Written by Sedighe Shahrokhi
The National Interest published a piece on July 4, 2019 about the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or Mujahedin e-Khalq, MeK) by Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington DC.
The article, titled “Making Sense of The MeK”, states: “Even by the notoriously fractious standards of Iranian opposition politics, the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MeK) is a controversial entity—one all too often misunderstood by U.S. policymakers and demonized by its competitors. Yet it is also an important part of any serious conversation about the future of Iran, such as the one now taking place in Washington, DC as the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic takes hold in earnest.”
The piece asks: “Who, exactly, are the MeK? The group (also known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or PMOI) has a particularly difficult political history dating back to Iran’s pre-revolutionary era.”
It points out that the MEK was founded in the mid-1960s as a “social justice” movement, and that the MeK had by the early 1970s embarked upon a wide-ranging campaign against what it viewed as the increasingly corrupt, tyrannical rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The article adds that the MEK played a significant part in amplifying the political turmoil that ultimately drove the Shah from power.
The article states that as part of his post-revolutionary consolidation of power, Khomeini turned on the MEK, “launching a broad crackdown on the group’s members and supporters. Iran’s newly-installed Supreme Leader and his followers also branded the MeK—which did not endorse the increasingly draconian religious diktats of clerical rule—as ideological outliers and ‘unbelievers,’ and sidelined them in the fledgling Islamic Republic.”
“The subsequent period saw the widespread suppression of the MeK by Khomeini’s loyalists, a years-long campaign of violence that would culminate in the 1988 regime massacre of some thirty thousand political prisoners,” the article states.
It points to the MEK’s role in forming the opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and then to its role inside Iran against the mullahs’ regime:
“But it also continued its anti-regime activities within Iran, where it had emerged as the clerical regime’s most potent and capable foe—the “public enemy number one” of Iran’s ayatollahs.”
“But the MeK is relevant for another reason as well: its integral role in exposing Iran’s malign global activities. In the early 2000s, the group gave the world its first real glimpse into the regime’s then largely-secret nuclear effort, touching off a nearly-two-decade-long effort by America and its allies to prevent a nuclear Iran. Since then, the MeK has continued to provide the international community with insights into the inner workings of the Islamic Republic, from the sprawling financial empire of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the regime’s growing cyber capabilities.”
“U.S. officials broadly acknowledge that the MeK has provided a major contribution to our understanding of the contemporary threat posed by the Islamic Republic.”
The article points out that the NCRI has “an elaborate plan for provisional rule in a half-year “transitional period” following the fall of Iran’s current regime and leading to a democratic and secular Iran. Maryam Rajavi, the organization’s current political leader and public face, would preside over this arrangement as its president-elect.”
“In 2002, the NCRI publicly called for the formation of a National Solidarity Front against the Iranian regime and announced that it is “prepared for cooperation with other political forces” provided they seek a republican form of government and are committed to rejecting Iran’s current theocracy. Its contemporary platform, first laid out by Rajavi roughly a decade ago and widely promulgated by her representatives since, is grounded in ten core concepts:
First, elections based on the principle of universal suffrage;
Second, a pluralistic political system with free assembly, freedom of expression and respect for individual freedoms;
Third, the abolition of the death penalty;
Fourth, a separation of mosque and state, and prohibitions against religious discrimination;
Fifth, full gender equality for Iranian women;
Sixth, a modernization of the Iranian justice system, the elimination of sharia law, and reforms that provide for an array of modern legal protections;
Seventh, adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments that enshrine protections for the population, and a commitment to the equality of all nationalities (in particular autonomy for Iranian Kurdistan);
Eighth, safeguards for private property, investment and employment, and support for a market economy;
Ninth, a foreign policy based on the principle of “peaceful coexistence” with other countries;
Tenth, a rejection of nuclear development and possession of weapons of mass destruction as a whole.”
“The Iranian intelligence ministry’s announcement this spring of the arrest of several hundred MeK activists, and repeated acknowledgements by senior Iranian officials of an MeK role in the uprisings of the past year-and-a-half, lends some credence” to the MEK’s contention that its long track record of “resistance” would simply not be possible without extensive domestic backing, the article states. “That resistance, moreover, has clearly come at an extraordinarily high price. According to MeK officials, some 120,000 of the group’s members and supporters are estimated to have died at the hands of the Iranian regime since 1979.”