The MEK resistance to the Mullahs’ regime in Iran
Anyone who studies Iran today will quickly see its internal battles, but they may not understand why there is such a deep religious conflict.
The answer is that Iran has two types of Islam that are completely opposed to each other. A single event can illustrate the difference: When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic, sought to pass a retribution law, which permitted barbaric stoning and cutting off hands for crimes, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) declared that such a bill was not only anti-Islamic but also "anti-human.”
Today, the MEK and the Iranian regime have been fighting for forty years, with a brutal and unprecedented repression on the part of the regime and an all-out resistance with great sacrifices on the part of the MEK.
Logo of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
As another example of religious differences, Khomeini opposed women's suffrage, and even now, the Iranian Constitution disallows women to be judges or become president. But the MEK deeply believes in gender equality, which is part of the reasons why it has been greeted with enthusiasm from Iranian youth and especially women.
That is also why, in 1988, Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, 90% of whom belonged to the MEK.
History of the MEK
Under the Shah, all democratic institutions were abolished, and political opponents—including the MEK leadership—who wanted freedom and democracy were imprisoned or executed. The 1979 revolution that ousted the Shah created a political vacuum that enabled Khomeini to take power, but his regime betrayed the revolution by establishing a fundamentalist Islamic regime.
Once in power, the Khomeini regime began its religiously based oppression. It first targeted Iranian women, then national minorities, such as the Kurds, and then all political opponents. Many of those executed were political prisoners under the Shah.
The MEK was founded as early as 1965 as a Muslim, nationalist, and democratic revolutionary organization fighting the Shah's dictatorship. Three of its founders were executed on May 25, 1972. That same year, all members of the MEK Central Committee were executed except Massoud Rajavi, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after a major international campaign.
Massoud Rajavi was released in January 1979, and he soon gave his first public speech where he declared that the revolution should lead to the establishment of a democratic national government.
His message resonated with many Iranians, and the MEK became a large, national organization and published a magazine with an edition of about 500,000 copies. When it was time for a presidential election, the MEK ran with Massoud Rajavi as a candidate with support from other opposition groups, religious and ethnic minorities, and youth and women.
Days before the elections, however, Khomeini banned Massoud Rajavi from running for president, citing the system of Velayat-e Faqih (dictatorship of the clergy).
Then, on June 20, 1981, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attacked a peaceful demonstration with half a million participants in Tehran. Many people were killed and injured, and the regime arrested thousands and executed hundreds of people without trial or after summary trials on the same day. The repression increased with mass arrests, torture, and a wave of mass executions.
Alternative to the theocratic regime
In July 1981, Massoud Rajavi founded the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) in Tehran and called on democratic allies to join it. The NCRI embraced different ideologies and political orientations. Its paramount goal is to see Iran become a democratic republic in which the state and religious institutions are completely separated.
The last four decades have been filled with bloodshed. Since the advent of the current regime, 120,000 members or supporters of the MEK have been executed for their political/religious beliefs. Of these, the MEK has published the names and details of about 20,000.
As recently as 2018, the Iranian regime attempted to bomb the NCRI’s annual gathering in Paris, where 100,000 attendees were expected. Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, on post in Vienna, smuggled in the explosive and gave it to two agents to plant in the NCRI meeting hall. Fortunately, they were caught red-handed by Belgian, French, and German police. Assadi and both agents have since been sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court.
Continuing resistance inside Iran
Today, members of the MEK have safely resettled in Albania, but the battle against the mullahs’ tyranny continues throughout Iran.
The strategy of forming Resistance Units is rooted in the Iranian Resistance’s long-held belief that any change in Iran must come from within and from the Iranian people themselves. Especially in recent years, multiple nationwide uprisings have shaken the regime’s foundations; this includes the bloody November 2019 uprisings in which the Iranian regime brutally massacred more than 1,500 protesters on the streets.
Today, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei repeatedly and openly warns about the organized Resistance Units, but it is to no avail. Teams of activists across the country carry out anti-regime activities daily, including destroying the regime’s symbols; defacing posters of Khamenei and terror leader Qassem Soleimani; galvanizing the population to rise up against the theocracy; and organizing protests. As Massoud Rajavi has described it, Resistance Units act as the initial spark of widespread uprisings. They are the uprisings’ guiding spirit and motivational force.
Sustainment of these acts of defiance, therefore, is a core function of the Resistance Units—and heralds the end of the religious dictatorship of Iran.
Saeed Abed is Member of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee, Human Rights Activist, Expert on Iran, and the Middle East
Graphic credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 license