
MEK’s founders and new members studied the various schools of thought, the Iranian history and those of other countries, enabling them to analyze other philosophies and ideologies with considerable knowledge and to present their own ideology, based on Islam, as the answer to Iran’s problems.
MEK’s leadership’s arrest during the 70s.
The Shah’s notorious secret police, SAVAK, arrested all MEK leaders and most of its member’s in1971. On May 1972, the founders of the MEK, Mohammad Hanifnejad , Saeed Mohsen and Ali Asghar Badizadegan, along with two members of the MEK leadership, Mahmoud Askarizadeh and Rasoul Meshkinfam, were put before death squads and were executed after long months of imprisonment and torture. They were the true vanguards, who stood against the dictatorial regime of Shah. However, they are also recognized for their opposition to what is today known as Islamic fundamentalism.
The death sentence of Massoud Rajavi, a member of MEK’s central committee, was commuted to life imprisonment as a result of an international campaign by his Geneva based brother, Dr. Kazem Rajavi (assassinated in April 1990 in Geneva by mullahs’ agents) and the personal intervention of the French President Georges Pompidou and Francois Mitterrand. He was the only survivor of the MEK original leadership.
Massoud Rajavi’s critical role in characterizing religious extremism
From 1975 to 1979, while incarcerated in different prisons, Massoud Rajavi led the MEK’s struggle while constantly under torture for his leading position.
Massoud Rajavi stressed the need to continue the struggle against the shah’s dictatorship. At the same time, he characterized religious fanaticism as the primary internal threat to the popular opposition, and warned against the emergence and growth of religious fanaticism and autocracy. He also played a crucial role when some splinter used the vacuum in the MEK leadership who were all executed or imprisoned at the time, to claim a change of ideology and policy. Massoud Rajavi as the MEK leader condemn these individual’s misuse of MEK’s name while continuing to stress the struggle against dictatorship. His efforts while still in prison forced these individuals to no longer operating under the name of MEK and adopting a different name for their group. These positions remained the MEK’s manifesto until the overthrow of the shah’s regime.
Release of Political Prisoners on the last days of the Shah
A month before the 1979 revolution in Iran, the Shah was forced to flee Iran, never to return. All democratic opposition leaders had by then either been executed by the Shah’s SAVAK or imprisoned, and could exert little influence on the trend of events. Khomeini and his network of mullahs across the country, who had by and large been spared the wrath of SAVAK, were the only force that remained unharmed and could take advantage of the political vacuum. In France, Khomeini received maximum exposure to the world media. With the aid of his clerical followers, he hijacked a revolution that began with calls for democracy and freedom and diverted it towards his fundamentalist goals. Through an exceptional combination of historical events, Shiite clerics assumed power in Iran.
Khomeini’s gradual crackdown on MEK in fear of their popular support
In internal discourses, Rajavi the remaining leader of the MEK, argued that Khomeini represented the reactionary sector of society and preached religious fascism. Later, in the early days after the 1979 revolution, the mullahs, specifically Rafsanjani, pointed to these statements in inciting the hezbollahi club-wielders to attack the MEK.
Following the revolution, the MEK became Iran’s largest organized political party. It had hundreds of thousands of members who operated from MEK offices all over the country. MEK publication, ‘Mojahed’ was circulated in 500,000 copies.
Khomeini set up an Assembly of Experts comprised of sixty of his closest mullahs and loyalists to ratify the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute supremacy of clerical rule) as a pillar of the Constitution. The MEK launched a nationwide campaign in opposition to this move, which enjoyed enormous popular support. Subsequently, the MEK refused to approve the new constitution based on the concept of velayat-e faqih, while stressing its observance of the law of the country to deny the mullahs any excuse for further suppression of MEK supporters who were regularly targeted by the regime’s official and unofficial thugs.
Khomeini sanctioned the occupation of the United States embassy in 1979 in order to create an anti-American frenzy, which facilitated the holding of a referendum to approve his Constitution, which the MEK rejected.
MEK’s endeavors to participate in the political process avoiding an unwanted conflict with government repressive forces
The MEK actively participated in the political process, fielding candidates for the parliamentary and presidential elections. The MEK also entered avidly into the national debate on the structure of the new Islamic regime, though was unsuccessful in seeking an elected constituent assembly to draft a constitution.
The MEK similarly made an attempt at political participation when [then] Massoud Rajavi ran for the presidency in January 1980. MEK’s leader was forced to withdraw when Khomeini ruled that only candidates who had supported the constitution in the December referendum – which the MEK had boycotted- were eligible. Rajavi’s withdrawal statement emphasized the MEK’s efforts to conform to election regulations and reiterated the MEK’s intention to advance its political aims within the new legal system”. (Unclassified report on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran(PMOI/ MEK) by the Department of State to the United States House of Representatives, December 1984.)
However, the MEK soon found itself in a direct struggle against the forces of the regime’s Supreme leader. The MEK’s differences with Khomeini dated back to the 1970s, and stem from its opposition to what is known today as Islamic extremism. Angry at the position taken by the MEK against his regime and worried about the MEK’s growing popularity, Khomeini ordered a brutal crackdown against the MEK and its supporters. Between 1979 and 1981, some 70 MEK members and sympathizers were killed and several thousand more were imprisoned by the Iranian regime.
June 20, 1981- Khomeini’s order to open fire on peaceful demonstration of half-a-million supporters of MEK
The turning point came on 20th June 1981, when the MEK called a demonstration to protest at the regime’s crackdown, and to call for political freedom which half-a-million supporters participated at. Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the swelling crowd, fearing that without absolute repression the democratic opposition (MEK) would force him to engage in serious reforms – an anathema as far as he was concerned; he ordered the mass and summary executions of those arrested.
Since then, MEK activists have been the prime victims of human rights violations in Iran. Over 120,000 of its members and supporters have been executed by the Iranian regime, 30,000 of which, were executed in a few months in the summer of 1988, on a direct fatwa by Khomeini, which stated any prisoners who remain loyal to the MEK must be executed.
Having been denied its fundamental rights and having come under extensive attack at the time that millions of its members, supporters and sympathizers had no protection against the brutal onslaught of the Iranian regime, the MEK had no choice but to resist against the mullahs’ reign of terror.
“Towards the end of 1981, many of the members of the MEK and supporters went into exile. Their principal refuge was in France. But in 1986, after negotiations between the French and the Iranian authorities, the French government effectively treated them as undesirable aliens, and the leadership of the MEK with several thousand followers relocated to Iraq.” (Judgment of the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission, November 30, 2007.)
The MEK today is the oldest and largest anti-fundamentalist Muslim group in the Middle East. It has been active for more than a half century, battling two dictatorships and a wide range of issues. The MEK supports:
• Universal suffrage as the sole criterion for legitimacy
• Pluralistic system of governance
• Respect for individual freedoms
• Ban on the death penalty
• Separation of religion and state
• Full gender equality
• Equal participation of women in political leadership. MEK is actually led by its central committee consist of 1000 women.
• Modern judicial system that emphasizes the principle of innocence, a right to a defense, and due process
• Free markets
• Relations with all countries in the world
• Commitment to a non-nuclear Iran
The MEK remains a strong and cohesive organization, with a broad reach both worldwide and deep within Iran. MEK is the leading voice for democracy in Iran, supported by its interpretation of Islam that discredits the fundamentalist mullahs’ regime.